Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)
From its name, the term ‘Baby-Led Weaning’ (BLW) means to put the baby in charge of mealtimes, and the adults follow the baby’s lead.
The two differentiating factors of BLW versus traditional spoon feeding is that:
- BLW bypasses purees and mashed food, and focuses on giving babies finger food.
- Same meals are being prepared for both babies and adults. Babies do not get specially prepared food that is different from the family.
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 portioning 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. 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
What is Good?
There are many benefits to trying BLW. BLW fosters independence, exposes one to a huge variety of foods, values social interactions, develops fine motor skills and saves time and money.
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.
How to Succeed?
Research, read and get ready
Research about BLW, understand the basic principles and safety considerations. You can also speak to your pediatrician for advice and guidelines. Every baby is different, and so is every family. BLW may or may not suit your lifestyle and it would be beneficial to read up more about it, so you can be better informed.
There is just so much information about BLW everywhere, and it can be quite overwhelming. Here is where we hope to provide you with the necessary information to succeed with BLW.
Start at the right time
It is important to ensure that your child is developmentally ready to start BLW. This typically happens around 6 months of age, where babies can sit unassisted and like to mouth objects.
Apart from starting at the right time, you also need to ensure that foods that you offer are appropriate for your baby’s age and development. You should also be there to supervise your baby during meals and be prepared to respond quickly if they choke.
Offer a variety of foods
As your baby grows older, they would start showing preferences and may reject certain foods. Hence, it is important to expose your child to as many foods as possible. Here is a simple illustration to emphasise the importance of exposing your child to a variety of food.
|Child A||Child B|
|Exposed to 20 foods|
Rejects 10 foods (50% of all foods!)
|Exposed to 100 foods|
Rejects 10 foods (10% of all foods!)
I was obsessed with exposing my daughter to 100 foods under 1 because of this simple example I heard over a podcast. It inspired me to feed at least 100 foods, and I did it! 2 years later, I do see my daughter having preferences and it can be disheartening but thank goodness, she was willing to try new foods too.
During the infancy stage of trying BLW, my daughter was more interested in squashing the food, smearing it over the entire table, and not putting it into her mouth to eat. She was exploring the food and its texture! Had I thought that she was being ‘naughty’ and playing with her food, I may have stopped BLW altogether.
However, I knew feeding can be overwhelming for babies and how important exploration was to them. Hence, I chose to take a step back and allow her to play and trust that she will feed herself in time to come.
This leads on to my next point of embracing mess and being kind to yourself.
Embrace the mess and be kind to yourself
Be prepared for spills and food on the floor. You can consider buying products that could make life easier like a coverall bib, or a splat mat.
BLW can take time for your baby to get the hang of it and you may also need time to get used to the preparation and the mess. The inertia to start may be strong for both of you, but with patience and consistency, I am sure that it will be worthwhile for you.
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.