Baby Led Weaning: What is it and Why is it worth it?
Phew, it has been a busy two weeks in our household. We just moved from a tiny, one-bedroom apartment to a spacious townhouse and we are exhausted! Especially Lennox who has been running up and down the stairs nonstop!
Anyhow, in the midsts of our move, I lost track of time and realized that Lennox is now 18-month-old. This is a big deal because I feel like 18 months is the moment we stop calling our babies baby and graduate their ages from months to years— cue the tears.
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Last year at this time Lennox had just turned six months old, and he was about to embark on his solid-foods journey. From my prior experience with my nieces and nephews, I was ready to start blending my own purees I did. Lennox began showing signs of interest in food at around 4.5 months, so I did boil some apples and other fruits and vegetables and blended them with some breast milk. He enjoyed this a lot. However, a mommy group that I am in started talking about this phenomenon called Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and my whole feeding philosophy changed. I am so glad it did. This post will give an introduction to what BLW is and why it is so worth it in my experience. Enjoy =)
What is Baby Led Weaning?
The word “wean” means a passage from one relationship to another –
not a loss or detachment from a relationship.
First things first, the word weaning is misleading. It does not mean the elimination of breastmilk/formula but rather the addition of solid foods to your already established milk schedule. Traditional weaning is when you supplement your baby with puréed foods and gradually advance to solid foods as your baby develops. In most cases, the purees are fed to the baby by a parent or guardian. Baby led weaning, on the other hand, is weaning LED by the baby. This means that your baby is given the freedom to explore with their food, their tastes, textures, and colors all through self-feeding.
One of Lennox’s favorite meals : TYPICAL LATIN AMERICAN SHRIMP CEVICHE
Yes, I know what you’re thinking; this sounds terrifying. Your baby is only six months and thus far has only had liquids, maybe a few purees, they are going to choke for sure. That’s what I thought at first, anyway. However, after doing BLW, I found it to be quite the opposite. Not only did Lennox not choke, but he learned how to chew and gag something up if it was too big for him. Also, he has become an AMAZING eater. I cannot emphasize this enough. He eats anything and everything, except for canned tuna fish— I don’t blame him.
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How to do Baby Led Weaning
Before beginning BLW, or traditional weaning, make sure your baby is ready for solids. This is typically around 6 months of age, give or take.
What do you need to get started?
A place for your baby to sit; preferably a high chair. Your child can also sit on your lap. Just make sure she is supported.
Baby utensils and plates- We started with the munchkin spoons because they are small and narrow for baby’s tiny mouth. The EZPZ Mini Mat is also great to separate foods and keep your highchair or table clean.
What are some good BLW first foods and how do I prepare them?
I started Lennox off with vegetables; that way he wouldn’t get acquired to the sweetness of fruit. Then I slowly started implementing fruits and proteins. Remember, solids are additional nutrients for your baby. They should still be getting the same amount of breastmilk/formula, as usual, therefore, don’t worry if you think your baby is not consuming enough solid-food.
For food preparation, you want to make sure the food items are soft. I preferred to boil most of my vegetables, but you can also steam or roast them. For harder fruits such as apples or ripe pears, I would bake them in the oven until they were soft enough for baby to chew with her gums. To test if your food is soft enough for your baby try biting into the food with your lips.
The most critical part in the beginning of BLW is to make sure you cut all your foods into fry-length shape. I would always cut them around the size and length of Lennox’s pinky finger. This is important primarily to avoid choking. You will not be feeding your baby; therefore, you want to make sure baby takes appropriate-sized bites so that she can swallow her food. Also, your baby does not have the best motor control of her hands, so the French-fry length allows her to hold the food in her palm.
It’s also essential to introduce new foods every 2-3 days after another to be precautious of any potential allergies.
Share your BLW story with us: MOTHERS TELL ALL: 10 BABY LED WEANING Q & A SERIES BY REAL AND UNFILTERED MAMAS
Some of Lennox’s first foods were:
Sweet and regular potatoes
Hardboiled eggs (this was a big winner for Lennox and a great source of protein)
What about choking?
