What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is an approach to introducing solid food where baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon. BLW babies join the family at mealtime, choose what and how much to eat, explore new tastes and textures, while typically continuing to nurse.
A Natural Way to Feed Baby
Baby-led weaning is the most natural progression from breastfeeding to solid foods. Breastfeeding is also baby’s first lesson in self regulation and baby led weaning continues to allow baby to self regulate food. Baby now gets to experience the many flavors he may have picked up in his mom’s breastmilk.
That doesn’t mean that formula fed babies can’t do baby led weaning. All families can benefit from baby-led weaning with some customization.
- Are encouraged to join the family at mealtime and self-feed appropriate finger foods.
- Choose what, how much, and how quickly to eat.
- Are given the freedom to explore new tastes and textures without the pressure to eat a set amount or a specific food.
- Continue to nurse (or receive a bottle) just as often. Solids are to compliment milk, and baby is trusted to know when to increase solid feedings and decrease milk (usually later in the first year).
Baby led weaning is nothing new historically.
Spoon feeding only became the norm at a time when doctors were advocating starting solids at 4 month of age (or earlier). We now know that a baby’s digestive system isn’t developed enough to be assimilate solids well at 4 months of age. Waiting until baby is at least 6 months old is prudent and often helps to avoid adverse food reactions like spitting up, hives, and eczema.
In the mid-19th century, most babies ate solids between 9 and 12 months old. From the time artificial infant formula was developed in 1867, the accepted age for introducing solids became younger and younger, until the 1950’s and 1960’s when some parents fed infant cereal to babies as little as a few weeks old.
Since then, studies show that babies’ digestive tracts are not fully formed until around 6 months old and babies should not receive solids before then. Other children, particularly premature or immunocompromised children may not be ready until 8 or 9 months (more on readiness in the book!).
The best part about baby-led weaning
The best part about BLW is that it is exactly that, baby led. You observe your child for signs of readiness and, when she’s ready, you prepare nutritious food. Your baby then decides whether, how much, and what to eat. Your baby gains self-confidence and learns to rely on her natural instincts to feed herself exactly what she needs.