Why Baby Led Weaning?

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As with so many things baby-related, I knew nothing about weaning and first foods a year ago. I had seen people spoon-feeding babies purée, and accepted that as how the process of learning to eat starts. In my journey into parenthood, however, I came across the term “Baby Led Weaning”, which really intrigued me. So much of my parenting style involves Ameli, my daughter, guiding us to knowing what’s right for her that this seemed a strange exception to make.

About a month and a half after beginning baby led weaning (BLW) I began reading the book of the same title by Gill Rapley and Tracy Murkett.  One of the first things that really stood out for me was the definition given for spoon-feeding: “to provide (someone) with so much help or information that they do not need to think for themselves” and “to treat another in a way that discourages independent thought or action”.

(Something to note about weaning: weaning a baby doesn’t mean that they no longer have their milk feeds. Especially with BLW, the first solids are so little that continuing milk is essential. I met a very upset mother recently who kept crying as she was desperate to breastfeed her baby, but had “started weaning” and kept trying to feed her baby puréed food, no matter how much he (or she) herself longed to breastfeed!)

Some of the great things I love about the concept behind BLW are that:

  • There is no additional cooking needed, i.e. no Smoked Salmon Bagelseparate meals
  • Babies are involved in the experience from the start
  • As there is no force-feeding occurring, eating doesn’t have a negative connotation (so no here comes a train, open the tunnel, the aeroplane wants to land!)
  • They can eat till they are full and then stop.
  • We can eat as a family together. No separate mealtimes required (according to Sue Palmer in her book “Toxic Childhood – what the modern world is doing to your children and what you can do about it”, all children in a merit class she was involved in, without exception, had one thing in common – they all had dedicated family meal times at the dinner table).
  • BLW babies are more adventurous eaters as they’ve learned to explore new textures and flavours. At seven months old my daughter has a definite favourite: smoked salmon. She will actually try to get into my mouth to take it out if I haven’t given her any.

Admittedly, I am not a purist. There are times when a pre-packaged puree, whether bought or home made, can be a life saver. I was happy, then, to read Ms Rapley say that the odd spoon feeding or soft food isn’t harmful, but never allowing a child to roll lumpy food around their mouths, or having them always sucking the food off the spoon to the back of the mouth could delay chewing.

She goes on to explain that babies have never needed purées, but because they were being weaned on to solids before they were ready (i.e. 3 or 4 months) it was assumed to be the only way. Since we now know that babies shouldn’t really have solids until about 6 months, it becomes easier to understand why they don’t really need solids – by six months they are able, if given the opportunity, to feed themselves.

A few other bonuses of BLW mentioned in the book that I had not thought about before are:

  • Long term health. If a baby is breastfed and BLW, they still have breast milk for much longer than a baby weaned on to purees (as they are fuller and require less milk)
  • No stressful meal times
  • Fewer food phobias etc
  • Less need for games or tricks
  • Eating out is easier as baby can eat something off your plate, making it also…
  • Cheaper

The only downside to BLW is the mess. And boy, can it be messy.

When we started in March, I made this video of our first solids attempt for our far off family. Watch how she devours those courgettes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sDp5n-nO2g

There’ll be more soon. Watch this space!

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16 thoughts on “Why Baby Led Weaning?

  1. Layla

    Great video of corgette eating. Need all the encouragement I can get, trying to do some BLW when most of my family think it’s madness. But my little angel can chomp down melon or plum like nobodies business!
    Layla’s last blog post ..Showcase Sunday – Amyorangejuice

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  2. Luschka,

    Thanks again. Charlie “ate” mango last night. She really had fun. The mango was slippery, so I helped her a bit. But really makes a mess. She got a rinse in the kitchen sink after dinner. Can’t wait to try something else. For some reason this approach makes me feel at ease. Though I never pushed a whole serving of food on either of my girls, it it frustrating when they eat so little – or some days not at all. In fact, if Charlie weren’t interested in food, I would have never even tried. This way we are both happy! Have a good week!
    .-= georgine´s last blog ..Charlie and Food- Actually Mango =-.

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  3. Luschka,

    Thanks for leaving me a comment and letting me know about the baby led weaning info on your blog. It is actually what I started doing. I hate making something my daughter would only eat a bite of, so I just offered her some of my food off my finger, or my spoon. My concern is how big of piece to offer. Right now, I am doing itty-bitty pieces. I do admit, I never thought to put the food in front of her for her to try an pick up – could I stick peas in front of her? Are they too big? I just figured, since she was nursing, food could just be interesting to her, not necessarily a meal. We have a good high chair that puts her right up to the table, no tray or anything. Are there any foods you don’t introduce? I ordered the book today. Thank you so much for you help and info. I love that I am getting advice from someone outside the US. How wonderful the world is getting smaller.I will keep reading!

