When a baby reaches 6 months of age, they are ready to start eating solid foods. Puree, or traditional, weaning was an approach adopted by many parents for a number of years, but over the past 15 years, baby led weaning has increasingly become the go-to method for transitioning your baby from being milk-dependent to eating solid foods. So, what is it and why is it so popular?
Baby led weaning (or BLW), is the process of introducing solid foods to your bottle or breast fed baby and introduces foods to your baby through self-feeding once they reach 6 months old. Baby led weaning provides an alternative feeding method to spoon and puree feeding, which was the traditional and relied upon method.
Instead of moving from parent guided purees to family meals as your baby gets older, baby led weaning introduces baby to small pieces of regular food from day one of weaning. Parents choose what to offer their baby and in which form, so that babies can learn to feed themselves. Baby then picks what to eat, how much and at their own pace.
Baby led weaning means skipping the spoon feeding steps of puree weaning and instead allows baby to feed themselves with finger-foods. This helps develop their fine motor skills and development, as well as chewing skills, hand eye coordination, dexterity and healthy eating habits. Baby led weaning also gives babies the chance to explore new tastes, textures and smells, as well as the different colours of foods.
Some experts say that because babies are more involved with the eating process and grapes foods and bring them to their mouths on their own accord and pace, this may protect them from excess weight gain later on in life. Baby led weaning is also said to discourage fussy eating, as it introduces young children to a lot of different tastes and textures from an early age.
Whilst baby led weaning is mostly praised for its positive effects on babies and young children, there are some downsides. Baby led weaning is said to come with a very small increased risk of choking, as babies are still developing their oral motor skills which could then lead to vomiting or choking. However, some experts say that baby led weaning actually strengthens the skills for eating and that it is normal for babies to gag when eating. Gagging is a perfectly normal part of the weaning process and actually protects baby from choking, as it pushes food from the back of the mouth to the front, which is why they gag. A baby’s gag reflex is actually much further forward in the mouth when they start weaning and moves back as they get older.
Whilst baby led weaning is a great way to introduce your baby to solid foods, it also comes with a lot of mess! As your baby learns about the food they are eating, they will likely get it everywhere, so there are some recommendations for must-have items when following baby led weaning.
Whilst your baby will be learning to feed themselves, offering them baby-sized cutlery will also help develop their eating skills for later on in life.
Whether you’re giving your baby sweet potato or spaghetti bolognese, baby led weaning can get messy, fast. If you want to avoid staining baby’s clothes and want to cut down on your clean up time, then weaning bibs and coveralls are a great investment.
For messy hands and faces after mealtimes, use a soft wipe or baby washcloths to remove any food from your baby’s hands and mouth.
By using a highchair, you can pop baby in to eat, whilst you are able to supervise and let them explore their food on their own. You can use the highchair tray to put their food onto, so that you can see at a glance what your baby has eaten. Highchairs also allow baby to be at the same height as the table, which is great for mealtimes and developing their social skills.