Most parents will discuss their baby’s introduction to solid foods with their paediatrician at some point. Nowadays, it is likely that baby-led weaning (BLW) will feature in that discussion since many parents have heard of it and are either following it or contemplating doing so.
Baby-led weaning is not new. It was being implemented by many parents long before it had a name.
What is baby-led weaning (BLW)?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is an approach to introducing solid foods to the baby. In BLW, the baby eats food himself & there is no spoon-feeding. According to the baby, the underlined trust sets baby-led weaning apart from traditional/conventional weaning.
In BLW, the baby decides how much and if he/she wants to eat.
The role of parents is to offer food. The baby decides the quantity of the food. Even if a baby eats one morsel or does not eat at all, it is advised not to spoon-feed and offer breast or formula milk on demand to compensate for the nutrients.
Weaning has many meanings, but for our understanding throughout, we will associate weaning with weaning solids. Because many doctors/books you read may also call BM to formula transition to weaning. We will be addressing BreastMilk as BM and Formula Milk as FM throughout.
Why should you practice baby-led weaning (BLW)?
When you decide to start solids for your baby (Only after when the baby is solid ready), you decide, and you feed, so the ‘baby-ledness’ of the transition is immediately compromised to some extent anyway. Your baby’s first contact with solid food happens at a time chosen by you now; if you will spoon-feed on top of it, the entire autonomy of the feeding is significantly reduced. It doesn’t matter how responsive you are in feeding; the baby is not in charge of the food he is eating. Baby cannot control the pace of eating because someone else is feeding & he cannot decide how much to eat because someone else’s feeding him, which is not normal eating behaviour. Right? We should be in control of our food intake because we know our hunger better than anybody else.
Spoon feeding isn’t wrong; it's just not necessary.
Is your baby ready to start solids?
Most healthy, full-term babies are ready to eat solid food at around 6 months old. Before you dive in, however, make sure your baby has reached these critical developmental milestones:
- Baby can sit with minimal support for a few mins or is at least holding a tripod position all by himself
- Baby can hold head upright and steady for the duration of the meal
- Has lost tongue thrust. Most babies lose it by 4-6 months, but it will slowly fade if your baby still has some.
- Baby shows interest in food – leans towards your food, reaches and grabs & mouths it (like they mouth toy)
How can you get started with BLW?
- Sit your baby upright, facing the table, preferably on a high chair. Ensure she can sit steadily and use her hands and arms freely.
- Offer your baby food, rather than give it to her – put it in front of her, or let her take it from your hand so that the decision is hers.
- Start with foods that are easy to pick up – thick sticks or long strips are best at first. Introduce new shapes and textures gradually so your baby can work out how to handle them.
- Include your baby in your meal times whenever you can. As far as possible – as long as it’s suitable – offer her the same food as you are eating so that she can copy you.
- Choose times when your baby is not tired or hungry so that she can concentrate. Mealtimes at this stage are for play and learning – she will still get all her nourishment from her milk feeds.
- Carry on offering breast or formula feeds as before – this is still your baby’s primary source of nutrition until she is a year old. When she needs less, she will reduce her milk feed herself.
- Offer your baby water with her meals so she can drink it if needed. If she chooses not to, that means she doesn’t need to.
- Don’t hurry your baby or distract her while she is handling food – allow her to concentrate and take her time.
Don’t put food into your baby’s mouth for her or try to persuade her to eat more than she wants.
Still not sure how to start BLW? Click here to book a BLW consult. We will be happy to help!