When I first heard about “Baby Led Weaning” (BLW), I thought it sounded crazy, so if you are in that boat right now, you are not the only one!
Having my 6 month old pick up and eat her own food? Without teeth? Without any fine motor skills? She’ll choke! She’ll starve! She’ll definitely won’t get enough nutrients!
Those were my first thoughts.
My thoughts have since shifted drastically.
Baby led weaning simple means letting your children feed themselves food from the very beginning of weaning. I started weaning Eleanor by giving her pureed food. She loved eating – no question. But pureeing healthy foods is time-consuming! So I started reading more about baby led weaning and decided to give it a try. The basics of baby led weaning are:
- Giving your baby healthy whole foods (i.e. no more purees)
- Your baby feeds him or herself
- No “topping off” with purees because they decide how much to eat
- Meals are not hurried – babies eat at their own pace
- Start with big foods that the baby can grasps (i.e. cut into chicken finger shapes) and slowly move to smaller foods as baby develops better fine motor skills
- Non-finger foods can be offered by spoon (like yogurt or oatmeal) and baby can self-feed if they want
And that’s all. Easy. Waaaay less work for me!
Not gonna lie… I double checked how to do choking manoeuvres on babies before I started (better safe than sorry!), but all of my fears about a 6 month old not being able to handle solid food were obliterated after a couple of meals. I was surprised how easily Ellie handled feeding herself. And she loved it. Once we started the baby led weaning, she didn’t want to be fed anymore.
To be honest, I’m not fully doing the baby led weaning, I do help her out with foods sometime, and I have a hard time letting her “take her time” for meals, because I usually have plans during the day! But we are giving her solid chunks of food, and she is loving it.
Some of the reasons I chose to do baby led weaning are:
- She is learning to chew before she learns to swallow, which is a natural way to learn to eat. She won’t be afraid to chew or start new foods later
- Independence! In my job (helping others to feed and swallow foods as a Speech-Language Pathologist) I would never recommend that someone be fed food if they are capable of feeding themselves. Same goes for my daughter.
- She eats the same foods we eat, which means no extra preparation, and means that we won’t be introducing new foods all of the sudden when she would start solids in the traditional weaning methods
- She is deciding how much to eat. She’s learning at an early age to listen to her body and not to overeat
- I really believe that she will be a less picky eater. Sometimes when we would offer her foods on the spoon (e.g. apple) she would refuse them after one bite. When she holds the apple herself, she takes a bite (and still makes the face!), but even if she doesn’t like it, she tries it again. Because she is in control. Plus, this allows us to try all types of textures, flavours and spices early on
Some of the foods we give her regularly include:
toast with jam, avocado, or cheese
cooked veggies like sweet potato, carrots, green beans, and broccoli
fruits like apple, banana, papaya, and pineapple
pasta with sauces
hamburger patties and meatloaf
soft, seasoned chicken pieces
My original thinking that we should wait to give her solid food until she has teeth and fine motor skills was backwards; we should give her solid food to help develop her chewing, swallowing and pincer grasp. As well as her independence :)
Other things to note:
- There is a LOT of information out there if you want to start baby led weaning. I suggest starting with this website, or this pamphlet, both of which I found helpful :)
- The same rules for food apply as the traditional approaches. Avoid cow milk and honey until baby is one, and avoid foods if you have concerns about allergies
- Be sure to supervise your baby and review the choking manoeuvres for infants. There is always a risk of choking whenever you introduce solid foods