Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy Of Pediatrics recommend exclusively breastfeeding your infant for the first six months. As you approach this milestone, you’re probably thinking about introducing solids to baby. There are two ‘schools of thought’ regarding the the addition of complementary foods. Feeding milled cereals and puréed foods by spoon is the traditional approach. Another way to offer solids is through Baby Led Weaning (BLW). This style encourages baby to feed herself and skip the spoon, completely. The following is a guide to help you learn about, and decide if, a baby-led approach is right for your family.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
BLW is a theory originated by Gill Rapley, a British health nurse. The word ‘weaning’ is the UK equivalent of Americans saying ‘starting solids’. With BLW, you forgo spoon feeding, a parent initiated method, and trust your baby to nourish herself, a baby initiated approach
When is my baby ready to feed herself?
Spoon feeding is so popular and almost unchallenged in our culture. Many families choose to introduce solids prior to six months. Before this age, babies are not developmentally ready to feed themselves. With BLW, you wait until baby is developmentally ready to eat. When your infant reaches the following milestones, she is ready to start exploring food:
- is at least six months of age
- has lost the tongue thrust reflex
- can sit with little or no assistance
- reaches and bring objects to her mouth accurately
- shows focused interest in food and your eating
Why choose BLW?
It’s progressive and instinctual! A baby initiated approach to food is an extension of breastfeeding. A healthy, full-term baby can feed herself as soon as she is born. Baby tells you when she is hungry, she nurses at her pace, and knows when she is full. BLW builds on this philosophy and applies it to complementary foods. This style is also easier. Your baby enjoys the foods you cook for the entire family. There is no need to prepare separate recipes for you infant.
How safe is BLW?
‘I am worried my baby will choke on food!’ The BLW philosophy makes sense in theory, but many parents are nervous to try this approach for fear of choking. BLW is as safe, or safer than traditional spoon feeding. As long as your baby is ready to feed herself, as listed above, she can engage in BLW.
What food should baby eat?
For safety, foods should be served in large chunks that baby can easily grasp in hand. These are a good start:
- Soft fruits cut in big pieces – bananas, peaches, ripe melon, avocado
- Steamed vegetables – sweet potato, summer squash, pumpkin, broccoli
- Buttered toast cut in slices
- Mini muffins
- Steamed fish
- Well cooked steak
Here are an additional 100+ foods and recipes to enjoy.
To learn more about Baby Led Weaning, check out Rapley’s series of books.