So I’ve had a couple of people ask me “what is baby-led weaning?” and “how do I go about practicing it?”. I always clarify that I do not practice baby-led weaning wholesale but cherry-pick elements of it that suit our lifestyle.
Here is a little summary of what Baby-Led Weaning or BLW is to me and how I kinda practice it.
Why we decided on BLW
The hubs and I are both foodies and love cooking and eating. As such, we also have high hopes that E enjoys food like we do (or even more!). BLW encourages babies to explore new foods and eat them (hopefully) without pressure from adults. Babies also learn to eat when they are hungry, discouraging over-eating that can happen if babies are just spoon-fed. That being said, BLW does not prevent over-eating and not all babies that are spoon-fed will over-eat.
We decided to try BLW because we wanted E to be able to explore her food and not be forced to eat. Also, self-feeding encourages fine motor skill development and we don’t have to constantly be cajoling baby to eat. We can thus enjoy our meals a little more as E usually feeds herself.
Do note that we do spoon-feed E at times, when needed.
When we started
E started solids about one week before her 6 month birthday. It is highly recommended that babies start solids about 6 months of age and no younger because their digestive tracts aren’t mature enough. Read this and this for more information.
There are signs that indicate that baby is ready and the two articles I posted above cover those signs. E exhibited all those signs.
What we do
There are a few things to consider before starting:
- Does your family have a history of food allergies? This affects how you would introduce foods to baby. If your family has a history of food allergies or allergies in general, I would be more careful when introducing more allergenic foods like dairy products, wheat, peanuts, and eggs (i.e, one at a time). The hubs has allergies but not food related, but it’s all clear on my side of the family. The recommendation today is to introduce allergenic foods early because it can help prevent allergies.
- No honey before the age of one because of the risk of botulism.
- Avoid foods high in salt because babies’ kidneys can’t handle salt well yet.
- I also avoid foods high in preservatives, sugar and fat. They aren’t good for us anyway.
- Foods fed also need to be soft enough for babies to process. Rule of thumb, if you can smush it between your fingers it’s okay to feed baby. For example, whole nuts can’t be smushed so if you want to feed baby nuts, nut butters or grounded up nuts are the way to go.
- Also, cut foods up so that they won’t get stuck in baby’s airway if baby swallows it whole. For example, grapes should be cut in half (or smaller).
With those things in mind we started our BLW journey!
What does E eat?
- E usually eats what we are eating, sometimes modified (i.e., less salt/sugar/spicy). Before she was one, I tried to keep as much salt out of her diet as possible. However, now that she is one and can handle a bit more salt, E usually eats what we eat. I use minimal amounts of salt in my cooking or leave the food unsalted. Salt can always be added at the table to individuals’ taste.
- I also prepare certain things and freeze them for quick meals. Of late I have been trying recipes from the BLW Cookbook and other baby cookbooks. There have been hits and misses.
What are some cons of BLW?
The mess. It is inevitable that mess happens because you are letting a baby feed themselves (unless your baby is supernaturally neat and has phenomenal fine motor ability).
We let E feed herself most things but we do spoon-feed her soupy things. Of late, we have been letting her try using the spoon to feed herself. It does help if the soupy stuff is thicker. You can thicken soups using potatoes or even baby cereal.
It’s been a journey. There are days I’m too lazy to clean up after E, so I just spoon feed her and there are days I just let her go crazy with the food. But overall, I am happy to report E is a pretty adventurous eater (most of the time). I have noticed that E was a lot more receptive to new foods before she turned one and is a little more cautious and picky now. As such, feed as many foods with as many flavors before your kid turns one!