Baby led weaning (BLW) is a method of weaning that has gained popularity in the past 10-15 years for its many benefits (to learn what the fuss is all about, check out Baby led weaning bib by Bibbrella Instead of purees and mushy foods, BLW opts for cut foods, which encourage independence and motor skill development. This guide introduces some BLW basics and provides some important tips to get you and your babe started on your BLW journey!
Where and When Do I Start?
Every baby will be different. BLW experts generally suggest starting at roughly 6 months of age, but when you start depends on developmental milestones that will vary from child to child. Here are three things that they should be able to do before you start baby led weaning.
1. Sit upright with zero support.
No ifs, ands, or buts about this one because it’s for safety reasons. Support includes cushions, arm rests, your hand, etc. Some may be ready to do this at 6 months while others may not be ready until they’re 7 or 8 months of age.
2. Show Interest in Food
If it’s hard to tell, have your baby sit with you while you eat and see how they respond. Starting to reach for your afternoon snack? Sticking their finger in your morning yogurt? Once they start to display interest and begin reaching for your foods, that’s a good sign that they’re ready.
3. Be Able to Grab Food
If your baby’s gonna take the lead, they need to be able to grab and hold onto food. This one sounds pretty obvious, but it’s a helpful cue to look out for if you’re unsure about whether or not your babe is ready.
Popular Food Options for BLW
- Short pastas like penne, fusilli, or elbows
- Sliced meatballs, patties, or tofu
- Tuna or chicken salad
- Soft cooked veggies such as roasted potato or sweet potato wedges
- Ripe fruits such as bananas, peaches, pears, kiwi, avocado spears, and roasted apple wedges
- Larger pieces of meat that babies can hold and gnaw on
- Toast sticks with mashed avocado or scrambled eggs
Now that you have some ideas, be prepared for the mess with a full coverage bib like Bibbrella!
How to Cut Food for Baby Led Weaning
One of the most important things for making BLW successful is making the food you serve easy to hold. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, use “The Finger Rule,” which suggests you cut food into batons that are roughly the size of your index finger.
Once they reach 8-10 months of age, babies can start grabbing and eating smaller chunks of food, thanks to the pincer grip they should’ve developed by then. You know your baby best--if they’re still struggling with batons, then hold off on the chunks.
Potential Choking Hazards
It’s entirely understandable if you’re worried that baby led weaning could increase the likelihood of choking. Because this method advises feeding food in chunks, one of the most commonly raised concerns about BLW is safety.
Before you start BLW, your baby must be able to sit unassisted. Being able to support themselves indicates that if they do choke, their body can fully respond.
Experts suggest 6-8 months as a starting point for another reason--it’s when babies lose their tongue-thrust reflex. This built in safety mechanism allows them to push foreign objects out of their mouth while they develop muscles that will allow them to eat solids. This reflex gradually goes away as they develop motor skills and gain better control of their mouth and tongue. Losing their tongue-thrust reflex means they’re less likely to have difficulty swallowing.
If you’re still not entirely convinced, here are tips to prevent choking:
- Start with foods that are cooked until they are very soft (e.g. potatoes and carrots).
- Always cut small round foods such as grapes and cherry tomatoes.
- Make sure the food is easy and comfortable to eat. This means feeding food that is not too hot and has had skins and peels removed.
- Avoid small round food, gooey or sticky food, and hard foods such as raw apple or raw carrot. And of course, always supervise your baby while they’re eating. Choking can happen with any method of weaning or feeding and you should be there to respond immediately should anything happen.
Potential Downsides of Baby Led Weaning
Parents often worry that babies are being undernourished with baby led weaning. Parents often wonder, will babies eat enough If they control their own intake? There has been speculation that one reason for this might be because many parents tend to provide fruits and veggies as first foods, which have less calories. This is easily remedied by making sure meals include a variety of foods.
However,studies have shown that while babies may weigh less with BLW, they were not undernourished and did not have iron deficiencies. Such reports also found that the rate of choking was similar for both BLW and non-BLW babies.
Finally, BLW can be a messy experience but we think the payoff is worth it--especially with the help of full coverage bibs like Bibbrella Your babe gets to have fun experimenting with food and you can worry less about the mess.
This basic guide just scratches the surface of baby led weaning, but hopefully it’s given you some confidence to give it a whirl. Check out our store for bibs that can help make it a smoother process. We can’t wait to be part of your mealtime experience!Grab a Baby Led Weaning Bib!