Baby-Led Weaning Can Be a Child's Gateway to Solid Food
Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) is a method of introducing solid food that allows babies to feed themselves from the moment they are ready, rather than being spoon-fed by caregivers.
Taking this approach means babies control how much and what they eat for the first year. The idea has been growing in popularity in recent years.
This approach to eating is based on the idea that babies have an innate ability to feed themselves from birth and does not involve spoon-feeding baby rice or any other 'transitional' foods.
Instead of spoon-feeding baby purees prepared with a liquidizer, BLW involves allowing them to eat whole foods when they are ready and able (usually around six months), giving them pieces of family meals from adults – usually what is left on the plate if everyone else has eaten.
There is no need for expensive specialist infant food as long as you make sure your child's diet includes everything they need at each stage of development.
How To Start
The baby is placed in a comfortable position to feed themselves. Then, the whole family can eat together from the same plate, with babies encouraged to join in, so they make the connection that food is for eating. It follows three basic principles:
- Babies have six months – at least - of only milk feeds before you introduce them to solid foods (not just baby rice or other spoon-feeding alternatives).
- During this time, parents draw their baby's attention to different foods and allow them to handle and explore them.
- When they are ready, and when teeth appear (usually around six months), babies are given soft, moist food pieces on a suitable spoon or fork. At first, the pieces should be no bigger than a pea, and the child can feed themselves, but an adult will be needed to prepare food.
The baby's feeding time is a social occasion with family meals, as the child learns about eating from the rest of the family. So if you feel like your baby is hungrier than usual, this may be because they are developing a taste for different flavors and textures.
Important Principles of Baby-Led Weaning
BLW has four key principles:
- Baby should be the one to initiate feeding and decide when they have had enough.
- Babies control their eating – they are not forced to finish a jar or bowl if they want more but will continue to try different foods as they develop a sense of appetite.
- No other person (adult or baby) is allowed to interfere with the baby's self-feeding.
- Parents trust their babies' ability to regulate how much food they need, whether that's milk or solid food.
Baby-Led Weaning means speaking your baby's language from birth and encouraging them to explore the world using all five senses - something all children love to do. BLW is all about letting your baby feed themselves and enjoying mealtimes together as a family - one of the cornerstones of good parenting. Your baby learns to trust you in the first few months of life, so it's important to give them as much time and attention as possible.
The overall goal is to create an environment where the infant can be fed to encourage them to "self-feed" and develop good eating habits while still ensuring the infant's nutritional needs are met. This is achieved by allowing infants to primarily breastfeed (or formula feed) until close to six months of age. They also learn about transitioning between breast milk and solid food through observing their parents during mealtimes.
Once six months have been reached, infants begin learning how to self-feed whole foods alongside breastfeeding or bottle feeding at mealtimes as the primary source of nutrition. In this situation, parents let the child determine how much they eat by allowing the infant to hold and feed themselves while the food is cut into a safe size for them to eat.
The amount of food given and how often they are allowed to feed themselves should be determined based on their satiation levels by responding appropriately to their cues by stopping when they indicate they have had enough to eat.