It is imperative that with BLW you are always monitoring your baby. It is also essential to know the difference between choking and gagging. To understand the differences between the choking and gagging and what to do if your baby chokes click here. Lennox used to gag all the time in the beginning of his BLW journey, and sometimes to this day he still gags when he shovels too much food into his mouth. It is terrifying but it is also beneficial for the baby’s understanding of what she can or cannot swallow. It also encourages proper chewing. Family Style Nutrition quotes:
Basically, if baby gags but keeps on happily eating and shows no signs of distress, everything is fine. You will know if she’s choking because her eyes will get wide, she won’t be getting any air and she will stop eating. This NEVER happened with either of my children, and is highly unlikely with Baby Led Weaning.
Here is a list of some foods that pose choking hazards:
popcorn- Age 4 is the recommended age to start giving popcorn as they can choke on the popcorn itself and kernels can get lodged in their throat.
grapes/cherry tomatoes anything small and round. Make sure if you offer these foods in later stages of BLW to always cut them in half, long ways, or even better into quarters.
Hot dogs. Make sure to cut them lengthwise. Hot dogs are the top cause of food-related choking in children under the age of 3.
Fish or chicken with bones
What if my baby has no teeth?
This is okay. Lennox did not have teeth until he was 10 months old. That is why the food should be softened so that baby can mash it with their gums.
Some important things to keep in mind: Baby Led Weaning again means that the baby is in the lead of his eating. This means that you should allow your baby the freedom to explore, play and eat her food at her own pace. You should not hand-feed your baby because this can confuse the process.
Avoid starting with purees. This can cause chewing confusion. As I mentioned, I did give Lennox some homemade purees at around 4.5 months. Once I decided I wanted to do BLW, I took a break from the time I gave him purees and started BLW to avoid him trying to swallow immediately without chewing.
Avoid salts and sugars. One benefit of BLW is that you feed baby precisely what you are eating so that he can mirror your eating habits. However, if you have a heavy hand on condiments, prepare your baby’s food separately. According to the NHS babies 12 months and under need less than 1 gram of salt a day.
Offer your baby foods that are high in iron. Babies do not receive enough iron in breastmilk and formula; therefore it is extremely beneficial to offer foods that are iron fortified.
The benefits of BLW
Increases motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Encourages better eating. Your child will most likely be less picky eaters.
It allows your baby to use all of her senses while eating and exploring with different colors, textures, and shapes.
It allows your baby to decide when she is done eating, promoting appetite control.
It allows your child to take an active part in mealtime and encourages socialization.
It is less time consuming. You offer your baby exactly (minus the condiments) what you are eating, eliminating the mess and time of having to blend purees.
It teaches independence and confidence.
It aids your baby in understanding what is edible and what isn’t.
It allows you, mom, dad or guardian, to be hands-free and enjoy your food while baby enjoys hers.
It encourages healthier eating on behalf of the parent— at least for me anyways. I wanted Lennox to be a healthy eater so in order to do that I had to change my bad eating habits at mealtime.
It’s cheaper than store-bought purees.
The cons of BLW
It’s extremely messy. I recommend using a plastic bib or even better, let your baby eat in just a diaper.
The reactions of family members and bystanders who are constantly nagging you that your baby is too young to be eating this type of food or is going to choke. This is a relatively new phenomenon so be prepared to be criticized.
I am not sure if this is BLW-related or not, or if Lennox is having a bad experience with teething, but I hypothesize that BLW makes the baby’s gums harder from chewing solids so early on and teething might be a little more difficult for them if their teeth are late bloomers. Has anyone else experienced this?
In my opinion, there are WAY more pros than cons, and from my experience, BLW has been a blessing for us. Lennox is such a fabulous eater— even better than myself. I can’t wait to share some of his favorite foods with you all. I hope you enjoyed reading and please feel free to ask me any questions that you may have. Thank you =)
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