Just like a milestone every mom waits for the 6 month mark to begin solid food for babies. Earlier we all followed the traditional weaning methods but slowly with more and more moms being connected, the awareness of Baby Led Weaning has taken over like a wave.
In 2015, December, when I began my journey to follow BLW, I was at my mom’s place and it was a complete alien term to my parents. It took me a lot of explaining that what I was attempting was suitable and child friendly. Since then I have taken it up to share my experience with fellow new moms and help them understand the concept and its benefits.
What is Baby Led weaning (or BLW)?
The key difference in Baby Led weaning is to directly offer finger foods and pre loaded spoons, bypassing the mushed up or pureed food. While in traditional feeding we let the child learn to swallow and later learn to chew, here we help the child to first learn to chew and slowly learn to swallow the food. Most importantly its “baby led” implying giving control to the babies on what and how much to eat. (the toughest part for the parents to understand).
Below Kenisha around 9-10 months old enjoying her food explorations
When can I begin Baby Led weaning?
- Baby must be at least 6 months old. The main reason being that by this age “most “babies learn to sit unsupported and have lost the tongue thrust reflex. Also they develop grasping and are able to hold on to small objects hence self feeding becomes easier.
- Sitting unaided mean
- Being able to sit unassisted for few seconds assisted by hands. This is critical as it ensures that the food pipe is not blocked and there are lesser chocking hazards.
- You can make them sit in your lap as sitting independently comes pretty later
- Baby should be in a upright/straight position. It would be a great idea to buy a booster or a highchair in the long run if possible.
- Tongue thrust reflex – Ideally most babies lose baby tongue thrust reflex between four and six months of age. This means, when you place food on your baby’s tongue or lips, the tongue doesn’t come forward to push the food away, so she can take it in more easily. It also implies that your baby is healthy and developing well.
- Showing interest in food? Yes, this is a huge sign. Babies will find your plates exciting and often try to reach out. It means they want to explore and a perfect way to introduce solids
Please remember baby must be at least 6 months old. And there is absolutely no reason to fret in case your baby still doesn’t show the signs of readiness. It’s not necessary that there is a magical change at 6 month mark. We began our journey at 6 months 2 weeks plus. Remember that breast milk/formula milk will be their main source of nutrition until a year and beyond.
- Read, read and then read some more! – I cannot really emphasize this anymore! It’s good to have found an experienced mom in the neighborhood to help you but I strongly urge you to read several articles on this concept and watch few videos if possible. It’s amazing to see those tiny ones enjoying their first bites.
- Bite size food does the trick. Keep a chip as a benchmark so the baby can hold and eat. As he works up you can also reduce the size as the pincher grip picks up.
- Soft and easy to eat. I was always confused what should the consistency of the food be like. How soft? Because then it could result being in squashy and the baby may not be able to hold it? So someone once told me “Kaju Katli”(Indian soft sweet) consistency. You can hold it between your thumb and index finger and with some pressure squish it too. That’s what we are looking at.
- BLW doesn’t really require special equipments but I personally feel having a high chair or a booster seat is an added advantage. I for one picked a booster seat by chicco as I found it less space consuming and a perfect travel companion when we would eat out at restaurants. It was really a helpful. At 2 we used it directly on the main table, ie minus the tray. And it was put into use until she was almost 3. Total moneys worth!
- BLW is about eating together as a family! So baby eats what you eat (minus salt and sugar at least he is an year old ) We always dropped a small portion out and added more spices to our. Say Dal or a veggie.
- If you do get a high chair or booster seat don’t consider getting a bowl. Keep the tray clean and just keep 2-3 pieces of food at a time to avoid overwhelming the child.
- No putting food in the childs mouth. Let them try and pick up some food and reach to their mouth and learn to push it around before swallowing. In case you wish to use a spoon, just give a pre loaded spoon and resist feeding yourself.
- Welcome mess and keep calm. BLW is a messy affair. Get ready to clean up after a every meal. But it will be rewarding in the long term. Just smile when your little one makes an attempt to eat. If you see them playing too much maybe they are not so hungry or ether full. Just get them out. I used to keep Kenisha only in diaper to avoid extra laundry and my 2 dogs were the perfect sweepers after each meal!
- Early allergens. If there is a history of allergens you may want to introduce it slowly. For example most people suggest introducing one nut variety a week so you can test for allergy. I did not follow it. But please decide this as a parent
- Offer a variety of foods and textures for your little one to explore and enjoy their new freedom to eat solids.
Remember each child is different and as a parent you must be prepared for the worst. I have tried to share our experience but I must admit that there were rough days. Also once Kenisha joined School and Day care the family meals did reduce but by now she eats most of her meals herself at school and sometimes asks me to feed her at home. Overall it did save me a lot of sanity as a new mom and I absolutely recommend you to try this out.
Feel free to comment with your Questions below.