The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization agree that in the first 6 months of life, babies should be fed exclusively breast milk. After 6 months, introducing solids is the start of weaning.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning (BLW) simply means that when weaning starts (food is introduced) your child feeds herself. Do not start BLW with a baby under 6 months. Introducing solids/table foods instead of purees is what baby led weaning is about.
The main difference with BLW and traditional pureed food, is that with baby led weaning, babies learn to chew and then swallow. With pureed food, they learn to swallow and then chew. Just like breastfeeding on demand, baby led weaning allows the baby to choose what to eat and how much.
It’s really pretty simple to get started. You cut up food into manageable sized pieces (see suggestions below) and let your baby go to town. It will be messy (see below for helpful hints) and your baby might not eat a lot at first, but that’s ok.
Start with whole foods and do not add salt. As your baby gets older and more used to table foods, you can start to offer the meals you feed your family. There’s nothing wrong with serving them a plate of spaghetti and meatballs!
Here are some great first foods:
- Plums (we like to eat the skin off the outside and give the baby the plum, after a month or two the baby can just take an entire plum)
- Sweet potatoes (cut into fries and bake)
- Beef (steak slices, pieces of roast, etc.)
- Egg yolk (egg whites are the most likely allergen)
Gagging vs. Choking
One of the questions most often asked by people thinking about BLW is “What about the choking?” First, know that choking and gagging are two very different things. Choking is rare. The airway will be completely blocked, there will be no sound and no breathing (at which point you need to swipe out baby’s mouth and give a few hard pats to the back). Gagging is simply the baby maneuvering food around in their mouth, often accompanied by those funny/scary faces. Depending on your child this might only happen a few times or it might happen many times at each meal.
Prepare for a Mess
You already have everything you need to prepare food and feed your child; however, BLW is MESSY (and fun)! A few things can make it go a little more smoothly.
- Easy to clean highchair-my favorite is the IKEA Antilop chair. Its $20 and easy to throw into the shower or hose off outside to clean after a particularly messy meal.
- Big Bibs-we love over the head “towel-type” bibs or the large plastic ones with a pocket in the front.
- Dress baby in a diaper (or nothing if you don’t want food on your cloth diapers!)
- Eat outside for easier cleanup.
- Put a plastic tablecloth or splash mat under the highchair (especially if you have carpet)
- No bowls or plates. They’re just as interesting to throw as playing with the food.
Is BLW right for your baby?
There are lots of ways to start your baby on solids and BLW is just one of them. I encourage you to research this option and decide if it fits into your lifestyle!