With our first two babies, I made my own baby food. With our third baby, however, we skipped the purees altogether and switched to a baby led weaning approach.
We LOVED our experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. Here’s an overview of why we switched, how baby led feeding is different (and awesome), and how you can do it with your own baby!
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But with our third baby, we changed our minds.
This time around, we skipped the purees completely and decided to adopt a different approach with baby led weaning.
And it was amazing. If we were to ever have more babies, I would repeat this method again in a heartbeat.
Read on to learn why we decided to skip the baby purees, how baby led weaning is different, and what you need to know to do it with your own babies!
WHAT IS BABY LED WEANING?
Not sure what baby led weaning is? Let’s start there. Here are some of the basics:
Baby led weaning is a method of introducing solid food to a baby’s diet in which he or she “self-feeds” from the very beginning. It takes advantage of natural development stages and emphasizes choice and exploration.
Starting around six months of age (which is the current recommendation, regardless of the feeding approach you choose), most babies are developmentally ready for soft finger foods. So baby led weaning skips purees and goes right for those.
“Weaning” is actually a bit of a misnomer here, as BLW doesn’t have anything to do with weaning from breastmilk or formula. In fact, it is important that parents following this approach not reduce the baby’s milk intake before 1 year of age. Until that time, breastmilk or formula should still be the baby’s biggest source of nutrition.
(This is why I actually prefer the term “baby led feeding”)
There’s a lot more to the full BLW approach than what I described above, but the main purpose is to include baby in family mealtimes — eating the same food at the same time at the same table — and making their first experiences with food a positive, interactive one.
WHY BABY LED WEANING
I’ll admit, what first motivated me to try baby led weaning was that with three kids five and under, I was looking for ways to streamline some of my homemaking tasks. And that included making baby food.
However, the more I researched, explored, and implemented it with Annabel, the more I loved it. There were so many benefits to baby led weaning, I truly believed it was the way to go.
Here are some of the benefits of baby led weaning:
- Makes feeding them easier
- Saves time! #momwin
- Promotes good eating habits, as they are active participants rather than passive recipients
- Follows natural instincts to explore and follow appetite cues
- Teaches them about the food they’re eating and the world around them
- May reduce fussiness and pickiness, as they have more choice and power and less suspicion of food
- Is fun for them
- Involves them in family dinners, which has social benefits for them and provides a more positive atmosphere for the whole family
- Helps them learn self-regulation (i.e. stop when they’re full)
- Cheaper than buying separate food
- Supports development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and even facial muscles needed to talk from chewing!
DRAWBACKS OF BABY LED WEANING
Are there any drawbacks?
Well, I’ll be honest with you — baby led weaning is messy business. So be prepared for that. (And invest in a good bib.) But the quicker they start feeding themselves and the more they’re allowed to practice, the quicker they will improve.
Also, be prepared for some pushback from bystanders. Some people think baby led weaning is dangerous because of the risk of choking. But if done correctly, it’s no riskier than any other kind of baby feeding. (More on that below.)
There is also some research suggesting BLW may lead to nutritional deficiencies in babies who are developmentally behind the curve. Obviously, you know your baby best, and if he/she is not able to feed him/herself adequately to gain weight, BLW is probably not for you. And, as stated above, breastmilk or formula should continue to be the main source of nutrition until 1 year of age.
TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED
Now that I’ve got you interested, are you considering using it with your own babies? Here are some tips to get you started:
- Start when they’re developmentally ready (i.e. are at least 6 months old, can sit in a high chair unassisted, have good neck strength, and are able to move food to the back of their mouth with up and down jaw movements)
- No rush! As the saying goes, “Food before one is just for fun”
- Use all the same best practices for introducing solids you would for any approach
- Offer plenty of iron-rich and nutrient-dense foods
- Start with soft and easy to smash foods
- Offer food in long strip pieces that are easier for them to grasp
- Once they can master the pincer grip, you can offer smaller bite-sized pieces
- To avoid choking, do not offer coin-shaped, hard, or sticky foods
- Know that strong chewing skills may not develop until 9 months
- Teach them baby sign language so they can tell you when they’re done
BABY LED WEANING RESOURCES
If you’d like to learn more about baby led weaning, here are some great resources for you:
- Baby-Led Feeding: A Natural Way to Raise Happy, Independent Eaters
- Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide – How to Introduce Solid Foods and Help Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater
- Simple & Safe Baby-Led Weaning: How to Integrate Foods, Master Portion Sizes, and Identify Allergies
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- Baby Sign Language: Why You Should Do It & How to Start
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- The Best Bibs for Heavy Droolers
- 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Baby