There are so many reasons why I love Baby Led Weaning. With my first child, I did a mix of pureed foods and moved into what I now know as baby led weaning. I just wish I would have started sooner!
So, is baby led weaning right for you? Read about the reasons I love it and decide for yourself.
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I feel like Baby Led Weaning aka BLW is a well kept secret? I remember thinking, it’s so simple and makes so much sense, why haven’t I heard of it?
So, what is baby led weaning anyway? Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett first coined the idea in their book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater.
The basic concept is that your baby is in control of their eating and is encouraged to self feed. From about 6 mos. and up you offer your baby softened finger foods. You can also offer larger things that are not softened, such as corn on the cob, meat on the bone, whole apples, etc. The general idea is that your baby feeds his or her self.
Maybe we don’t hear about it because it isn’t the norm. I do remember thinking it was a little weird when my good friend used this approach with her son, (because all I knew was purees) but as I began to learn more about it and actually put it into practice, I was hooked! It made so much sense.
When I started feeding my daughter with the BLW method, I could see why people were talking about it. Below are the top 3 reasons why I would recommend BLW to any new mom struggling to figure out how to introduce solids.
This is probably my favorite reason. It just seems so natural. When you introduce your baby to new foods, each food is in its natural form. Doesn’t that make sense? Who wants to eat mystery mush from a jar when you can have the real thing? A carrot is not mashed into something unrecognizable, it is softened (or not) and offered as a finger sized stick.
When introducing solids, you can watch for signs to see if and when your baby is ready to start. Your baby may begin to reach for your food while you are eating. This might be an indication that your little one is ready to start trying some things.
I started at about 6 months with my little girl. The biggest thing to remember is to let your baby naturally explore their food. Don’t give in to the urge of putting something into your baby’s mouth. It’s called “baby led” for a reason. Let your baby be the judge of what to try and when.
At first, most of what was on my little girl’s tray ended up on the ground, on her or in the cracks of the high chair, which the dog happily cleaned out later. Don’t get discouraged, it’s completely normal for very little food to make it into your baby’s mouth in the beginning. Your baby doesn’t know that food will satisfy hunger, so food is just something that is fun to play with.
2. Fun & Educational
Babies love to explore! What do they explore with first? Their mouths of course! Everything my little girl picks up goes directly into her mouth. So why not let your baby explore food? It’s not harmful and it’s educational. Your baby will experience different flavors, texture, colors, shapes, and sizes. Every meal is an opportunity to learn something new. Just remember, no one ever stayed clean while learning. Be prepared for every meal to be messy! Make sure to buy a good drop cloth or go get that dog you’ve been dreaming about.
Things your baby can learn while eating:
- flavor (sweet, sour, bitter, savory, spicy, etc.)
- texture (hard, soft, rough, smooth, squishy, crunchy, etc.)
- color (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, etc.)
- shape (round, square, curved, long, skinny, etc.)
- size (small, big, etc.)
I remember watching my little girl put a blueberry in her mouth. She moved it around with her tongue from side to side, squished it a little and then moved it around some more. Not only was she learning about the properties of food, she was also learning about tongue control and how to squish things with her gums and at what amount of pressure. Some things took more effort, while other things, like blueberries squished pretty easily. (*note: we started at about 6 months and she didn’t have any teeth) It is amazing to see how much they learn while doing something we don’t even have to think about.
While feeding your baby, have a conversation about the different food items and some of their characteristics. When they take a bite of banana, you could say, “Oh, is that banana yummy, is it squishy?” You could even squish a little between your fingers to show your baby what you mean. Just remember every experience with your baby is an opportunity to learn, even if it’s with their food!
3. Baby Led
Your baby is in control. The whole process is led by your baby. Just like breast feeding or bottle feeding, your baby will stop when satisfied. With baby led weaning it is truly exactly like it says, “baby led”. Your baby will decided what foods to try and how much.
In the first couple months, lots of food will end up on the floor, but don’t worry, breast milk or formula will provide your baby with the nutrients they need. I like that in the book it says, “food before one is just for fun.”
Your baby will decide when he or she is ready to try something new. The best part is, your baby will be so busy squishing, smashing and putting things in his or her mouth that you will completely forget they are eating (although, in the beginning make sure you watch your baby carefully for signs that they might be choking). You will actually get to sit down with your baby and enjoy a hot meal.
After doing purees with my firstborn, I didn’t think it was possible to eat a meal at the same time as my baby. I now know that it is completely possible and, might I add, amazing! You will be surprised at how peaceful meals feel, unless you have a 4 year old who didn’t have baby led weaning and has issues with different textures.
After doing BLW for a couple weeks with my second child, it dawned on me that meals weren’t crazy or stressful. I wasn’t quickly eating in-between spooning something into an awaiting little mouth. I vividly remember sitting back and watching my little girl as she examined her food. She was so engrossed in her food, it was fascinating. At first, the challenge was in picking something up and getting it to her mouth. It then moved into learning about different textures and tastes. She would squish up her face if something was a little more sour or smile if something tasted particularly satisfying to her. She was in control. She had the power to put whatever she wanted into her mouth.
I would definitely choose to use BLW as a means to introduce solid foods again, I feel like it was the right choice for my baby and I.