I believe I researched Baby Led Weaning (BLW) throughout my second and third trimesters before we decided thats how we would introduce food to our daughter.
My oldest has food allergies he didnt outgrow until age 2, so he introduction was more traditional.
I’m sure we all have witnessed the fight to the death arguments in mom groups about when babies can try food etc etc. I want to focus on information about BLW to ease any mama’s (or dads and family members) potential anxieties of skipping the purees and getting straight to pure table food. I will touch on signs showing baby is ready for solids.
I promise you it sounds scarier than it actually is.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning is the decision to skip purees and introduce solids to your baby with table foods. You offer your baby (age appropriate there are a few restrictions) foods that are soft-cooked and cut or mashed into small easily manageable pieces. You can choose to offer your baby a large piece of an apple that he/she can easily hold and gnaw on or a bowl full of soft cooked mashed apples; for example.
The foods are also not spoonfed to your baby. You do the prep, cook and offer the food and let baby explore on their own. Baby is in control!
Baby Led Weaning also encourages your baby to decide what, when and how much to eat. While not necessarily a “hands off” approach, it does advocate allowing your baby to make all food choices for him or herself.
One of my daughter’s first meals: Spinach oat pancakes, quarter of a banana, sliced strawberry and apple slice. (You dont have to cut food into shapes of course).
Many who advocate Baby Led Weaning believe that babies who feed themselves early on are better able to control just what their bodies need to nourish them. While Baby Lead Weaning is a hands off method, still be present to guide and watch your baby as they explore. Its ok to show him/her how to guide the food to their mouth but do not feed them.
Offering your baby a well balanced diet of solid foods will help ensure that your baby is eating the right amount of the right foods. You dont have to worry if they are getting enough nutrients; they definitely are if their diet is well rounded. Just be mindful preferences can come into play as they get older and thats ok too.
Wont my baby choke?
This is the biggest fear most moms and parents have about Baby Led Weaning. This was also my fear (and our lovingly overprotective 7 year old’s fear as well).
So far my daughter has gagged twice; and while I sort of held my breath anxiously ; we let her work it out and within seconds she did just that.
This is why cutting foods to appropriate sizes baby can manage is key. It is also a common mistake to confused choking with gagging. Gagging is actually okay during Baby Led Weaning and while its hard; you shouldnt intervene when or if it happens.
When baby gags , they are discovering their gag reflex and learning the rhythm of food intake. Its the body’s defence mechanism against choking. Gagging is caused when a baby either has too much food in their mouth or if the food starts to go too far back before they have chewed and broken it down sufficiently.
The risk of choking is similar for puree feeding and baby-led weaning.
Whether you decided BLW is or isnt for you; know that you arent essentially “playing it safe” if you opt to introduce with purees, baby can gag with that option as well – overall try your hardest not to panic.
When should I introduce solids?
One of the most HEATED questions in motherhood. While some moms opt to introduce earlier on (in some cases its recommended to counteract severe allergens) ; it is best to wait until baby is 6 months old or older.
Age is only one milestone to be reached before solid introduction. Your baby should be able to sit up unassisted, have lost the tongue thrust reflex and should be able to grasp and hold onto foods.
Tripod sitting (baby sitting but leaned over, hands usually resting in between legs) is often confused with unassisted sitting. Your baby should be able to sit upright fully without leaning or relying on anything or one to maintain their seated position.
When I was about to start BLW , I had a hard time understanding how to determine if my daughter lost her tongue thrust this video was a great visual help for me:
Do I need to start with one food at a time?
Not at all! Just watch for possible reactions after introducing foods; including diapers. The more broad the diet the more acclimated baby gets with different textures and tastes.
Whether you are nursing or formula feeding, always offer breast or bottle first; then offer food 30min or so later. Since baby is exploring, this ensures they get what they need in case they do more playing than eating their food.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning:
It helps fine-tune motor development
Baby-led weaning supports the development of eye-hand coordination, chewing skills, and dexterity.
Purees can take extra time and work. The idea of BLW is that baby eats what you eat. They share in nutritious foods that you’re already serving at the family table, at family meal times.
It helps with sensory development
All of the tastes, textures, smells and sights of food are there for your baby to explore with their little hands, mouth, tongue and teeth (or gums). You’ll also notice baby explore their food with elbows, faces and like MY daughter- hair as well 🙂 Not only is this beneficial for their sensory development but it also helps familiarize them with a variety of foods in all their forms. Allowing baby to lead the process lets fun into meal times.
Words of Encouragement:
While this is written with intent to educate and encourage BLW, know that it may not be for everyone and its okay! I didnt do BLW with my first due to being extra anxious about it; and because he had protein allergy. He was pureed fed until a little after a year old.
My daughter however has been eating solids for 5 months now (started at 6mo old).
Every baby is different, dont beat yourself up if you try and stop either.
I found my anxiety subsided when i learned to take a breathe the few times my daughter gagged; and watched as she figured it out as a champ. It also settles things to know how to cut foods. I promise you those are the main things to be aware of to have a successful experience.