Baby Led Weaning
The World Health Organisation recommends waiting until a baby is six months old to start introducing solid foods.
Weaning is something parents look forward to.
If you’re breastfeeding, not only will you finally be allowed a bit more freedom, but you’ll be able to see whose tastes your baby has inherited.
Does he hate broccoli like you, or love olives like his daddy?
If you want your baby to take the lead when it comes to food, here’s some information on baby led weaning.
Approaches To Weaning Your Baby
Weaning is when your baby really starts to show preferences or dislikes for certain things.
In many ways, it feels like this is the first stage of understanding your baby’s personality.
There are two main approaches to weaning. The most popular method is to spoon-feed pureed food to the baby. These purees might be homemade from foods such as steamed vegetables, or they may be store bought pots of pre-prepared food. Either way, when you first wean your baby, you will be spoon feeding him.
The alternative method is known as baby led weaning (BLW).
This method focuses on allowing your baby to feed himself by offering him a mixture of finger foods. Some parents choose to do a mixture of purees and finger foods as a way of combining the two approaches.
Baby led weaning is based on the idea that your baby will know when he is full. Rather than spoon feeding him until the jar is empty, you simply allow him to feed himself until he stops.
The growing obesity crisis highlights the importance of addressing our unhealthy relationship with food. This relationship begins when we are very young, and so it is important to encourage our children to foster a healthy attitude to food from a young age. Baby led weaning is all about trusting your child’s natural instincts towards food.
Offer your baby a variety of healthy foods (such as raw fruits and steamed vegetables) and allow him to help himself to whatever he pleases. For the first couple of weeks, he probably won’t eat much of it. During the early stages of BLW, mealtimes are about exploration. Your baby will have lots of fun exploring the different textures, colours, smells and, finally, tastes of the variety of foods in front of him.
It could take a few months until your baby actually starts to eat a decent amount of food, but don’t worry because he’ll be ok with nutrients from milk during this time.
The thought process behind baby led weaning is that allowing baby to explore foods will encourage him to be more adventurous in the future. And allowing your baby to decide when he is full, will prevent him overeating and falling into bad habits. It also means you don’t have to spend your Sunday nights cooking and blending butternut squash!
Baby led weaning allows your baby to learn valuable eating skills, like chewing, moving food to the back of his mouth, and swallowing. Spoon fed babies don’t learn how to move food to the back of their mouth, and this can put them at a greater risk of choking. Baby led weaning teaches babies how to safely move food around in their mouth, and this should hopefully make them less susceptible to choking in the future. Babies’ gag reflexes are quite far forwards. If feeding themselves, they are unlikely to choke because before this could even be possible they will have triggered their gag reflex.
Baby led weaning is about making sure mealtimes remain stress-free. There’s no worrying about your baby not finishing the jar of baby food, you just let him eat as much as he wants. Keep the leftovers aside and let him pick at them for the rest of the day. It’s much better to allow your child to eat when hungry rather than force them into a schedule decided by you. Some days your baby might feel under the weather and eat less, whereas other days he may be going through a growth spurt and be extra hungry. Don’t let it worry you, just allow your baby to take control of how much he eats.
Hopefully, this healthy attitude towards food will last him the rest of his life.
If your baby is losing weight due to a refusal to eat much food, it is worth taking him to the doctor or your maternal health nurse for a check up. It may turn out to be nothing, but it’s always better to be safe than safe.