What Is Baby Led Weaning?
Let’s start out with a quick explanation of what baby-led weaning actually is. BLW is ultimately an approach to introducing your baby to solid foods. It refers to “weaning” your child on to solids or “table food”. I really don’t think it needs an official name as I’ve known many people take this approach before I actually heard the name Baby Led Weaning.
BLW, in a very unprofessional nutshell, is letting your child explore and discover food independently. Most often you skip pureed foods and spoon feeding all together. Babies technically do not need any extra food (besides breastmilk/formula) until they are around a year old. Anything before then is just a learning experience (how to chew, how to hold food and move it around in their mouth, etc.). So by taking the BLW approach you start sometime after six months old and give you baby larger pieces of soft/cooked foods and allow them to learn and play with their food.
Why Chose Baby Led Weaning?
Let me first say, after my failed attempt to breastfeed Gemma (read about that here) I would NEVER EVER shame a parent for how they chose to feed their child. BLW is just an approach to solid food. I would not ever say it is the only way or even the best way to introduce solids. It is, however, the way Dallas and I choose to feed Gemma and we’ve loved every bit of the experience. We already know this is how we will approach solids with baby number two as well.
We decided on BLW for a few crucial reasons that I’ve listed below:
1. Motor Skills:
By allowing Gemma to feed herself she is getting even more practice in developing her motor skills and hand-eye coordination. She quickly learned to pick up small pieces of food, she can move food around in her mouth, take bites out of larger objects (like bananas, pickles, and potatoes) and it helped her develop the skills to pass objects from one hand to another and get things in and out of her mouth.
2. Exposure to Taste/Texture:
Instead of only introducing solids at first, Gemma got to play with foods of a variety of texture. In her first 2-3 weeks alone she tried avocado slices, steamed baby carrots, cooked mushrooms, steamed broccoli, cooked green beans and steamed cauliflower. Think of all the different shapes, sizes and textures within those few vegetables. Some people say that introducing your baby to so many different tastes and textures helps with pickiness later on in life… we can’t attest to that yet. But with how picky I was as a child (and honestly still am) we are willing to try anything! Ha!
3. No extra work:
This was a big one! We have never had to buy baby food. We have never had to make baby food. When Gemma was ready for solids (we started a week after she turned six months old) we sat her down and gave her something from our own plates. All she has ever known is to eat what mommy and daddy are eating. In the beginning I did plan out a few meals that I knew included vegetables that I wanted her to try, but other than that there’s been no planning or extra work involved with feeding her.
4. Whole Foods:
This is probably the most important to Dallas. He would eat fresh, organic, whole food every day if it were feasible. Nothing out of a can, everything from scratch, etc. So the idea of Gemma starting off her eating journey with eating only whole produce (nothing in a can, no mysterious ingrediants) was a big WIN in our books. The first two months of BLW Gemma only ate fruits and vegetables. We started out with only vegetables and then introduced fruits this past month. In the past few weeks we branched out a little more. She added beans, shredded cheese and Plum Organics Super Puffs (mango with sweet potato) to her diet. We’ll slowly start adding pastas and maybe meat in the coming months, but we are in no rush!
Our Thoughts so Far on Baby Led Weaning?
We have LOVED watching Gemma explore this new horizon. At first she merely played and maybe sucked on food. She dropped almost everything and ingested almost nothing. But it’s been so fun to see her slowly realize the big wide world of food. She’s an eating machine now a days. I can not seem to get food on her plate fast enough. She really loves juicy food like tomatoes and oranges but also makes a beeline to broccoli every time it’s on her plate. Watching her take bites out of a banana is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
[Side Note: I know a lot of family and friends (and sometimes myself) were worried about choking. If you’re interested in BLW but are afraid of choking, there are a lot of good resources out there to give peace to that anxiety. First, you should always be present and attentive while any baby or child is eating. Second, we avoid any circular or tube shaped foods because of choking hazards. When we gave Gemma grape tomatoes we cut them in half then split them open so they were flat instead of circular. Then, most important, we learned about gagging. Babies are equipped with a strong gag reflux. If anything gets too far into her mouth, Gemma will gag if it’s too big. It’s quite fascinating. She just gags it forward and then resumes chewing it until it’s mushed up enough to swallow. Just another learning experience as she figures out how to move food around in her mouth.]
Gemma is a true foodie now and will try any food we put in front of her. We have yet to find something she truly does not like. We think a lot of that stemmed from BLW. The first two weeks she hardly touched the food and when she did it was usually accompanied with a disgusted or confused face. But after continually giving her food every evening for dinner she’s become quite the little adventurer! We love this stage and it’s been so fun watching her learn and grow.
What’s been your feeding journey so far? Any others who have tried BLW? What was your experience like? Leave stories in the comments!!