Baby’s first food: What is Baby Led Weaning?

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What is baby led weaning

Baby’s first year is bursting with amazing milestones, including starting to eat solid food. Once your tot is showing signs they’re ready to chow down on more than just milk, comes the big decision – how will they start their food journey?

Mum’s Grapevine nutritionist Mandy dos Santos delves into Baby Led Weaning and traditional solids, to answer the most common questions on two very different starts to solids.

Mandy dos Santos food nutritionist

Your little one is now starting to show signs of wanting to eat: putting their fists in their mouth, watching you eat with intensity and perhaps even grabbing food off your plate. Introducing solids is a momentous occasion in a parent and baby’s life.

As parents, we realise the importance of our children’s diet and the link with healthy eating habit development.

What is Baby Led Weaning?

Feeding essentials for starting solids

In the last five years, the traction of Baby Led Weaning (BLW) has gained popularity when introducing solids to babies. How is BLW different to the ‘normal’ recommendations of introducing solids and which one should you choose?

BLW is an approach of introducing solids to a baby, from six months of age. The babe must be able to:

  • sit, unassisted in a high chair and
  • be able to use their hands to pick up strips and pieces of food, feeding themselves.

The parent will present foods from the family meals to the baby either on the high chair or the child can take it from the parent’s hands. The baby brings the food to their own mouth. When the baby does not want to eat anymore, the meal is done. There is no coercion of more food. The baby is in charge of what or if food is eaten.

What are the benefits of Baby Led Weaning?

Some of the benefits of BLW include the dexterity developed by the baby as they feed themselves. Research also suggests BLW leads to a reduced chance of a child developing obesity as the baby retains their ability to regulate the amount of food eaten and their innate sense of satiety.

Toddlers who started their solids journey with BLW are also said to be less of a ‘fussy’ eater. It is thought that the wide variety of foods and textures offered at a young age supports an adventurous eater.

How is baby lead weaning different?

Baby Eating spaghetti with fingers

With the traditional approach of solids, the recommendation is to begin from four to six months with the use of purees and spoons. The parent feeds the child. The three main differences with BLW are:

  • The baby must be at least six-months-old
  • The puree stage is skipped
  • The baby feeds themselves.

Even when following the traditional approach of introducing solids, you will get to finger foods around the six to eight-month mark, depending on your child. Family mealtime foods should also be used with the traditional introduction of solids, although often purees are created specifically for baby or store-bought baby food is leaned upon for convenience.

With both traditional solids and BLW, unless there are allergies in your home, all food groups and whole foods (besides salt and sugar) can be offered to the baby. Often with traditional solids, the recipes will begin with fruits and vegetables, although other foods can be offered as well.

Can I use a mix of Baby Led Weaning and the traditional introduction of solids?

Yes, of course, you can. Purist BLW followers will say that this is not BLW, yet it is more important that you follow your baby’s lead. They might not enjoy BLW and prefer spoon-feeding and that is ok. A fed baby is a happy baby.

Important points:

  • All babies should be supervised while eating regardless of whether BLW or traditional solids are being introduced.
  • BLW should not begin before six months and the baby needs to be able to sit well, unsupported in a high chair.
  • With BLW all foods can be offered except for hard nuts or foods such as whole grapes due to the risk of choking.
  • With traditional solids, ensure the texture is gradually added to purees leading to finger foods from around six to eight months. This ensures the baby develops motor oral skills, including chewing and swallowing.

Remember, there is no right or wrong approach to feeding your baby. Discuss your options with a medical professional and follow your baby’s lead.

If your bub is ready for grub, take a look at our 15 baby feeding essentials.

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