Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)
From its name, the term ‘Baby Led Weaning‘ means to put the baby in charge of mealtimes, and the adults follow the baby’s lead.
There are many benefits to BLW. I would highly recommend parents to try, but I am also aware of BLW’s difficulty. BLW would work well for families, who:
- Has the time to clean up after the child (it can get really messy!)
- Able to differentiate between gagging and choking (a life skill a caregiver should have! You can easily learn this online!)
- Are willing to cook for the family, and portion out for the child before adding the ‘adult yummy seasonings
- Want to groom an adventurous foodie
Why Should You Trust Me
I am a proud mama of a 28-month-old girl (as of March 2023!) who, in my heart, has successfully gone through BLW from 6 months of age. My 2-year BLW journey has been all about trial and error. As I took a hiatus from work and personally took care of my daughter since birth, I was able to try a hand at BLW and have never looked back.
Almost two years on, I feel that I am finally reaping the benefits of BLW. She is able to:
- Feed herself with utensils
- Try new foods and even able to compare to different foods (for example, she tells me that radish doesn’t taste like potatoes, but it feels similar)
- Sit by the table and hold conversations with the family while eating
- Gauge her own hunger and fullness: she asks for more when she’s still hungry and stops when she is done
In addition to my personal experience, we consulted three experts to gain deeper insights into the benefits of exposing your child to a variety of foods.
- Catherine, an entrepreneur, and a cookbook author of 4 cookbooks, from Weelicious
- Wanda Wijaya, Speech and Language therapist from Ohana Therapy
- Desiree Lau, Director and Speech Therapist from Magic Beans
What is Good?
There are many benefits to trying baby led weaning. BLW fosters independence, exposes one to a huge variety of foods, values social interactions, develops fine motor skills and saves time and money.
Catherine believes in letting your baby lead the way and taking cues from them. Wanda Wijaya also believes that BLW allows your child to independently regulate their bodily needs and eat when they feel hungry or confident with what they are holding onto.
What Is Worrying?
Many parents are concerned about BLW and are not willing to try a hand at it because they are worried about the possibility of choking, the cleaning up and the uncertainty of meeting the baby’s nutritional needs. When concerned about nutritional intake, especially iron and zinc, Desiree Lau emphasizes the need to ensure these vital nutrients are included in forms that are easy for babies to consume.
When Can Your Child Start BLW?
According to Solidstarts, here are the various developmental milestones your baby need to achieve before offering finger foods:
- Age: 6 months or older
- Posture: able to sit upright independently
- Head control: hold head upright independently and steadily
- Reach & grab: able to pick up objects and bring them to their mouth
- Interest: mouths and leans forward to food (I used to carry my daughter to the dining table while we ate when she’s 5 months old!)
Regarding how you can balance BLW with milk intake, experts do not see the need to adjust the milk intake significantly since a child’s primary source of calories should come from milk consumption.
When a baby starts to consume more solids, Wanda Wijaya recommends gradually reducing the milk intake (by 10 – 20ml) while observing the child’s hunger and fullness. Desiree Lau also suggests increasing the frequency of meals (from one to two a day) as the baby becomes more accustomed to feeding. She states, “As the number of solid feeds increases, the number of milk feeds can be reduced.”
Foods Fed Under 1
While you are doing BLW, it is important to record your journey. I chose to record (1) the date and (2) the food that was being fed. This is so that I can trace back the food in case of an allergic reaction. Also, it helps me to keep count of the different foods that I have already offered.
|Meats & Proteins
|Dairy & Eggs
|Baked & Prepared Food
Spare pork ribs
Panko bread crumbs
Si Shen powder
Gerber rice cereal
This is the general rule of thumb that I realised while preparing food for my daughter when she was 1 year old.
|Type of Foods
|How are they prepared for a baby between 6-9 months old
|Whole fruits (e.g. apples, pears, cantaloupe)
|Steamed or cooked
|Small round fruits (e.g. cherry tomatoes, berries, grapes, lychee)
|Either squashed (with a fork will do), or halved or quartered (if too big)
|Vegetables (e.g. bok choy, broccoli)
|In small florets (for their small hands to hold), or long strips
|Whole meats (e.g. chicken, duck)
|With bones (e.g. offer drumstick, or entire spare rib)
|Squashed or minced
|Mashed and served on bread/biscuit sticks
You can always visit the handy Solid Starts App where they tell you all about how you can prepare the foods for different ages – 6 – 9 months, 9 – 12 months, and 12 months and above.
Image credit: Solid Starts App
Foods That Commonly Cause an Allergic Reaction
Here are some common food allergens:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, cashews)
It is important to offer these foods in small amounts and monitor for any signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. I would personally choose to feed these foods in the morning, so I can monitor my daughter throughout the day. I try not to offer these at dinner time because I do not want the reaction to occur at night, without me knowing. Should you ever be in doubt, please do not hesitate to see a doctor.
My personal experience was my daughter’s allergic reaction to soy, particularly silken tofu, and salmon. The areas in touch with the foods (mouth, chin, cheeks, hands) would turn red and some parts would even swell. After eating, I would immediately clean her up and I would monitor her allergic reaction closely. As her allergic reaction subsided (her skin became less red) after a few hours, I was not too concerned about it. The next day, it would almost be gone. I would then choose to offer the same foods again, after a few days and monitor her reaction again. After exposing her to the same foods for about 3-4 times, I realised she outgrew the allergic reaction, and all was well.
Regular exposure to food allergens can help prevent food allergies. Allergists often recommend aiming for the inclusion of common allergens 2-3 times per week because that was the median frequency of allergen exposure reported in major studies on food allergy prevention.
However, it is also important to note that not all allergic reactions go off that easily. Hence, as parents, we should always monitor our children very closely as allergic reactions can be very serious.
What Not to Feed?
According to the United Kingdom National Health Service, babies under 1 year old should not be given these foods:
- Sugar (avoiding sugary snacks and drinks can help prevent tooth decay too)
- Saturated fat
- Honey (occasionally, honey contains bacteria that can produce toxins in a baby’s intestines, leading to infant botulism, which is a very serious illness)
- Whole nuts and peanuts (choking hazard)
- Some cheeses like brie or camembert (higher risk that these cheeses might carry a bacteria called listeria)
- Raw and lightly cooked eggs, meat and fish (these can contain harmful bacteria that can use foodborne illness)
How Can We Prevent Picky Eating?
Involvement in Meal Preparation
Catherine suggests, “Include your child in the cooking process, regardless of the task’s size. Offer your baby tastes of foods you’re using to cook so they can experience a variety of flavors.”
Stressing the importance of regular family meals as an opportunity for children to witness positive eating behaviors from adults and to be introduced to the variety of foods consumed by the family.
Division of Responsibility
Advocating for the ‘Division of Responsibility’ principle, pioneered by Ellyn Satter, Desiree Lau explains that parents should manage the what, when, and where of eating, while allowing children to decide how much and what to eat. This approach encourages exploration and interaction with different foods.
Exposure to Diverse Tastes and Textures
Wanda Wijaya suggests, “Try to incorporate family meals, observe your child’s hunger and fullness cues, and introduce your child to a range of tastes and textures starting from 6 months onwards.”
Disclaimer: Nuevamae is not sponsored by any of the mentioned brands or platforms. This article expresses our honest opinion based on our experience and research. Read more about our mission. This article includes affiliate links so we may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase via the link.