It’s the new phrase among attachment parenters!
Baby Led Weaning.
So, Just what is Baby-Led Weaning?
So, what? You just let your kid decide on his own when to stop nursing, is that it?
That’s actually what I thought Baby Led Weaning was the first time I heard the phrase! Boy was I wrong!
In America we typically use the word “weaning” to refer to the cessation of breastfeeding. English speaking countries outside America, however, use the word “weaning” to refer to the process of introducing solid foods to a baby. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong here. I only speak American.)
With that in mind, “Baby Led Weaning” simply means letting your baby decide which solid foods, and in what quantities, he wants to ingest.
So, how in the world are you supposed to know what baby wants? Simply put, you offer your baby a variety of foods and let him decide if he is going to put them in his mouth or not. That is not to say, you’re going to be dumping a pureed mess of food onto your child’s tray. –That would be funny, but the aftermath and clean-up would be monumental in a totally un-funny kinda way.–
No. No pureed foods with baby led weaning! The BLW (baby-led weaning) baby is offered big people food and then feeds himself.
Here are some of the common questions I encounter:
Isn’t regular food bad for baby?
No way! First of all, a lot of the foods BLW babies start with are the same as their puree food counterparts: avocado, sweet potato, carrots, green beans. The difference is that the BLW baby quickly advances to meals the rest of their family is eating: spaghetti, stir fry, salmon, baked potatoes, etc. There is no reason a baby shouldn’t be introduced to a variety of tastes, seasonings, and food combinations.
He doesn’t have any teeth. How does he chew it?
A baby who is fed purees first learns to swallow first and then chew later…several months later. A baby who is fed table foods learns to chew first and swallow shortly after. –It took Baby Z about 3 days to learn to swallow after he’d chewed up his food– As for the no teeth thing. Babies have intensely powerful jaws. If you’ve ever stuck your finger in a toothless baby’s mouth and been bit
you got what you deserved then you know how powerful those little chompers can be.
I find my little man to be quite efficient at chewing up various fruits, steamed veggies, and meats with his gums.
Won’t he choke?
This is the BIG question. The truth of the matter is you really can’t say, “Aw, no, he’ll be just fine. BLW babies never choke.” It would simply be irresponsible of me to say that. That said, I’ve never heard any of my friends and acquaintances who do baby-led weaning say their child has choked.
Gagging, on the other hand is a fairly common occurrence as baby learns how to move food around in their mouth. In instances of gagging, the parent just needs to remain calm, watch, and in almost every instance the baby will quickly resolve the situation all by themselves. I simply follow common sense and give my baby relatively soft foods, never leave him alone while he is eating, and cut certain foods that pose choking hazards (like grapes) into small pieces if he seems like he is having trouble.
Whether you do BLW or not, when you have a baby, it is a good idea to know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on an infant.
Can he even digest solid food?
Sort of. LOL. Until baby has several teeth they tend to swallow large-ish bits of food they’ve gummed. Those bits usually come out in large bits just like they went in–if you get my meaning. As baby gets more teeth, and as baby’s body begins to produce the enzymes needed to break down foods, he or she will begin chew food better and digest more of what they ingest. 🙂
Why did you choose to do Baby Led Weaning?
This was the big question for us when The Husband and I were learning about Baby Led Weaning.
Why do it? What’s the point?
With baby led weaning you’re encouraged to feed your child table foods. For a large part your baby is going to be eating what you’re eating. Not only is Baby Z learning to chew food at an early age, but he is getting exposure to and learning to like a variety of flavors and textures before the picky eating stage sets in.
The more I’ve seen of how we feed babies today, the more I’m convinced that part of the reason American kids are such picky eaters is because of how we feed them when they are little. A small variety of purées does absolutely nothing to prepare little ones for a wider range of flavors later.
The Husband always comments to people that Baby Z already eats a much wider variety of foods than our two older boys (who were fed commercially prepared baby food) combined. And it is true! Here are just a few of Baby Z’s favorite foods: fish (salmon, tilapia, cod), fruit of all kinds, artichoke hearts, sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, pot roast, asparagus.
Aside from that, recent research is suggesting that babies who are allowed to determine the amount of food they take in (as opposed to having an adult spoon feeding them) are less likely to have problems with obesity later on in childhood. It can be difficult for parents to read baby’s cues, but babies are very intuitive beings. They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
Update: Our little baby-led weaned guy is now 4 years old. We wished we’d known about baby-led weaning when our older two were little. It would have spared us so much picky-eating headaches!
Be sure to check out my other posts on baby led weaning.