What Is Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) And How To Do It?

If your parents knew all of the new baby feeding methods available nowadays, they would probably be overwhelmed. Traditionally, the go-to weaning method has been to use purees and baby cereal, which are spoon-fed by an adult into the baby’s mouth.

Once the baby mastered the purees, parents would then slowly introduce the other chunkier textures, until the baby could do solid foods. However, this is all changing now. If you log onto any mommy groups, you are bound to see the words baby-led weaning. 

Baby-led weaning is a weaning process where you introduce handheld finger foods to babies when they start doing solids, instead of giving them spoon-fed purees. This is a method that has been around for a while but has recently been gaining plenty of popularity among pediatric experts, moms, and dietitians.

Baby-Led Weaning
Image Source: Wikipedia.org

More About BLW

The concept is based on the views of lactation consultant Gill Rapley, who is also a long-term midwife. She has been urging that, just as the infants start learning how to walk, crawl and talk, at their own pace, they should also learn how to feed on their own as well.

How Is It Done?

So, just because the pediatrician has given you the green light to start solids anywhere between four and six months, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the baby is ready to start eating solid foods. Parents must ensure that the baby is ready by looking out for the following signs.

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  • The baby should be able to sit up with some support on the neck.
  • The baby should have already started showing interest in food.
  • They should be opening their mouth and sucking on items such as their hands or toys.
  • They should be alert and change their facial expressions during mealtimes.

Start With Frequent Small Meals

There isn’t any specific amount of food that your baby is required to take during this process With that, the beauty of the baby-led weaning is that your baby can tell you when they’ve had enough because you are still giving breastmilk or formula. This will help make up the calories and nutrients they may have missed in the feeding process.

Infants are required to start with complementary foods which they should consume 2-3 times a day. This is typically for babies aged between 6 and 8 months. Additionally, the milk feeding should remain normal with a frequency of around 3-4 times in a day.

Soft Foods

When you first start baby-led weaning, start with steamed food that is sliced into small pieces so the infant can chew and swallow easily. Give them soft fruits and veggies initially. You can then introduce some lightly cooked hard foods with time, which are easy to chew and good for bare gums.

The soft foods should be soft enough so they can be mashed with the tongue or your finger. The best first soft foods include bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, ricotta cheese, steamed carrots, and scrambled eggs.

For slippery foods, you should try and roll them in something such as ground flax, ground almonds, or baby cereal. Offer the baby some water in very small quantities.

Food Shapes

Foods given during baby-led weaning should be shaped like a finger and should easily fit into the infant’s hands with some of them sticking out of their fists. Initially, the baby will be exploring the foods and creating quite a mess rather than eating, but that is simply part of the process.

Offer The Baby New Foods

Try offering the baby some new types of foods so you do not make it monotonous. Also, this gives provides a challenge each day for the baby to explore. It also allows the baby to have a wide variety of foods to choose from and explore many more options.

Take Care Of Choking Hazards

This weaning method has been known to heighten the risk of choking. Therefore, you must always ensure that you are extra careful when feeding the baby. Steer clear of foods such as hot dog pieces, whole grains, cherry tomatoes, popcorn, and peanuts.

Cut all round foods into quarters and always avoid hard items. Some foods with tough skins such as apples should have the skin removed so it is easy for the baby to eat. Avoid all foods that form a crumb in the baby’s mouth such as dry crackers. These can be dislodged in the baby’s mouth.

Baby-Led Weaning
Image Source: Wikipedia.org

Conclusion

The main goal of this feeding method is to create a routine for the baby so they can mirror their parent’s eating habits. The baby is likely to show an interest in feeding if they see you enjoying your meals. So, be a good role model for them and you will be surprised at how quickly they pick it up.

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