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    Luschka Reply:

    @georgine, Hi Georgine! Thanks so much for getting in touch! I absolutely agree that taking food off your own plate is the way to go. As for size, you need to give food in a size that she can hold in her hand. Peas will be too small for her to pick up, potentially which will be frustrating to her. Give her things about the size of your little finger, to start with. My daughter now eats all sizes and shapes, but we started with i.e. courgets, baby corn (on the cob), broccoli, cauliflower etc. things she could hold in her hand and gnaw at. Even if she doesn’t have teeth, her gums will do a good job of it. Remember also that for the first while, her main nutrition still needs to come from her milk feeds and that she’ll only be exploring food/flavours/textures. But pretty soon she’ll be eating everything you put in front of her. Bare in mind – babies avoid foods they later turn out to be allergic to. I saw this first hand recently. Don’t introduce refined sugars, alcohols obviously! and anything you’re allergic to. Also I’ll be posting a lot more about BLW over the coming weeks – but definitely read the book and let me know if you have any other questions! Feel free to ask here, or on email!

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  4. We are doing baby-led eating too and loving it! I just share a bit off my plate with my son and let him decide if he’s interested in having a taste. It’s a much more fun less-pressured way to introduce foods. We are still primarily nursing but he gets excited to try a taste of something new (he’s 8.5 months now). He still doesn’t seem super interested in eating in any large quantities but no hurry.

    (Oh and I also recommend the bumbo tray. Jude is too big to even FIT in his bumbo now but the tray was really handy while it lasted.)
    .-= the Grumbles´s last blog ..are you calling me a liar? =-.

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    Luschka Reply:

    @the Grumbles, Thanks for the comment & recommendation. We have the same problem with the Bumbo – she is just too uncomforably big in it now!

    We do the same with food now. I cook dinner for two and she eats a bit off my plate, and tops up with a milk feed. I do love doing it this way – its perfect!

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  5. Think this is an excellent post!! The only thing I would mention, hopefully not in an annoying way, is that you may want to invest in a playtray for your bumbo. That way your baby can pick up the food herself, in her own good time. Letting her decide what goes in her mouth means there’s less likely a chance of gagging or choking. It also offers her choice in the matter, as she may sometimes not want to eat anything.

    My twins (now 9 months) love any and every food. But when we started, they didn’t immediately eat. My son actually just bashed the food around for about 2 weeks before any made it to his mouth, and from what I’ve read I think this is pretty normal.

    Anyway, well done on the BLW. Makes for happy babies and mums, at least in our house. Hope it does in yours as well!
    .-= existere´s last blog ..Snort at 9 months….or 3 years? =-.

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    Luschka Reply:

    @existere, Thanks so much for the comment and the suggestion. We were going to buy a playtray for the bumbo, but she got really big for it really quickly, so we just bought a high chair to be done with it!

    The video was our first ever attempt at solid foods, and I figured I had to let her get it in her mouth otherwise she wouldn’t know what it was for! Since then she has been choosing her own food, and eating it, and really – the only thing she doesn’t like is unsweetened grapefruit (no surprises there!)

    Thanks again for stopping by!

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  6. I loooved the idea of baby-led weaning, and we waited until 6 months to try any food at all, but we did end up doing a lot of purees… I think because Paloma was a preemie. Her weight has hovered around the first percentile, and we all wanted to encourage weight gain. Just milk wasn’t doing it anymore, and at 6 months, Paloma still wasn’t as a full-term six months. Now, though, all she wants is to dip buns in soup and feed herself fresh berries. It’s mainly when she’s tired or cranky that she won’t eat on her own these days.
    .-= Christa´s last blog ..Why We Plan to Keep the Babby Backward =-.

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Christa, That’s interesting, yes! I guess if they’re preemie, you count the six months from their due date? Like with most other developmental things, I guess. I don’t suppose there’s any time when it’s too late to introduce as great a variety as possible though, is there? Good luck!

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  7. Fab post! We did BLW with our daughter and she is a fab eater! The mess gets less very quickly trust me! That is… until they start throwing things on the floor for fun ;)

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Laura Summers, Thanks for the encouragement Laura. I am really pleased to hear that! I love her eating, but the mess the mess the mess! Lol.

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