Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is all the rage at the moment. If you haven’t already heard about it, BLW is a philosophy around introducing solids to your baby. The idea is that you let your baby feed themselves from the very beginning of introducing solids. It can mean that you skip all those purees and just let your baby feed themselves.
Babies are usually ready for solids around six months. At this age babies should be able to sit upright in a high chair, they are also able to grab food and put it into their mouths, and they are able to be introduced to a whole range of foods. It is also around this age that babies really want to get involved in feeding, so giving them control over what they are eating, can be helpful in getting them to eat.
To get started you just need to offer your baby a selection of great finger foods that are easy to pick-up, like broccoli trees, and easy to chew on with gums, like steamed zucchini or steamed carrot wheels. When babies first start on finger foods, they may like to play with the food so they might not get as much food into them as when you would be feeding them with a spoon. This is okay as they will still be having their milk feeds. But some parents like to supplement the finger foods with some purees and that is okay too.
BLW gives babies the benefits of exploring food themselves, having a bit of control over what they eat. This can mean that they will be able to cope with many different textures and flavours, that often puréed diets don’t provide. It is also a great way for them to learn to chew, and even though your baby may not have many, if any, teeth, those gums are very strong and they are able to munch on loads of foods.
The downside to BLW is that it can be very messy! So you will need to be able to cope with food going everywhere. A great idea is to sit the highchair on a plastic mat, and, if it warm enough, undress your baby so they are just in a nappy and a singlet or bodysuit. Then they can go for it!
Some parents are concerned that their baby will choke if given lumpy foods too early. Obviously, you need to be with your baby always when they eat, but babies do have an amazing gag reflex, which helps prevent choking. They also should be able to sit upright which can also help, and the food you give them should be soft and not too small that it might be inhaled.
Babies who are breastfed or bottle fed can try BLW and if your baby is your second or third, often they will want to eat the same things as their sibling or as you, so this can be a great way to avoid those battles at dinner time.
Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.