Baby-led weaning (BLW) is the term used to describe introducing solid foods to your baby whilst following their cues. In real terms, this means:
- Waiting until baby is physiologically ready to eat – they can sit unaided, have lost the tongue-thrust reflex and are actively trying to grab food from your hand or plate
- Skipping pureed foods altogether and instead providing suitable family-food so that baby can feed themselves entirely
- Allowing your baby to eat as much or as little as they wish, and understanding that milk should still make up the majority of their diet for months to come
We love BLW in our house. It makes life SO much easier. With Monkey, our first child, we started giving him solid foods in pureed form when he was around 5 months old. It became clear fairly quickly that he was not ready – we had rushed it on well-meaning advice from friends and health professionals. So, we stopped the gloop and we waited. And waited.
When our little Monkey-man hit 7 months old, it all changed. All of a sudden, he LOVED food. And he was more than capable of feeding it to himself. Within the space of around 6 weeks, he had gone from eating nothing but boob, to eating two pretty big meals each day. He still had some puree-type foods – fruit puddings and yoghurts, for example – but he fed them to himself on a spoon. Quite simply the cutest thing ever.
This time around, we have the parenting confidence to know that it’s okay to trust our Squishy-man, and that he will tell us when he is ready for food. That time is approaching fast, I think. Already at four and a half months he is very inquisitive about food. He is working hard on sitting up, and he is becoming more coordinated in his movements every day. Yesterday he threw a fit because I wouldn’t let him have what I was eating… so no, I don’t think it will be long before he will be requiring more than mummy’s milk.
Thinking about my littlest man’s upcoming foray into food got me thinking about BLW again and why we love it so much. Uh-oh, I feel a top-5 rundown coming on…
1. It’s so easy! There’s no extra preparation involved in family meals. You just give baby whatever you are having, provided it’s suitable for them (no whole nuts, no added salt/additives etc, no honey before 12 months). Simply sit them up in their highchair or on your lap and let them go nuts. It doesn’t matter if nothing really goes down, the idea of BLW is allowing your child to experiment with food, enjoy the tastes and textures and learn to feed themselves at their own pace. You needn’t bother spending hours preparing purees to freeze in ice-cube trays – just feed your child proper food.
2. It helps prevent future fussiness. If children are exposed to REAL food with REAL flavours and textures from the start, they won’t have to make that transition between tasteless gloop to family meals. Baby-food companies would like you to believe that babies enjoy flavourless, bland foods but this just isn’t the case. Most children will love food if given the chance to explore it at their own pace.
3. Your kids will develop a healthy attitude about food. BLW sets the stage for trusting your child with regards to how they eat – they will learn to eat how much they need, and you will learn to let them.
4. It’s FUN! There’s not much in this world that’s more fun for a small person than getting to grips with food. Enjoy the experience with them!
5. They will likely continue to get the majority of their nutrition from milk – this is kinder to their developing digestive systems than being spooned full of rice cereal from four months of age.
I can’t wait to watch my little man explore food for the first time. I’d love to hear your experiences with BLW and your babies!