Baby-led weaning (BLW) is becoming a very popular way to feed solids to babies. It offers an alternative method to the traditional introduction to complementary foods in a baby’s diet. With this method, infants use their hands to explore food and to feed themselves, instead of being spoon-fed purees or baby food.
If you and your pediatrician decide this is the method you’d like to try, your baby can begin once they are six months old, sit upright, and can bring objects to their mouth. Once your baby is ready, place graspable stick-shaped family foods (foods you eat at home without added salt or sugar) in the tray of their high chair, and let them pick it up and put it in their mouth freely.
As a parent, you decide what to offer to your baby, but they will decide what to eat (which should also be true for traditional spoon-feeding). Always remember that food should not be forced and milk remains an essential part of your baby’s diet.
In theory, with baby-led weaning you expose your baby to a wide variety of healthy foods, teach them to eat food that the family enjoys, and allow them to control their intake. No grams or teaspoons are counted when preparing your baby’s food, nor is it necessary for your baby to finish it all. Eating should be a pleasurable experience.
What are some principles of baby-led weaning?
- The food offered must be soft enough to mash by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth, and large enough so that small pieces do not break apart and become a choking hazard.
- The baby must have adult supervision while eating.
- The baby must be sitting upright when eating.
- The food must be the size of a child’s fist and preferably protrude from the fist when grasped.
- Baby should never be left alone with the food.
- Only your baby should put food in their mouth and at their own pace.
Foods to avoid when introducing solids
- Small foods such as nuts, grapes, or sausage
- Raw vegetables
- Hard or under ripe fruit
- Sliced foods
Examples of food preparation for the baby-led way
- Steamed broccoli florets, large enough to hold with the entire fist and soft enough to eat.
- Quarter piece of avocado with the skin left on half the slice so your baby can hold it (same goes for bananas).
- Large pieces of pasta.
- Slow-cooked large strips of meat or chicken (large enough so that when held the pieces protrude from the fist).
Will my baby choke with this method?
Many pediatricians and parents asked themselves the same question. Scientists researched this topic and found that, if the above principles are taken into account, the risk of choking does not increase when compared to the risk of the traditional spoon-feeding method.
Before starting with the baby-led weaning method, make sure to talk to your pediatrician, get all the proper information, and maybe even watch some videos to learn how to apply this method. Also, remember you can combine both traditional and BLW methods to best fit your and your baby’s needs and routine.