This summer, I was introduced to a baby-feeding style that has changed my life.
While a new concept to me, the idea behind Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) isn’t new. In fact, watch any mother of more than one child and I’m sure you will see pieces of the BLW theory put into practice. BLW is the process by which you forgo store bought or homemade baby purees and cereals as baby’s first food and, instead, give them the same food you and your family are eating. You allow your baby to pinch, grab and feed himself without any spoon-feeding from mom or dad. Your baby decides how much to eat, and instinctively stops when full.
As I’ve been practicing BLW with Oliver, I’ve received a lot of looks of concern or confusion from others who, rightly so, worry about choking, proper nutrition, and of course, simply worry for the sake of worrying because we tend to waaaay over analyze child rearing in general (my opinion). And yet, I have nothing but wonderful, positive things to say about my experience!
BLW has been a game changer for my family, so I wanted to share some information about it and my experience to hopefully help you on your journey of getting your baby to eat well!
First, I want to thank my friend, Mandy, for turning me on to this wonderful philosophy. Mandy suggested I read the book, Baby-Led Weaning by Gil Rapley and Tracey Murkett to get started. In this helpful guide, Rapley shares some of the BLW benefits to baby:
BLW will develop your baby’s chewing skills, manual dexterity, and hand-eye coordination.With your help, he’ll discover a wide range of healthy foods and learn important social skills. He’ll only eat as much as he needs…
I have discovered all of these claims to be 100% true since I’ve started the BLW process with my youngest, Oliver. I’ve been amazed at how quickly he has developed the dexterity to reach, grab, pinch and successfully get food into his mouth. Not only that, but he is an eager eater, never passing up food because of taste or texture.
An interesting point that the book makes is that babies instinctively crawl and walk when they are ready, but why do we decide when they are ready for food and then give them mush? A baby’s readiness to explore foods and eating on their own, and our insistence at spoon feeding them might be the cause of so much dinner time drama and stress-they were made to do this next milestone on their own.
I could literally drone on and on about how much I love BLW, but I’ll try and spare you. To keep it short, here is a list of some of the other perks:
- You can do meal times together. No longer does someone have to wait to eat their meal so that they can spoon feed baby, now you all have your food and eat together as a family!
- Babies learn to eat great foods right from the beginning. Already, Oliver has been introduced to a wide variety of seasons, spices and textures and doesn’t bat an eye! I firmly believe that Oliver will be a better, more adventurous eater because he is starting with these foods.
- BLW is cost effective. Jarred baby food can really add to the grocery bill. Now, baby can eat the same dishes you are already making for the rest of your family!
- BLW is so much fun! I love seeing how eager Oliver is to eat and try new foods. Meal time is so much more relaxed.
- Eating out is so. much. easier. I give the kids their food and let them go at it. As for me and my husband? Well, we focus on our own meals!
A few words of caution:
- It is messy! We lucked out and started this during the summer so we could do a lot of meals outside. But either way, be prepared for some mess until baby gets the hang of it (for us, that was about 1-2 weeks).
- No salt! Babies can’t have salt, so keep pre-packaged food to a minimum. Often times, I would pull out Oliver’s portion separately before I salted our dishes.
- At first, I was disappointed I didn’t know about this with our first son, Theo. Then I read that this practice shouldn’t be implemented with preemies, which I can totally understand. Theo had a very hard time with all of his suck/swallow reflexes, which made nursing and eating very difficult for him. For preemies, stick to the traditional feeding method.
- Nursing/formula should be continued as usual with BLW. The majority of baby’s nutrients will come form nursing/formula, not from table food.
- Remember that gagging and choking are two very different things. Gagging is normal as babies learn how far is too far to push food and fingers. This usually subsides after a week or two.
- No, babies don’t have teeth when they start BLW (from 6 mo. on), but they tend to keep food in their mouths longer, “gumming” it and breaking it down with saliva.
A few BLW foods to get you started:
- Oliver loves anything smeared on toast (especially hummus or cottage cheese), which I then cut into strips that are easy to grab.
- scrambled egg are another favorite
- apple slices, skin on
- cooked broccoli (he loves it! how fantastic is that???)
- dishes with chopped veggies, rice and beans
- cooked noodles
- biscuits, like the broccoli cheddar ones mentioned above. Here is a link to the recipe: Taste of Home
BLW has been a great experience for me and my family, and if you have a little one over the age of 6 months, I would encourage you to give it a try! I didn’t cover everything with this post, so I would encourage you to check out the Baby-Led Weaning book I mentioned earlier, and it’s companion cookbook.
What about you? How did you introduce food to your little one? Have you tried BLW? What is your favorite BLW food? Leave me a comment, and let’s get the conversation started!