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September 13 , 2017

Introducing Baby Led Weaning

Baby lead weaning 3Baby-led weaning is an approach to introducing solid food where a baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via a spoon. BLW is not about weaning babies off breast milk or formula, but is solely about weaning them onto solids.

(Although, anytime we introduce food, we are in a sense starting the weaning process, as baby will naturally start to decline milk consumption. But with BLW, the baby is in charge.) BLW babies:

  • Are encouraged to join the family at mealtime and self-feed appropriate finger foods.
  • Choose what, how much, and how quickly to eat.
  • Are given the freedom to explore new tastes and textures without the pressure to eat a set amount or a specific food.
  • Continue to nurse (or receive a bottle) just as often. Solids are introduced to compliment milk, and babies will instinctively increase solid feedings and decrease milk (usually later in that first year).

When is your baby ready?

I would recommend that solids should be delayed until around the 6 month mark. This is when a baby’s digestive system is more developed. Some babies may seem ready at 5 ½ months, while others may not be ready until 8 months of age. It’s important to take into account ALL readiness signs for each individual child. As always, consult your child’s pediatrician if you are unsure or have questions.

Signs of readiness include:

  • Your baby can sit up well without any support.
  • Your baby has lost the ‘tongue-thrust reflex’ (automatically pushing solids out there of mouth using their tongue).
  • That they have developed the fine motor skills to be able self feed. Development of a pincer grasp (baby picks up food between thumb and forefinger, not palm and fingers) typically happens at around 6 months, but sometimes as late at 1 year.
  • The will to chew, even if he has few or no teeth.
  • They show an interest in participating at mealtime, and may try to grab food from your plate and put it in their mouth.

How to get started with baby led weaning

Baby lead weaning 2The great thing about baby led weaning is that you really don’t need much to get started. The first thing you need is a safe place for baby to sit. A highchair is a great choice, but a parents lap is just as good (remember, baby should be able to sit up unassisted at this point). The next thing you need is healthy and appropriate finger foods. A BLW baby is offered a variety of healthy whole finger foods (as well as a small amount of water) to choose from and explore. Follow your baby’s cues. Begin offering solids once a day, and gradually increase. Children of any age learn best by observation and imitation so try and eat together as a family when possible. When everyone eats together and eats the same food, baby then feels included, and mealtime is a fun experience rather than a battle. If eating meals together doesn’t work for your family, consider eating a snack while you baby has their meal.

What foods can I feed my baby?

A Baby’s first foods should be a selection of fresh fruits, soft cooked vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, and fats. Think soft and easy to gum and swallow. When given a variety to choose from.

Baby Led Weaning First Foods

Some great first finger foods for babies are:

  • Avocados
  • Banana
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Soft cooked apples
  • Soft cooked carrots, green beans, zucchini, and beets
  • Very ripe peaches and pears, plums, and melon
  • Pumpkin
  • Green beans with the skins removed
  • Egg yolk
  • Meat or poultry
  • Liver
  • Slices of sprouted bread, cooked pasta, brown rice (Some decide to wait until molars come through before introducing grains. Wheat is recommended to be avoided until later in the first year.)