Baby led weaning is a term for a way of introducing solid foods to your baby’s diet. Through baby led weaning (BLW) instead of moving from breast milk or formula, to puree food, and then to solids.
What is baby led weaning?
Baby led weaning is a
term for a way of introducing solid foods to your baby’s diet. Through baby led
weaning (BLW) instead of moving from breast milk or formula, to puree food, and
then to solids, you begin to introduce some solid foods at the point when you
would normally move your baby onto puree foods. It also means allowing your
baby to feed themself - so instead of you spoon feeding them, you provide your
baby with the foods and let them choose what they would like to eat - using
This method has proven
popular with many families, and a lot of parents find themselves moving onto
BLW without even realising it. This can particularly be the case when there is
more than one child at the dinner table. Babies learn best through observation
and imitation, so you will likely notice your baby observing you and their
siblings and reaching for food to feed themselves, as they watch you do the
What are the benefits of baby led weaning?
Although very little
formal research has been conducted, many parents claim that there are many
benefits to BLW method of introducing solid foods over using purees. These
1. Babies learn & explore for themselves - BLW allows baby’s freedom to learn about their food and try different
textures, tastes and colours of foods without you telling them what to eat.
Many parents agree that this has led to less fussy eaters and baby’s enjoy the
decision making process!
2. Babies join family mealtimes -
with this method, you can make up a plate of suitable foods and sit your baby
down to eat with you as a family. Many researchers agree that when babies are
included in this way, they tend to engage more with their food and enjoy the
social aspect of being included in the family. As mentioned, babies learn best
through imitation so sitting down at dinner with you, gives them the chance to
learn from you.
3. Less likely to reject foods later on- being able to engage with different textures and lumpy foods,
naturalizes the different type of foods your baby will eat, as a toddler and
young child. BLW has shown that babies are less fussy and open to eating a
better variety of foods.
4. Saves you time - making up
purees for your baby can be time consuming and takes a lot of preparation. By
feeding your baby appropriate foods that you’re eating as part of a family meal
any way, saves you time.
When is my baby ready for baby led weaning?
Your baby’s digestive
system should be mature enough to cope with digesting some solid foods from
about 6 months onwards - many medical practitioners do not advise giving your
baby solid foods before this time. It’s important to know that much like other
stages of development, this can vary from baby to baby too and some babies
might not be quite ready to move onto solids until later, around 8 -10 months
old - and that’s fine too.
There are a number of
other signs you can look at for with your baby that can indicate to you that
they might be ready to start sampling some solids:
Your baby is able to sit
upright without support in their high chair
Your baby no longer uses the
‘tongue-thrust’ reflex - where they push solids out of their mouth with their
Your baby has coordinated hand
control and is able to pick items up with their fingers, not just with their
Your baby is taking an increased
interest in other foods, and trying to imitate you when you eating - you might
even notice they try and take food from your plate to try!
The main concern
parents have with BLW is the risk of choking and this is understandable. That's
why it’s important to make sure your baby is signalling to you that they are
ready to move onto this next stage of eating through some of the signs listed
As through BLW babies
are able to control the amount of food they put in their mouths, and the amount
they eat and swallow when they’re ready, it means that there is actually very
little risk of your baby choking. Making sure they are able to sit upright
unattended is key with the first steps of BLW for this reason.
Remember if you are
unsure or worried at all to speak with your doctor or midwife, and never leave
your baby unattended when weaning them onto solid foods.
What foods are best for baby led weaning?
Your baby’s first
foods should be a healthy mix of fresh fruit, cooked vegetables and simple
carbohydrates. When thinking what foods would be best for your baby, consider
their soft gums and make sure they are easy to chew and swallow.
Many parents recommend
cutting the food down into ‘finger foods’ - long chunks of food that make it
easy for your baby to pick up and take bites off, rather than cutting it down
to small chunks that can increase the risk of choking.
By providing your baby
with a mixture of different foods and tastes, you’ll notice your baby starting
to experiment at first and then selecting the foods they find they need
Some suggestions to
get you started:
melon and watermelon cut into strips
or peaches cut into bigger chunks
cooked apple and pear
into long chunky strips
cooked carrots, parsnips, green beans, broccoli and zucchinis
potato and pumpkin softly cooked and cut into chunks
pasta spirals or different rices
What foods should I avoid?
The foods recommended
above are great because they can be cut into sizeable chunks that your baby can
then bite off and chew on, deciding how much is the right amount for them. The
foods to avoid would generally be the ones that are opposite of this.
Other things to keep
in mind and foods to avoid with BLW:
that are a high choking risk such as grapes, cherries, baby tomatoes, nuts,
are more likely to cause an allergic reaction such as gluten, complex
carbohydrates (like white breads and pasta), egg whites, peanuts, seafood and
some citrus fruits
with added salt or sugar
where there is a history of allergy in the family
fatty foods such as chips, microwaveable meals, some breakfast cereals and
foods and foods with a high sugar content
How do I make sure my baby gets the most out of baby led weaning?
BLW should be
introduced in conjunction with moving your baby away from breast milk and
formula - it’s a staged process and won’t happen overnight. It can also be a
fun process watching your baby interact with new foods and seeing their facial
expressions as they do!
You will probably
notice as you introduce BLW more, your baby will decline milk more as a meal
but still want it for nap times and sleeping times, which is usually a big part
of a bedtime routine.
Some other advice to
help you get the most out of BLW:
Don’t force it! - Let your baby
move into this stage at a pace that is natural for them and don’t stress if
they still want to breast or bottle feed - this is a process and you and your
baby will both be happiest if you do it at a pace that works for you and them.
Let it be messy!- As you can
probably imagine, letting your baby be in charge of their eating can lead to a
lot of mess - especially in the beginning! You’ll probably find more food ends
up on the floor or on your baby than in your baby - and this is normal! They
are learning as they go. Just accept the mess as a part of it!
Chunky Bites- Serve larger
pieces that are easier for your baby to grasp and take bites of, over small
pieces they can fit in their mouth at once, or that require a lot of fiddly
grasping. If wanting to serve your baby rice, opt for sticky rice that they can
take a handful of.
Make it fun! - Try cutting the
food into different shapes or textures, and remember baby’s love bright primary
colours by this stage so bright foods are sure to get their attention and
Eat with them - As mentioned
earlier, baby’s learn best through imitation and it’s a great bonding
experience for all the family. Sitting and eating together will help your baby
pick up more quickly what it is they’re supposed to be doing exactly!
Keep it soft- You want the food
to just be mashable, but not so soft it’s falling apart when your baby tries to
pick it up.
Start small and build - Just
start out with a few food items to begin with so your baby doesn’t become overwhelmed,
and add more as your baby learns and gets the hang of feeding themself as you
This is yet another
new and fun stage for you and your baby and you’ll probably be surprised by how
quickly they pick it up and develop their own preferred palate for food!
Don't be too
restrictive with moving your baby onto solids, and it’s fine to take a mixed
approach in how you food them, using puree, milk and solids. The most important
thing is that your baby is eating, engaged and happy!
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