Baby led weaning (BLW) is really simple. Honestly!
- Offer your baby food in a safe setting (upright, usually in a highchair), know the difference between gagging and choking and educate yourself on what to do in the rare case your child does choke.
- Give your baby food they can pick up and eat rather than pureeing or mashing it. You can start with fruit, veg and other easy finger foods if you like but many people jump straight into offering proper meals – from roast dinners to spaghetti bolognaise.
- Share with your baby what you’re eating (unless it’s not suitable). Even better, eat with your baby at family meals wherever possible. There are so many benefits to children eating family meals that you’ll hear me go on about it lots in this blog!
- Don’t spoon-feed your baby or put food in their mouth for them – baby led means the baby does the work!
- Don’t stress about how much your baby eats – as long as their general health is fine, weight gain is as expected and they are developing as normal, trust them to eat as much as their body needs.
- Allow your baby to drop milk feeds by themselves.
- Whatever you do, don’t stress about the mess and do try to enjoy the experience 🙂
Of course, there’s more to it than this (or else I wouldn’t have started this blog!). You might also be wondering exactly what to expect from your baby when they start… which brings me to my next point.
What to expect
It’s daunting started baby led weaning (BLW) if you don’t know what to expect. Maybe everyone you know has gone down the puree route. Or maybe you’ve done it yourself with an older child, but don’t know what to expect with BLW this time round.
Every baby is different (you knew that, right?). If you join any BLW support group you’ll see loads of proud videos of seven-month-olds demolishing almost-adult-sized portions, along with an equal number of despairing posts from parents of seven-month-old who’ve never even picked up a cucumber stick.
On average, babies will take a few weeks to get into the swing of things. They might be really interested from the start but even still, it will take lots of practice to get really skilled at handling food. To start with, they might find chip-shaped bits of food easily to handle; make the bits longer than their fists, as they might not know to open their fists to get at the food (though my son could do this from the start). After a bit of practice they’ll be able to scoop up handfuls of rice and drop them in their mouths. After a few months, they’ll develop a pincer grasp, which allows them to pick up very small bits of food between their thumb and forefinger..
It’s not unusual for babies to take a while to learn to swallow the food so don’t be discouraged if it all falls from their mouth first. They don’t need teeth to mash their food up but they do need too learn a different jaw movement to master chewing. You’ll know when they start swallowing as you’ll start to see tell-tale signs in the nappy (lovely!).
When it comes to interest, every baby is different. Some love their food and are eating “properly” within weeks; others are slow starters and will just take a nibble here and there. Allow them to drop their milk feeds of their own accord (whether you breast or bottle feed) and they’ll continue to get most of the nutrients they need from that source until at least one usually,