After exclusively feeding your baby with either breastmilk or formula for 6 to 7 months, it is finally time to transition into solid feeding. Traditionally, the first solid foods that we usually feed babies are cereals, mashed vegetables, and other easy-to-digest foods. But for moms who practice baby-led weaning or BLW, nothing ever needs to be mashed.
Or blended or pureed or crushed. You get the idea.
So what do BLW babies eat? The baby-led weaning approach encourages parents to let their babies eat on their own and eat whole foods instead of processed. So instead of jarred baby foods or mashed sweet potatoes, BLW babies eat finger foods. And instead of mom or dad sitting by the baby with a spoon, the baby picks their food, puts it into their mouth, and chews.
The idea is to let the baby decide what to eat and how much to eat, helping them be in control of what they put inside their mouth — thus the term baby-led weaning.
What about choking?
As long as you are offering your baby soft and age-appropriate food, then your baby will not be at risk for choking. Even if your little one has yet to grow tiny teeth, their gums are quite capable of chewing.
And whether you feed your baby mashed solid foods or whole foods, you should always observe the necessary safety guidelines, which include the following:
- Always be there whenever your baby eats. Never leave them alone, not even for a second!
- Avoid feeding your baby small round foods such as grapes, nuts, and cherries. Instead, stick to soft foods that are easy to chew like egg yolks, fish, and pasta.
- Make sure your baby is seated on a stable high chair.
- Keep track of the foods you offer and observe for possible allergies and sensitivities.
- Avoid seasoning your baby’s food even with salt and pepper.
When is the best time for starting baby-led weaning?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend introducing solid foods when your baby is around 6 months old. Developmentally speaking, it is around this age that babies are usually already able to sit up by themselves and grab objects. Their bodies are also more equipped to receive solid food at this point as their intestines have already developed the necessary digestive enzymes.
5 Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
While there is no right or wrong way to introduce solid food, baby-led weaning advocates are not shy about promoting the goodness of this approach. If you are considering starting baby-led weaning, then here are the benefits that you definitely should know!
1. BLW babies are less likely to be picky.
Babies who are exposed to the baby-led weaning approach are more likely to be open to trying new foods. This is because BLW encourages your baby to experiment with a wide range of foods (rather than be limited to jarred baby food and food that can be pureed). This access to various tastes and textures may have a positive impact on your baby’s food choices as they grow up.
2. BLW babies are more likely to have a healthy weight.
One of the most important concepts that baby-led weaning encourages is the concept of self-regulation when it comes to eating. Being in control of their food, from picking to chewing, may have a positive impact on their mindset, which is important in helping them maintain a healthy weight.
3. Baby-led weaning helps with the development of your baby’s fine motor skills.
Baby-led weaning requires your baby to pick their own food rather than be spoon-fed by you or a guardian. This simple act is actually very helpful in boosting the development of their fine motor skills. Picking food improves hand-eye coordination, and moving the food into their mouth improves dexterity.
4. Baby-led weaning helps improve digestion.
In contrast to purees, whole foods need to be chewed. Aside from the physical process of chewing, which breaks down food into smaller particles, the difference between chewing and mashing food lies in the enzymes that are released in the former. These enzymes help improve your baby’s digestion.
5. Baby-led weaning often means less effort on your part.
Finally, baby-led weaning just might give you more free time as a new mom! Because you don’t need to mash food or prepare a separate meal altogether, BLW means spending less time in the kitchen. BLW babies also feed themselves, so while you need to be there when they are eating, you can spend this time eating your own food.
Overall, baby-led weaning is a concept that encourages babies as young as 6 months old to eat on their own. This fosters independence and self-regulation, which are vital in helping children maintain a healthy attitude toward food as they grow up.