Baby Led Weaning Explained

Baby Led Weaning Explained

Using Baby Led Weaning (BLW) as a method to introduce solid food to your baby has been around for over a decade. It gained popularity following the release of the first book on the topic in 2008.

Firstly, what is BLW?

BLW is a way of introducing solids that allows babies to self-feed. In its most true form only the baby puts food in his or her mouth. A baby who is able to do this is developmentally ready for solids. BLW is offering your baby food from your family meals cut up into finger sized foods.

What to keep in mind if you want to try BLW with your baby

Make sure your baby shows signs they are ready for solid foods. This is usually around six months.

Signs that your baby is ready for solid food:

  • they can hold their head up without support
  • they can sit up with support, such as in a high chair
  • they can control their tongue and do not stick it out when given food.

Every baby is different. Some babies self-feed with gusto, while others take longer to develop self-feeding skills. There is a risk of baby not getting enough iron and zinc from food at the time their needs are higher. Read more about first foods

Offer a variety of foods that your baby can pick up and eat. They need to be soft enough to eat. These could include soft chunks of well cooked meat and poultry, fish, avocado, omelette, roasted or steamed vegetables, fruits like banana, cut up/sliced berries and very ripe melon and well-cooked pasta.

It is important that you avoid high choking risk foods (just as you would if you were spoon-feeding). Some gagging and spitting food out is normal as baby learns to chew and swallow. Recent studies have not shown any increased risk of choking by following BLW. Whatever method of feeding you use you always need to watch babies and young children while they eat and intervene if they show signs of choking. Read more about safe eating

Spoon-feeding or BLW …. or a bit of both?

You don’t have to stick with only one feeding method. You can offer a mix of conventional spoon-feeding alongside finger foods. By around nine months, most babies can manage eating finger foods. Remember every baby is different. They will progress if given opportunities to try new foods and different textures.

Whichever method you choose, it’s important to offer foods high in iron and zinc as  first foods and offer food at regular times over the day.  Respond to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues. Always keep watch of your baby while eating.

The key messages when introducing solids are:

  • Offer a variety of foods from the five food groups of an appropriate texture.
  • Offer high allergy foods in an appropriate texture when introducing solids. This is thought to reduce the risk of your baby getting a food allergy (for example smooth peanut butter, scrambled egg).
  • Prepare baby’s food from the family foods.
  • Watch your baby while eating to reduce choking risk and avoid high choking risk foods.
  • Remember some gagging is normal.
  • Allow baby to eat as much as they need and look for signs that they have had enough (for example turning head or pushing food away).
  • Let baby explore (touch, taste, smell) food without pressure.
  • Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed babies. Continue to breastfeed while foods are being introduced until your baby is 12 months old. Then breastfeed for as long as baby and mother wish.
  • If breastfeeding is not possible, use commercial infant formula until 12 months. After 12 months, there is no need to use infant formula or toddler milks for most children.

Read more about getting baby off to a solid start

For more advice and support about starting solids talk to your child health nurse.