This is a guest post by: Jennifer Hanft, MS RD CSG is a mother to Hudson (3) and Evelyn (2). She has over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian and is a member of the Starting Solids Network for Health Professionals.
Baby Led Weaning, What & Why
- This the first of our 3-part series on baby-led weaning.
- It’s a traditional and ancient approach to introducing babies to solid food.
- Start around 6 months when your baby is developmentally ready.
- There will be challenges, for instance it’s messy.
- Baby led weaning builds lifelong healthy eating habits.
Why we love the baby led weaning approach.
This is the first in a 3-part series exploring baby-led weaning.
I support the founders of Littlemore Organics and their passion for the concept of Baby Led Weaning (BLW). In this series I hope to explain, demystify and reassure you about this method of introducing solid foods to your baby. I hope it helps you decide if it's the right approach for your family.
Figuring out how and what to feed our kids is terrifying for most parents. Like everything in parenting, a million people are telling you to do a million different things. Myself and the founders of Littlemore, love the concept of baby-led weaning. We believe it is a fun, nourishing, and developmentally appropriate way to feed your little ones.
However, we prefer to use the term 'baby-led feeding' because it better describes this approach as it is not actually a weaning method. Baby-led weaning basically means allowing your baby to feed themselves rather than be spoon-fed by an adult, as is typical with pureed foods. With this approach, breast milk and/or formula remain the primary energy source until a year old.
A bit of history about Baby Led Weaning.
The term "Baby Led Weaning" was coined by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett in their groundbreaking book exploring the baby-led method published in 2008. The book discussed introducing complementary solid foods to infants with the developmental skills to handle these foods. The developmental skills part is critical, and, just like any other milestone, different kids will be able to feed themselves at different ages.
But baby-led weaning isn't new.
In fact, baby-led weaning is older than any other method of introducing a baby to solid foods. Most cultures worldwide use "baby-led" feeding practices that incorporate whole or mashed family foods instead of the parent-led, spoon-feeding puree method we've come to think of as normal.
So, how do I know when to start baby led weaning?
The key starting point is determining developmental readiness. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree that around six months of age is the best time to introduce solid foods. But, there's always a range.
You'll know your little one is ready when they:
- Can steadily sit unassisted.
- Can bring objects to their mouth.
- Show interest in food and family mealtime.
- No longer have a tongue thrust, meaning if you try to put something other than breast milk or formula in their mouth, they don't push it out with their tongue.
When babies are developmentally ready to start solids, they pick up food, and everything else in their reach, using a palmer grasp which is how they wrap their little fingers around your adult finger.
Large, soft, and squishy pieces of food that babies can grip with their whole hand help them successfully learn to bring food from the table to their mouth. Elongated, skinny foods are best.
There will be a few challenges with baby led weaning.
The most challenging part about baby-led weaning is that it's messy with a capital M. It takes time, patience, and practice to allow little ones to feed themselves. Finding the time and patience and tolerating the mess is more challenging than you think.
The process of learning to eat is supposed to be exploratory and messy. Let your baby feel the texture of food with their hands and mouth because all of our senses are important when eating. Try to avoid the urge to wipe their sweet hands and faces until the meal is over.
The mess is all part of the learning process and can help prevent picky eating and food aversions in the future. A splash matt under the high chair might help, or an average dog also works wonders.
I believe baby-led weaning is a fun, stimulating, developmentally suitable way for your baby to start exploring solid food. Your little one gets to set the pace, make their own decisions to accept and reject foods. This helps set them up for a life of intuitive, healthy eating.
Building lifelong healthy eating abilities and habits with baby led weaning.
Recognizing when they are hungry and full is an essential lifelong skill and is difficult to learn if they are not feeding themselves. Since most family foods can be modified for your baby, baby-led weaning also saves time, money, and the stress of preparing multiple different meals.
Ready to learn more about this approach to feeding your little one? Stay tuned for our next two posts that will focus on when and how to introduce foods. We will address safety concerns and some essential nutrients to consider, and discuss the all-important introduction of allergens. Of course, if you ever have concerns about your babies' ability to feed themselves, chew or swallow, please check in with your pediatrician before beginning solid foods.
Littlemore Organic snack puffs were intentionally designed to be ideal for baby led weaning.
- Babies can pick them up and feed themselves.
- They encourage babies to learn how to bite and chew.
- At the same time, they melt in the mouth so no teeth are needed.
- Their shape and texture are specifically created to NOT pose a risk for choking.
- Our savory forward flavors help wee ones learn to enjoy a wide range of tastes
- A crunchy, yet dissolvable, texture teaches babies that food has a shape, consistency, and solidness
- Unlike with most purees and pouches, we don’t add sugar which helps little ones learn that food doesn't need to be sweet.
- They can be used to dip into other yummy and nutritious things like apple sauce or hummus, making food fun, while also developing new motor skills.
- They take time to chew and eat, so they help your little one learn to pace themselves when eating and notice when they've had enough. This is hard to do with purees.
- They are delicious so kids (and their parents) love eating them.
From our families to yours,
Joana + Lauren