Are you looking for more information about weaning your baby? Check out our FAQ about Baby Led Weaning, what to expect and if it’s right for you and your baby.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Also known as BLW, baby led weaning is a method used by parents to start baby eating solid foods. It’s the opposite of spoon led weaning when you feed baby a puree and transition to lumpier foods then solids. BLW start baby on appropriate solid foods from day one. This weaning method includes:
- Letting baby choose how much they want to eat
- Baby pickup and eat the food themselves
- Milk (breast or formula) is still baby’s main sources of calories
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
- Babies get to explore food using newly learn motor skills.
- The stress of forcing babies to eat when they don’t want to is removed.
- Let’s baby make their own decisions about food through instinctive eating.
- Less complicated mealtimes – baby can eat part of your meal.
When to Start
Most parents don’t start baby led weaning until at least 6 months old. At this age your baby’s digestive system has developed enough to handle solid foods. Most babies at 6 months have developed the motor skill to feed themselves. Some babies don’t develop these motor skills until they are 8-12 months old. If your baby doesn’t show interest in eating after 8 months old, you may want to trial run some spoon feeding. Some babies may avoid eating if there are any underlying oral, motor or sensory issues which have gone undiagnosed.
You don’t need to jump in and make baby a three course meal. Keep it simple like you would if spoon weaning. Foods which are soft, easy to chew and swallow are the best. Some great first food choices include:
- Baked sweet potatoes
- Cooked carrot
- Steamed Broccoli Stems
Cut the food into easy to grab pieces such as banana slices or carrot batons. This helps your baby to grip on easily. Don’t worry if they simply mush the food the first few times, it will eventually make it towards their mouth.
Food to Avoid
In addition to choking hazard foods you should also avoid these when BLW:
- Common Allergy Risk Foods – gluten, egg, nuts (peanuts), seafood, and citrus, especially if you have family history of sensitivity
- Salty or Sugary foods (or adding additional salt/sugar): crisps, chocolate, sweets, fast food.
- Food high in preservatives or additives: hot dogs, cured meat, artificial sweeteners, low fat dairy.
Pin for Later
Milk (breast or formula) is your baby’s main source of calories until they are 1 year old. Baby led weaning will teach your baby:
- Chewing and swallow
- New tastes and textures
- Hunger and satiety
- Hand eye coordination
- Fine motor skills
Don’t force food onto your baby, let them have the control. If your baby is growing, developing and have energy they are probably taking in more nutrients than your think. If you are worried about your babies weight or health discuss their diet with their GP or health visitor.
With baby led weaning there is no set amount for your baby to eat. Set down finger foods in front of your baby and if they eat it then great, if they don’t then that’s great too. You baby will soon learn that it’s important to eat when food is put down, or they get hungry. There should be no pressure for baby to eat a set amount. We do suggest when you start BLW to only put down a few pieces or different food types at a meal. Too much choice can overwhelm them or just give them an excuse to make more mess when they are full!
The beauty of BLW is that you need very little equipment to make homemade baby food. Everything you do need is basic kitchen equipment you’ll already have to prepare and cook your own food. The only equipment we recommend you do get is a set of bibs and a good high chair. You may want to buy additional equipment for convenience including:
Risk of Choking
This is one of the main reasons a lot of parent avoid BLW. There are certain foods which are choking hazards for baby and should be avoided, these include:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Raw Vegetables
Cut harder foods into bite size pieces no larger than ½”. This is smaller than the width of your child’s windpipe and if they swallow the piece whole it won’t get stuck. Your baby may gag when eating, but it’s important to learn the difference between gagging and choking. We highly recommend all parents attend a baby and child first aid class.
It’s important that you are watchful of your baby when then are eating in case they choke. Lack of oxygen supply for even a couple of minutes is enough to cause serious brain damage. Supervising children during mealtimes also prevents falls from the high chair.
Baby led weaning is not about avoiding purees altogether. This may surprise some people, but the texture and consistency is something babies need to explore. A fun way to do this is to let baby feed themselves a puree with a spoon. You can also mix solids with purees, such as dips or sauces. Babies also love frozen purees in ice lolly form especially as cold relief for sore teething gums.
If you don’t like mess then BLW may not be for you. Part of the process of BLW is that your baby gets to ‘explore’ their foods. That way mean mushing it into their hair a few times before putting it in their mouth. Don’t panic, this is just a phase they go through and it won’t last. Family meal times are particularly important for your little one learning tables manners, they will quickly learn this is not how everyone eats at the table.
There are lots of excellent baby led weaning resources out here. We high suggest you ready as much as possible on the subject before jumping right in. These are our favourites:
- Original Baby Led Weaning Book by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
- My Lovely Little Lunch Box
- NHS Start4Life
- British Nutrition Foundation