Baby Led Weaning

By Bailey Lawson

September 26, 2019

You may have heard the words “Baby Led Weaning (BLW)” before and may be unaware of what exactly it entails. Or maybe you have tried Baby Led Weaning and it didn’t go over well with your little one. Let’s dive into all things Baby Led Weaning. 

Firstly, the term is actually quite misleading. It’s not really about weaning your babe from the breast or bottle at all. It’s about adding complementary foods into your baby’s diet when they are at the appropriate developmental age. Baby led weaning is an alternative approach to beginning solids with your baby, and usually begins around the 6 months mark. Instead of the traditional spoon and pureed feeding, baby led weaning is based on the philosophy of trusting your infant and his instincts. You completely allow him to take the lead.

By offering finger foods on his tray, you allow him to explore, experiment and choose what is best for his likings. He decides how much or how little to eat. You trust that he knows when he is hungry and when he is satisfied. Your little one will explore many different tastes and textures and overtime you will get to know what he will want on the menu! One of the best things about baby led weaning is your baby is eating what the rest of the family is eating. Therefore, you do not need to prep or plan any extra meals or pureed baby food. 

Breastmilk and/or formula is all a baby needs until 6 months of age. Prior to this, their immune and digestive systems are not ready to start solids. In 2002, the World Health Organization recommended that the age for starting complementary feeding should be changed from 4-6 months of age to strictly 6 months. This change to 6months of age gave infants more time to develop and prepare for the introductions of solids.

A 4-month old would be in no way able to sit independently and put food to their mouth. Therefore, pureed and spoon-feeding was a must. But because the current recommendations are to wait until baby is older (6months of age), they are developmentally ready to skip the pureed stage. This also may increase the likelihood that the babies would be interested and accepting of foods.

Benefits of Baby Led Weaning

  • babies have full control and decide how much to eat early on
  • potential to be more nutritious-Purees are often watered down
  • less expensive
  • may be more practical, less time consuming
  • introducing more textures, and different tastes early on may encourage babe to be less picky 
  • improves dexterity; helps develop hand-eye coordination 
  • baby gains confidence in their own abilities 

Always introduce foods one at a time and observe for any signs of redness, rash, hives, or diarrhea before introducing a new food. If your babe is at increased risk for food allergies and you would like to learn more about food sensitivities reach out to Your Mama Coach for some advice on allergy navigation.

Is Baby Led Weaning Safe?

Research has shown that infants are developmentally ready to handle finger foods at 6months of age so it is very unlikely that your babe will choke. But your baby will likely gag. Like A LOT! You may see them making a funny face and hear them gagging but they aren’t choking. Recognizing the difference between gagging and choking is very important. 

Babies are experts at avoiding choking. A baby’s natural gag reflex is triggered much farther forward on their tongue than it is for adults. This reflex shifts food that has travelled too far back in their mouths, back to the front again to prevent any choking.  When your baby gags, try to keep your cool. If you panic and make a big deal of it, you may scare them into thinking they did something wrong while they were eating, and they may be hesitant to try any foods again. 

In 2015, a research study in New Zealand (The BLISS Trial) was initiated where they separated 200 families into two groups. There was no difference in relation to choking between the baby led weaning group than the control group.  Conclusion=All babies gag. 

 

Beginner Foods 

  • Meat- Beef, Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Iron-fortified Cereals
  • Beans and lentils
  • steamed vegetables- sweet potato
  •  soft fruit- avocado, bananas, steamed apples
  • whole grains- toast, rice, pasta
  • Well cooked eggs
  • full-fat yogurt
  • Cheese

Before beginning your baby led weaning journey, I must stress two things.

  1. Be confident in the process. Learn about baby led weaning. The dos and don’ts. Ask questions when you feel uncomfortable. Our eBook is a great source for BLW beginners. 
  2. Be confident in infant choking and CPR. Even though baby led weaning is proven to be just as safe as pureed feeding, I always suggest for parents and caregivers to prepare for a choking episode. No matter which approach you take to beginning solids it is important to know infant choking and CPR.

Don’t get overwhelmed or start ordering every baby led weaning book out there. Yes, there are some really great books, but there are also free BLW cookbooks and endless recipes online.

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