Updated: Jun 4, 2019
What is baby led weaning (or BLW)?
First coined by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett in their book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods, Baby-led weaning is an approach to introducing solid food where baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon. 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 to compliment milk, and baby is trusted to know when to increase solid feedings and decrease milk (usually later in the first year).
BLW as a continuation of breastfeeding
We all know that breast milk is best for baby, but breastfeeding is also a natural start to BLW. Baby is introduced to the flavors from mother’s diet in her breast milk. This early introduction to food tastes often increases baby’s acceptance of those foods later on. Breastfeeding is also baby’s first lesson in self regulation, which is one benefit of BLW. However, this doesn’t mean that a formula fed baby won’t benefit from a BLW approach to introducing solids. BLW can work well for any family.
When is baby ready?
Experts agree that solids should be delayed until the middle of the first year of life. This is when baby’s digestive system is mature. 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:
Baby can sit up well without support.
Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (automatically pushing solids out of mouth with tongue).
Baby has developed the fine motor skills to 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.
Baby is willing to chew, even if he has few or no teeth.
Baby shows interest in participating at mealtime, and may try to grab food from your plate and put it in his mouth.
What are the benefits of baby led feeding?
Purées are time consuming. It’s much easier to adjust what the adults are eating to suit baby instead of having to get out the blender or potato masher.
BLW babies aren’t pressured into eating. They are trusted to know when, what, and how much they need to eat. Therefore, there is less stress and everyone can enjoy mealtime.
Babies feed themselves, so you can eat at the same time!
Baby led weaning gives mums the chance to relax and eat themselves.
Baby develops good eating habits
Baby (continues to) learn self regulation, which may set the child up for a healthier BMI in the future according to studies..
Self selection of food has even been shown to increase weight in underweight babies, therefore supporting a healthy weight in most babies.
Since BLW babies experience a wide range of healthy foods early on, they may be more likely to continue to enjoy those foods later in life.
Babies learn to safely handle food (they learn to chew THEN swallow)
Babies learn to manage different textures, tastes, sizes, and shapes of food.
Babies get lots of hand eye and fine motor practice by learning to grasp food and move it to their mouth.
Babies learn best by observing and copying.
Eating meals together (and eating similar foods) gives her many opportunities to learn about food.
We hope you found this article useful!