Baby Led Weaning: The Benefits And How To Begin

Posted in Starting Solids Tips.

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 a big decision: how will they start their food journey?

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?

What is Baby Led Weaning?

Baby Led Weaning is an approach of introducing solids to babies from six months of age.

Before you start BLW you want to make sure babe can:

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

First, the parent presents food from the family meal to the baby either on the high chair tray or the child can take it from the parent’s hands. The baby than 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?

Feeding essentials for starting solids

There are a number of reasons why many parents favour Baby Led Weaning over the traditional introduction of solids including:

  • Increased dexterity as babies learn to feed themselves
  • 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
  • Baby becomes less likely to become 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 led 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 babies 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 combine BLW and traditional feeding?

Absolutely. 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.

Safety tips for Baby Led Weaning

  • 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.

Read what other mums wish they knew before starting Baby Led Weaning:

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