Planking, boomz, and Angry Birds.
Is Baby Led Weaning a fad, like the latest trendy superfood to hit snooty grocery stores? Or is it a concept for mums with too much free time for cleaning?
I love Baby Led Weaning (BLW). It simply means that we let baby feed themselves from the get-go when introducing solid foods. No purees or mush! It’s a term coined by British health visitor, Gill Rapley who wrote the original book on Baby Led Weaning (by the way, the cookbook is a much more concise and useful resource for BLW. It explains BLW clearly and quickly, and offers plenty of useful recipes).
I have been doing BLW with my son, Lil Pea since I first introduced him to solids. Now he is 15-months-old, we are both still loving it.
At about 6 months, when baby shows signs of readiness to start solid foods, you can start. Health experts and breastfeeding experts agree that breastfeeding exlusively for the first 6 months and delaying solids till then is recommended. Start with finger-sized foods, like sticks of cooked carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, apple, peach, florets of broccoli, or even meat.
I must say it’s one of those highly personal choices for parents. BLW has its supporters and detractors, so have a chat with parents who actually do BLW and read up a little before you start the adventure! See my other post for our experience with some common anxieties about Baby Led Weaning.
A more recent study by Sonya Cameron and her colleagues shows that while health professionals are hesitant to recommend BLW, parents have been reporting good experiences with BLW (it’s the first paper of its kind to include interviews with health professionals).
Another study by Dr Ellen Townsend and her colleague suggests that babies on BLW have lower BMI while babies who are spoon fed have a higher incidence of obesity. But picky eating? Not that much difference.
I suppose you can ask me again when Lil Pea goes into the terrible twos when food fussiness kicks in (here are some tips to combat fussy eating), but BLW has been brilliant for us and our entire family so far and we’ve had so much fun with Lil Pea. So, munch on some popcorn while I gush.
Yeah for BLW!
- Baby gets to explore tastes and textures of food in their real form, not mush
- Baby gets to practise motor skills like grasping, gnawing and moving food around in the mouth
- Baby gets to decide what and how much he wants to eat (Lil Pea ate mostly everything)
- Baby eats as the family eats – no spoonfeeding battles (I do not do ‘airplane flying’ spoonfeeding)
- Baby enjoys and learns about interactivity during mealtimes with the family
- Baby has positive associations and relationship with food
- A LOT of cleaning up to do, including cleaning up baby
- Having to fight the anxiety that baby might choke
- People might give you the evil eye in public dining places
- Having to clean up in public dining places or at friends’ homes
- Did I mention having to clean up?
Traditional spoonfeeding vs BLW
I don’t care much for BLW purists – I just do whatever suits my family’s lifestyle the best. So I did both traditional puree/porridge, as well as BLW finger foods. I want to be able to feed my baby porridge when we are out and about. The rule of thumb is – do what is best for baby and your family’s lifestyle. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
BLW enthusiasts encourage parents to allow BLW in restaurants and other public dining places, but I prefer not to. So I spoonfed Lil Pea as well, so that he would not refuse the spoon.
Anyway, just like for breastfeeding, follow baby’s cues when spoonfeeding – when he is full, stop feeding and do not force him to eat. A caveat: BLW is a LOT of cleaning up, because making a mess at mealtimes is part of the fun of exploring the world of new foods. Brace yourself, mama!
Myths of BLW
Baby might choke. He can’t digest large pieces of food. The cleaning up will kill you. See my other post for our experience with some common anxieties about Baby Led Weaning. And shimmy over here for the latest guidelines on choking and infant resuscitation. While you’re at it don’t forget the videos by Sky News and UK National Health Service on how to help a choking child, and how to perform baby Heimlich.
You will need this basic first aid knowledge anyway, as baby becomes more mobile and starts putting things in his mouth. Yahoo, I guess.