Baby led weaning (BLW) cuts out the puree phase of feeding, encouraging your baby to move straight on to soft, solid food. What does it involve?
Baby led weaning (also known as BLW) is a baby feeding method where you skip the spoon-feeding puree phase. Instead you let your baby feed himself straight away on soft solid food, such as steamed vegetables, bread and pasta.
In baby led weaning there's no spoon feeding or purees involved. Your baby is encouraged to join in eating with you at family mealtimes. The idea is to offer your baby food rather than give it to her. At first your baby eats with her hands, moving on to cutlery later.
Because there's a worry about the risk of young babies choking on solid food, baby led weaning is often tried out by second or third time mums who feel more confident about weaning with their second or third baby. In some cases, it occurs naturally with babies following the lead of their bigger brothers and sisters at the kitchen table.
Despite new research suggesting that babies can safely begin weaning from four months, don't start baby led weaning until your baby is six months old. Your little one needs to be able to sit upright, be able to feed herself with her hands and be able to learn to chew and push food around her mouth. Look out for signs that your baby is ready to start weaning.
Mums who believe in baby led weaning are often very passionate about it. They believe that BLW helps with your baby's development by:
"When Jeannie was six months I gave her a roasted carrot stick to play with while we ate. The next day it was evident that she’d eaten some of it because it was in her nappy," says Moira, mum to Jeannie, now 10 months.
"By around 9 months she was eating whatever we were having and enjoying three meals a day. We all sit together for meals, and I’ve never had to worry about packing bowls and spoons when we go out because I can just grab a sandwich."
If you're trying baby led weaning, you need to be vigilant and carefully follow some basic rules. By taking care, BLW shouldn't increase the risk of choking, but you do have to watch your baby closely.
Find out more about fruit safety for baby led weaning.
Baby led weaning can be controversial due to concern about choking and that it may lead initially to a limited diet. Health visitor Maggie Fisher thinks it depends on the baby. “If your baby can cope, it’s probably fine. Be guided by your baby. If you start with finger foods and progress on to soft lumps and your baby is okay, then carry on.”
To counter any worries about baby led weaning offering a more limited diet, make sure your baby’s meals offer a wide variety of food including:
Find out more foods that are safe for your baby to eat if you are trying baby led weaning. Many of the same safety rules are the same for baby led weaning and regular weaning. Find out more about when to introduce foods to your baby that carry a risk of allergy or intolerance.
If your doing baby led weaning you won't need to buy many of the essentail weaning gear other mums need. But there are still cute weaning accessories and handy times savers that are perfect for baby led weaning.
Having tried puree weaning and baby led weaning I have to say that if I have anymore children then I would definitely do BLW again, it is sooooo easy and my LO has a brilliant relationship with food. To me, it was the natural progression from breastfeeding as she regulates her intake of food just as she did milk. Knowing the difference between gagging and choking helped me stay sane while my baby was playing with solid foods from day 1. I tested all foods on myself and if i could mush it on my palette with my tongue I was confident enough to give it to my baby in the beginning. My LO has an amazingly varied diet as she eats what I do including garlic, curries and spicy sausage and she absolutely loves fruit, a whole pear can keep her amused for ages. The rest of us benefited too as we made all of our food without salt and from scratch and mealtimes are a very social affair.
We've been weaning our son the BLW way for two months and it's felt like a natural progression from breastfeeding. With all the experts saying babies shouldn't start solids before 6 months and with babies being capable of finger foods from then we just felt the puree stage was unnecessary. To begin with baby just gummed food, and when he started biting off pieces (he's got two bottom teeth) they all got spat out - but eventually we started seeing evidence in his nappy that some of the food had gone through. Now at 8 months baby's on 3 meals a day, can feed himself with a loaded spoon, chews and swallows lumps and no longer needs food to be stick shaped as he can pretty much manage anything.
Baby has gagged on a couple of occasions (unlike many of his puree-fed friends and cousins he has never choked), but then that's what the gag reflex is there for and he's not been upset by it, just pulls a face, spits out the piece and continues eating. In fact baby's just as likely to choke with purees as they can't be spat out as easily and therefore get right to the back of the throat.
Two months into solids baby eats pretty much everything we do so he has a very varied and healthy diet, current favourites are blueberries, garlic bread and fajita chicken strips! BLW isnt for everyone, but if you are interested I'd definitely reccommend reading Gill Rapley's very informative book before you start - you'll be less likely to end up with choking incidents and you'll feel more confident about your decision when everyone tells you baby should be on purees.
The best thing about BLW so far has been watching baby explore all the different tastes and textures - and because baby eats the same as us our diet's improved as we've had to cut out salt and processed food . We'll definitely be BLW our next baby!
In relation to the frightening story of the choking incident above, my little monster may be eating just about everything but he's never had a grape yet and he's nearly 8 months, and when he does it'll be cut in half as I aware grapes are a choking hazard. It must have been awful for that poor mum to have seen her baby turn blue - thank goodness it turned out ok xx
I've been doing BLW and I find it great. J has only gagged once, let alone choked and we started her a month earlier than recommended. She already has a real joy for food which is wonderful.
It seems strange that the only two negative comments in your article are from Annabel Karmel (who has a massive range of books and merchandise based on puree feeding) and a lady whose baby appears to have been used to purees(where the 'eating' motion is more sucking liquid from a spoon than it is eating properly, which is what is learnt during BLW)?
I would second the recommendation for the Gill Rapley book - the easiest to read parenting book I've picked up, and great for research to quote to Grandparents/other carers etc who might not be too sure about the approach.
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