When parents think of starting solids with their babies, many envision tiny jars of blended produce and cereals. That image doesn’t have to be the only option. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is another way to introduce food.
The term “Baby Led Weaning” is something of a misnomer; instead, this method should just be called “Baby Led Feeding” because the process is entirely dictated by the child’s cues. Parents using BLW will wait until the baby can sit unassisted, demonstrates an interest in food, has lost the “tongue thrust” reflex and has developed a pincer grasp. To help parents understand what BLW is, we’ve compiled frequently asked questions and tips for those using this method.
How is BLW different?
Families interested in pursing this option typically wait longer to introduce foods, usually at least 6 months. Baby Led Weaning teaches babies about foods in only one step whereas spoon-feeding requires two steps. BLW does not rely on purees. Instead, foods are introduced in solid form. Parents/caretakers do not spoon-feed or put food into the child’s mouth at all.
Don’t you have to start with purees?
Technically, no. Pureed foods are the more common choice, but it’s certainly not something that’s required. Not all babies like being spoon-fed, and many parents have reported feelings of frustration and distress when this method doesn’t work for their child. Start with foods that are easily digestible and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction, and move on from there.
My baby doesn’t have teeth! How can they eat “real” food?
Some babies cut teeth very early, while others do not. This has very little to do with their ability to chew. A baby’s saliva and gums are tougher than an adult’s, making chewing possible – even without teeth.
How are they going to get enough nutrition?
At least initially, it may seem like baby gets more food on their clothes/hair/floor than in their mouths. Parents may worry that their child isn’t getting the same amount of calories and nutrients as spoon-fed babies, but the bulk of their nutrition is from breastmilk or formula for the first year of life. There’s a saying that “food before one is just for fun!”
I want to try BLW, but won’t the baby choke?
Bake or steam foods before giving them to a baby, and/or slice it into manageable sized pieces. French fry-shaped slices or bean-sized pieces work well. Never leave a baby unattended while eating.
No matter how families decide to introduce food, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends waiting 6 months to initiate feeding solids and waiting for signs of readiness. Babies younger than 4 months old should not be given solids. The intestinal wall is still “open,” so their immature intestines are not able to filter potentially allergenic foods from entering the bloodstream.
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By Rachel Minkowsky