Before we get into what Baby-Led Weaning is, let us start with what it is not. Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) is not a program or schedule for ending breastfeeding. It is a gentle method to introduce solids to an infant in a way that compliments formula or breast milk.
Quite simply, it is human food for tiny humans.
BLW is a term often attributed to Gill Rapley, whose 2008 book, Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food (UK), became a bestseller and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. The idea is simple. When babies are ready to eat, feed them food. Not purees, or carefully crafted blends and cereals for infants, but real food. Large chunks for gnawing, small pieces for swallowing, and only small amounts to reduce mess and overconsumption.
But what about all of those baby food cookbooks and aisles filled with purees? What about our pediatrician’s recommendation to start basic cereal at four months? When is a baby “ready” to eat? What about choking hazards? What about allergies? BLW is counter intuitive to the way many have been raised to think about feeding babies. If you’re considering BLW for your little one, here are answers to the top five questions.
1. When is baby ready?
The simple answer is when they are grabbing for food, sitting up on their own, have good head control and can use the the pincer grasp which is needed to pick up small pieces of food and place them in the mouth and is an important developmental milestone. Typically, around six-months of age, but many babies are not ready until closer to twelve months. The World Health Organization has excellent recommendations.
2. What foods do I start with?
It is recommended to avoid common allergens until around a year (egg whites, peanuts, dairy, shellfish), but beyond that any food that you’ve cooked for yourself is generally okay. Soft foods like well cooked peas or ripe fruits make good options. Check out this information by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
3. How do I know my baby is eating enough?
Nutrition from food is not needed until after twelve months of age. Food before that is just for fun, practicing gross and fine motor skills, and to acclimate taste buds. One of the draws of BLW is that feeding is self monitored as babies will typically eat how much they need on their own.
4. My baby doesn’t have teeth, how will they chew?
A baby’s gums are quite powerful and the act of “chewing” and swallowing are important skills. It is very probable that they will not be able to do it at first, but as they practice they gag and spit less and swallow more. (Note that there is a difference between gagging and choking! Gagging is nature’s way of preventing choking–it is a safety response.)
5. When can I let my baby try a new food?
Foods should always be given when a parent or caregiver has adequate time and attention to devote to baby. Just because it is baby-led does not mean that it is parent-free. New foods should be introduced least four days apart. This allows adequate time to monitor for rashes, indigestion, fussiness, gas, bloating, or other signs that they may not tolerate that food well. If a food is not successful, don’t be afraid to try it again at a later date.
The Fayetteville Doula’s will be offering a class to explore BLW and how to incorporate the principles into your daily routine! Sign up for our newsletter or check back for date and location information.
For further reading: http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/babyledweaning.htm