This blog post is the first in a series of posts about Baby Led Weaning! Weaning your baby onto solids is a huge step for everyone involved. It’s the start of your child’s relationship with food, and it can be exciting and daunting in equal measure.
Before Squid was ready for solids, I had done a lot of research into how to approach introducing food, and we decided that we wanted to try Baby Led Weaning (BLW) as the method to do that. Traditional Weaning (TW – weaning with puréed foods, gradually introducing textures) works for some families, and that is fine; we have not done traditional weaning and so I do not know very much about it.
So what is BLW?
The principle of BLW is that your baby eats whatever you eat, in the same form that you eat it (ie not mashed or puréed). One of Squid’s first foods was steak! Soup, mashed potatoes, yoghurts etc are all fine too – as they come in the form you would eat them. The only things you need to avoid are honey (not before 12m – risk of botulism), whole nuts (choking hazard!), shark and Marlin, and you must be mindful of salt and sugar intake! Apart from that, your baby can eat whatever you eat – family meal times have never been so easy! Your baby’s food doesn’t need mashing or chopping up – just serve the food to your baby in ‘handheld’ chunks (think ‘chip shaped’!) and watch them go!
Top tips – bread soaks up soup really well, little hands can easily pick up mash, and pre-loaded spoons work well for yoghurt!
My first port of call was to get myself a copy of the BLW book, by Gill Rapley – I got this when Squid was around 3 months old. If you are considering BLW, then I would really recommend the book – we picked ours up second hand for a few pounds on eBay!
The long and short of it is that you skip the purées. This means that, unlike with TW babies learn to chew their food first, before swallowing. Another crucial element is that the baby is in control of what, how much and how quickly they eat. With TW the parent might keep going until there is no purée left in the bowl, though the baby may be full already – once a liquid is in their mouth, their instinct is to swallow. BLW helps babies to understand their appetite, and to only eat until they are satisfied.In the book, Rapley tells you the signs to look out for that your baby is ready to begin solid food. She states that these signs will usually occur ‘around the middle of the first year’ – 6 months/26 weeks.
The signs are:
- Being able to sit, with little or no support;
- Being able to reach out and grab objects accurately;
- Being able to accurately bring both hands, holding an object, to their mouths;
- Make gnawing/chewing actions with their mouths.
Other sources also state that a loss of the ‘tongue-thrust’ reflex is another sign of readiness – that is, a baby will not reject food by pushing their tongue back out. The theory is that it is not until around 6 months of age that the gut ‘closes’ and their bodies are ready to digest solid food. These ‘outward’ signs are good indicators that a baby is ‘internally’ ready to begin eating solid food. Waking more frequently at night is NOT a signal that your baby is ready for solids (this commonly happens around 4 months of age, where there is a ‘sleep regression’ or the ‘is-my-baby-broken-why-won’t-he-sleep-please-shoot-me-sleep-regression-from-hell’ as it was affectionately known in our house – more on sleep regressions here in a post I wrote for Breastfeeding World!)
There are some really interesting theories on the ‘Virgin Gut’ which swayed us to wait until Squid was around 6 months old to start weaning. Have a look here.
BLW has so many benefits. To name but a few:
- You don’t have to feed your baby – you can all enjoy a hot meal together!
- They learn about textures and individual tastes.
- The baby controls what, how much and how quickly they eat – this means that they only eat until they are satisfied, never ‘over eating’. A BLW baby is less likely to struggle with portion control, and therefore their weight.
- It takes the stress out of eating – as milk is their main nutrition until they turn 1, food is just great fun before then!
Remember – milk is your baby’s main source of nutrition until they turn 12 months old, so you need to fit milk feeds between meals – milk comes first! Squid nurses 10+ times a day still at 9 months – although he enjoys food, he prefers his milk! (Revisiting this post at 25 months, Squid now eats like a teenager – he had three portions of dinner today! Plus he nurses several times a day too, what can I say, the boy loves to eat! There are very few foods he won’t eat, and he is in control of his own appetite and tastes – we absolutely loved doing BLW and don’t regret anything about it! He uses cutlery beautifully, rarely gets in a big mess, and food has never been a battle. Meal times are happy and social!)I really, really do recommend reading the BLW book, because I could essentially just rewrite it here and that would be silly!
There is also a ‘Baby Led Weaning Cookbook’ which I got for Christmas. I would say that this book is nice to have, but not essential.
Did you do BLW with your baby? What made you choose BLW over TW? Let me know in the comments below!
To read more posts about BLW, click here!
Squidmamma x 🐙
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