Guide to Baby-led weaning : Be informed

A titbit of backstory

Please feel free to skip this part and Jump to the content if not interested.

Every major milestone is followed by ’n’ number of questions that spin around in the head of the parents. One of it is “Starting solids”. And with M1, I just blindly went by what the adults at home told me. It was a method which I wasn’t very comfortable with – distraction feeding (strictly no screen time) and force feeding. One of my biggest regret as a parent, because his meal times are the ones that I initially failed to take care of.

While I was in the mid of all the chaos, I came across “Baby led weaning”. M1 had then outgrown but I did read a little bit on BLW. And I decided to try my own ways to help M1 have a good relationship with food. I spent time in handling myself, I made sure to not allow anyone interfere with M1’s meal time. Things started looking better, still won’t say that I am very successful but to how it began I have achieved in helping M1 maintain good relation with food, let him make decisions on what he wants to eat, how much he wants to eat and when. 

Disclaimer : All my posts based on BLW is through what I have learnt from various resources and from my personal experience. I am neither a nutritionist/paediatrician nor an expert in this topic.

How we started with Baby-led started & Why ?

With all that happen with M1, I was sure not to repeat the same for M2. So I started reading more about Baby-led weaning, I sometimes watched videos to help me understand better. Trust be watching videos really help. It is said that babies are less likely to become picky eaters.

So if you are new to BLW or you want to understand BLW better then this post might help.


Before you start with Baby-led weaning :

 I am breaking it down into small pointer before I share more details on the same

  1. Be informed : educate yourself about BLW. Understand what exactly is BLW – be clear about it.  Learn about the pros and cons ; the dos and don’ts. Be confident before you proceed.
  2. Understand about choking & gagging : the difference, the immediate first aid incase of choking; highly recommend watching videos to understand.
  3. When to start : the baby has to be ready before you start ( signs of readiness of the baby)
  4. Food to offer : know what to offer, when to offer and how to offer.
  5. The prepared adult : be prepared for the mess, longer mealtimes, observe the baby (like for hunger cues, what the child likes/dislikes, look out for allergies and so on) and be prepared with all the above mentioned pointers

Be informed

What is Baby-led weaning (BLW)?

Baby-led weaning is a practice where we let the baby feed on their own (self feed), giving them complete independence. They get to explore their food, make decisions on like how much they want to eat, what they want to eat. 

BLW is practice where babies are given finger food when they start solids – Purees or mashed food is completely avoided. Also remember when you start solids it doesn’t mean that you are going to replace breastmilk or formula with solid foods.

One of the most important principles of BLW is “no forcing the baby to eat”, be it a certain food or the quantity. Respect their

I hear you when I say about the “quantity” of food the baby eats – here is something that you need to know. Babies until the age of 1 get most of the required nutrition from breastmilk / formula milk. And that is why it is said not to replace breastmilk / formula milk with solids. So the solids that you are giving are complement.

What are we supposed to do?

The initial months : as you continue to breastfeed/formula feed the baby, make use of the time to introduce babies to different kinds of food. Let the baby be given enough time to explore the food – touch | smell | taste | see. Expose them to a variety of food with different tastes and textures. Interestingly what I have observed in M2 is that, the first thing that he does when a food is served to him is “to stare at the food”. 

Pros

  1. Fostering independence : this is the primary importance I would say. The baby will learn to eat on their own (a big deal to me this is) and has control over what he eats
  2. Skills developed : baby gets to practice critical motor skills , oral skills and fine motor skills.
  3. Family Meals : baby eats what the family eats and gets to eat at the table with rest of the family. Wonderful time to bond with the family.
  4. Enhancement of senses : as the baby gets to touch the food, smell and feed themselves, they get a rich sensory experience.
  5. Baby is exposed to a variety of textures and flavours which is likely to reduce the chance of the baby being a picky eater in the future.
  6. Less stress for parents and babies : special meal preparation for babies is not required. No force feeding which actually reduces a lot of stress for both. Also as babies develop good relationship with food meal times are happier.
  7. Saves a lot of time in the long run.

Cons

  1. Safety : when the right food is not offered or not offered in the right way then chances of choking is high. Especially when the baby is too young.
  2. Messy : It is going to be very messy and there is going to be a lot of cleaning work post every meal.
  3. Time consuming : initially meal times are going to be really long. But just initially like for a few weeks. Initial days are hard.
  4. Quantity : sometimes it is hard to say how much the baby has eaten, with purees it is comparatively easier to say ( for example : the baby had a bowl of puree).
  5. Nutrient consumption : you need to choose the right food otherwise there is a possibility of the baby being nutrient deficient.

Dos 

Some pointers on what is helping us : 

  1. Having a good routine, for the child to be fully aware of what next.
  2. Meal times together with the family (at least one meal together)
  3. Offering varieties & I try avoid repetition (immediate next meal / same day or next two/three days)
  4. Dedicated space for meal time – an environment free of distraction.
  5. Offer small portions of food and begin with one food a meal. Gradually you can offer more than one type of food at a meal (offering choices)
  6. Let the child be 100% in control of their meal.
  7. Offer the right size of food : decide based on the development of the child’s grasp.
  8. Respect their choice and decision : if the child refuses a food accept it, you can try the same food later. 

Don’ts

  1. Stop yourself from interfering too much by trying to help the child, like for example helping the child place the food in their mouth. 
  2. Never ever put your fingers in your baby’s mouth to take the food out – there will be a lot of gagging, and if the baby has taken a bigger bite stay calm , the baby will try the chew when they feel they can’t they will push it out. If required you can show the baby how to spit the food out.
  3. No force feeding and no distraction feeding
  4. Handling your emotions : don’t express your excited at the table when you see the child eat well. Make sure not to pressurise the child to eat.
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