Baby Led Weaning: Is It Right For You?

Chow on 07.06.12
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Photo Credit: Jenni Grover
Adeline Mae, at 7 months, chomping on a baked potato.

My second daughter, Adeline, began eating solid foods about a month ago when she turned 6 months. With my first, I was the queen of baby food making.  I spent many hours creating baby food recipes, steaming, pureeing, and freezing tiny cubes of baby foods.  This time around, I definitely have less time on my hands with a toddler and a baby to juggle.

Baby Led Weaning  (BLW) is a method of feeding that has been on my radar since it became popular in the U.K a few years ago. The term was coined by former midwife Gill Rapley. Because this was originated in the U.K, the term weaning means to begin solid food, not wean from milk. So, although this style of feeding begins at 6 months, it is important to continue with breast milk or formula until at least age one.  BLW means to offer your baby whole, solid foods instead of purees.  The foods should be at least 2 inches big to allow baby to grasp them and prevent choking.

The basics behind Baby Led Weaning are that babies at age 6 months are ready and capable of feeding themselves whole solid foods. Another big difference between BLW and traditional feeding is with purees babies learn how to swallow first then learn to chew.  This works fine, but makes it difficult to transition to thicker, lumpier foods. BLW babies learn how to chew first, then swallow some time later. 

My Experience of Baby Led Weaning

So far, so good.  I started out with pureed foods and after about 2 weeks I began offering whole chunks of food on her tray. I still follow the general guidelines of the correct order of foods to prevent allergies and other feeding related issues. Like most 6 month olds, Adeline loves putting things in her mouth.  So, the fact that the food she was putting in her mouth actually tasted good was a big bonus. She seemed to gnaw and mush the food around with her gums.  In the beginning, she spit a lot of it right back out.  But, she is now getting the hang of the chewing and the swallowing of foods.  I think it has even helped her learn how to drink from a cup better.  It is also much easier because often times she can simply eat what we eat.

*Nutrition Tip- When starting solid foods, especially via BLW, it will seem like your baby is barely consuming any food. Remember that in the beginning babies are really experimenting with texture, taste, and the mechanics of first foods.  During the first few months of feeding, solid foods should not take the place of milk.  It is not until around 9 months that babies actually receive a good portion of their nutrition from foods.

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