Let’s start with the basic question: What is Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)? Simply, BLW is feeding your children real whole foods when they are ready to introduce solids at six months of age. Many people start solids with rice cereal and purees. BLW takes a different approach, allowing children to learn the eating process through discovery of the actual foods, no smushing required.
Why the name baby-led weaning?
The name is actually a British term coined by Gill Rapley, a nurse and mother of three, that comes from their classification of weaning, which means, introduction of other food in addition to breastmilk or formula. It’s “baby-led” because you let your child make the decision of what to eat and how much (with your guidence of course).
When should you start BLW?
I exclusively breastfed Sage for the first six months of his life. After he turned six months, we introduced his first solid food; a mashed up avocado mixed with some breastmilk. After about a week of mashed avocado and pureed carrots, I learned about BLW and was enthralled with the concept and felt confident that this was the best method for feeding Sage. Once I decided to move forward with BLW there was no turning back. This is the only method of eating that Sage knows.
What are the benefits of BLW?
What I love about BLW is that your child becomes comfortable with the different textures of food. This could help eliminate pickiness in the future since most picky eaters don’t eat certain foods because they “feel funny.” With BLW your little one will experience food as it’s meant to be experienced.
Another benefit is that your little one will get to choose which foods to eat and recognize when he or she is full. For example, if you provide them with three food options, they get to pick which item to eat. And, most babies will stop eating when they are full. This is true with breastfeeding and with BLW, which can help babies maintain this internal clock. In some cases, feeding your child purees may cause your child to overeat. In your effort to feed your child purees, you may accidentally overfeed them since it’s easy to spoonfeed them even if their bellies are full.
BLW can also increase a child’s dexterity as he masters picking up food and putting it in his mouth. Finally, your child may learn to chew solid food from the beginning, rather than learning to swallow food first and then having to learn to chew later.
How do you start BLW?
I started with all vegetables for the first few months of solids. I would cut the vegetables into pinky finger size pieces. This size piece allowed Sage to pick it up with his little hands (he would grab it with a fist grip) and still have enough vegetable sticking out the top to take a bite from it. I would steam most of the vegetables to make sure they were almost melt-in-your-mouth soft. Sage had no teeth when we started BLW.
What can you expect with BLW?
When we first started BLW we called Sage “The Juicer.” He would chew the food and then spit it out. That’s why we committed to the bucket bib to catch all his food. However, as Sage became more experienced, the food finally started making its way to his belly. Remember, food before one is just for fun! Your child is getting all of their necessary nutrients from breastmilk or formula.
You also have to be prepared for the mess. Food will be on the floor, but eventually your little one gets better and more food makes it down the hatch. The other thing to expect is lots of smiles and giggles. I love sharing meal time with Sage and watching him discover new foods. This boy loves his fruits and vegetables!