Baby Led Weaning is a relatively new concept. It is an alternative to the traditional method of offering your baby pureed foods when they are ready to begin solids. The practice is growing in popularity as it gives babies and parents more freedom. Have you considered baby led weaning as an option for your family?
Weaning is the process of replacing breastmilk or formula feeds with solid foods. Generally, this is a process that takes anywhere between 6 months and several years. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) encourages your baby to change their diet from solely milk, to include solid foods. But not purees and baby rice. BLW allows your baby to be in control of what they eat by selecting finger-sized chunks of food. It allows your baby to participate in family food and not be restricted to baby specific foods.
Regardless of the weaning method that you choose, it is recommended that your baby should be introduced to solids around 6 months of age.
Independence: BLW gives your baby to chance to explore food independently without someone feeding them with a spoon.
Variation and Variety: Your baby will be able to experience a range of food textures from the beginning. This can prevent food aversions in later years.
Inclusive: Your baby will be able to participate in family mealtimes without someone needing to feed them. That means the whole family can enjoy their meals at the same time.
Save Time: Save on food prep time by not having to prepare purees or separate meals. Simply cut up some of the same items the rest of the family will eat.
Healthy: BLW encourages children to choose healthy foods, this means it can lead to less chance of childhood obesity.
Mess: BLW is a messy process. Before your baby finds their mouth, they are likely to find their entire face, their chest, their hair, the highchair, and anything else in the general feeding area!
Waste: Because your child is likely to half chew a lot of things, and drop them on the floor, there can be a lot of food waste.
Chewing: Your baby might find it hard to chew items like well-cooked meat, so may not select them. Meat is a great source of iron, which your baby will need at this age.
Portion Control: It is hard to know how much they are actually eating. With spoon-fed puree, you know exactly how much is going into their mouths. But this is not the case with BLW.
Variety: Official advice from the NZ Ministry of Health advises giving your baby a range of textures, with puree being the main one. Puree is an obvious transition from the liquid diet your baby has been used to.
If you would like to give BLW a try, then offer your baby a selection of nutritious foods at family mealtimes. You will want to give them foods that they can grip in their fist. At this early stage, they will not have perfected the pincer grip (grabbing items between their thumb and forefinger).
It will take some time for your baby to master eating the food. They will need practice grabbing the foods and moving it to their mouths. This can be a messy process! At first, your baby might just play with the food, but they will gradually progress to sucking on it, and eating it.
If you have choking concerns for your baby, then you may want to consider giving them their food chunks through a mesh feeder like this Munchkin one .
Continue to give milk or formula feeds between meals. As your baby starts eating more and more solids, the number of milk or formula feeds will decrease.
There are lots of benefits to choosing Baby Led Weaning as the method for introducing solids to your baby, but there are also some things to be mindful of. Make sure you consider all of these things before making a decision on your method. Also, ensure that your baby is ready for solids before you begin any method. If you are at all concerned, then seek advice from Plunket, or similar organisations.