When you transition your baby from breast milk or formula to solid foods it is called weaning. Baby Led Weaning (also known as the BLW method) is a feeding method where emphasis is placed on baby self-feeding with baby sized finger foods rather than the traditional pureed-baby-food-spoon-feeding.
Why? Imitation is more than just flattery – it is how your baby learns. Imitating your eating “at the big table” is said to be a natural developmental milestone for babies. Thus, some parents chose to give babies actual baby-sized finger foods rather than pureed baby foods.
According to baby led weaning supporters, allowing babies to feed themselves takes the stress out of family meal times.
How? Baby led weaning basic principals are to allow the baby to decide how much they want to eat at any given meal and allowing the baby to feed himself solo. Primarily, soft fruits and vegetables are introduced and then when those foods are mastered, the baby moves on to lightly cooked “firmer” finger foods. No foods are forced upon the child. Dangerous foods such as whole grapes, nuts and raw carrots are not offered.
What about choking you ask? Well, supporters of baby led weaning believe that baby learns to chew around the six month mark. (The six month age mark: According to the World Health Organization’s Infant Feeding Recommendation exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life after which nutritional and safe foods should be introduced in conjunction with continued breastfeeding.) With baby led weaning, foods are cut julienne style to allow for a whole-hand grasp. In the beginning, baby may just lick or suck the finger foods but gradually he will master baby led weaning. As finger feeds increase breastfeeding and/or bottle feeding will decrease.
Of course, one should never leave an infant alone while they self-feed for safety reasons. Plus, eating enjoys company!
Do I stop breast feeding cold turkey? Not advisable as it may be uncomfortable for Mom and disturbing for baby. Mom may become engorged, get blocked ducts or even a painful case of Mastitis. Baby finds comfort and connection in breast feeding.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends in mother-led weaning substituting the baby’s least favourite nursing time with cup or bottle of pumped breast milk or formula (cow’s milk should be avoided until the baby is at least 12 months old).
What are the benefits of baby led weaning? Some supporters believe the baby led weaning method is a natural progression to foods in conjunction with baby’s developmental readiness. It allows the baby to chose how much they eat all by themselves. It can bring the family together at meal times because everyone is eating the same foods at the same times.
What are the drawbacks of baby led weaning? Most people believe in giving babies pureed foods because of choking concerns so when you give your baby finger foods be prepared for flags to be raised by family, friends and medical professionals. Remember these people only want the very best for your child so take accept their concerns with thought and respect.
Baby lead weaning is not suitable for babies who have medical issues which prevent chewing, those with digestive disorders and those with special needs who are unable to self-feed.
The Canadian Paediatric Society
BBC Woman’s Hour