A new feeding concept sweeping the nation may put an end to those expensive baby foods and endless time pureeing fruits and vegetables for your little one. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is based on the premise that babies are pre-programmed to feed themselves, and go straight to solid foods. Recent research shows most babies begin to reach for food around six months, and according to Tracey Murkett and Gill Rapley, authors of Baby Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods, at that point babies are ready to join the family at the table.
While weaning babies off of breast milk or formula, parents provide manageable pieces of food so the baby can experience different tastes, textures and smells. The infant is exposed to a variety of foods early on, which is believed to help discourage the development of picky eaters later on.
Common concerns include choking hazards, potential food allergies, and ensuring healthy growth and development.
Murkett and Rapley contend that babies are more likely to choke on spoon-fed than gnawed food. When feeding with a spoon, food is moved to the back of the mouth, versus allowing the baby to take the food, chew it, and move it through their mouth as needed. Babies learn how much they can safely put in their mouths and swallow from the beginning, whereas many spoon-fed babies will overstuff their mouths when first transitioning to solid foods. Start with soft foods like banana or steamed vegetables, then gradually move up to harder foods to allow your baby the chance to learn to chew properly.
Food allergies are a serious concern, and like the need to carefully review prepared baby foods, parents using BLW also need to be cautious. Parents are encouraged to start introducing low-allergen foods at the recommended stages, and to pay attention to the baby’s reactions as they eat different foods.
Every baby is different, which means there isn’t a one- size- fits- all method to feeding them. Because some infants grow and develop slower than others, getting enough nutrition through BLW may become a concern. Since the solid foods are introduced as a complementary food source for the first few months, your child will still get most of their nutrients from the milk and formula instead of the foods they are eating. For babies who develop more slowly (around six percent according to the Gateshead Millennium Study) it is recommended to encourage self-feeding during family meals, but to also supplement with spoon-fed purees.
BLW offers a wealth of benefits that can help your child develop a healthy relationship with food as well as making mealtime a little easier on you.
Because this feeding method is based on children following their instincts and experiencing foods singularly, they are able to discern what foods they like, build independence in their eating habits, and learn appetite control naturally. Additionally, the act of feeding themselves helps infants develop hand-eye coordination and learning to chew properly. Furthermore, by eliminating the need to force food, mealtime can become an enjoyable event.
For parents, BLW reduces the time required to prep food as children eat what the rest of the family is eating. It can also save money, as there is no need to purchase expensive prepared baby food.
If baby led weaning sounds right for you and your little one, be sure to consult with your physician and pick up a copy of the book for advice on how to get started.