Baby Led Weaning

As a nanny I followed many guidelines and practices set forth by parents. I provided a lot of guidance, but I also followed their lead. Many times through the years, I’ve started spoon-feeding purees as soon as the baby turned 4 months old.

Joshua and I have decided to go another direction with Dylan and do “baby-led weaning”. This means there hasn’t been and won’t be a single puree in Dylan’s life.

Baby-led weaning (BLW) has gotten a lot more popular lately, so there’s a lot of good information available. Baby Led Weaning is a good place to start your online reading. Plus there’s a book, Baby-Led Weaning, and even a related cookbook!

Here’s an overview of the idea.

The Basics

BLW focuses on letting the baby explore real foods at ou own pace instead of baby-specific foods from an arbitrary age. The baby is given a variety of foods to choose from, drawn from the same foods the rest of the family is eating. Rather than having foods spooned into ou mouth, the baby explores the tastes, textures, chewing, and swallowing entirely at ou own pace.

When To Start

The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months old, so that’s about how long we waited with Dylan. At around 6 months, babies can grasp things and chew. Eating on their own is a great way for babies to work on these motor skills. Dylan has also just starting using a pincer grasp in order to pick up Cheerios to eat.

Of course, all babies are different. There’s no need to get started early, and some babies won’t be ready for a couple more months. Look for signs such as the baby’s ability to sit upright unsupported and the visible desire to try foods. We gave Dylan his first food a couple of weeks shy of 6 months old because he was so eager to have what we were having.

 

Peaceful Meals

I think of this introduction to foods as the introduction to the social aspects of meals, too. The practices I use are offshoots of the way I’m already doing things, rather than special guidelines just because there’s a baby involved.

  • Relax and don’t be in a hurry. Meals are fun, relaxing, personal, and social but NOT a race, competition, or chore.
  • Offer the same foods everyone else is eating at the same time.
  • Offer a variety of foods, and then let your baby choose what to eat and how much.
  • Give the same foods over and over, even if baby doesn’t seem to like them. Your preferences change from meal to meal, and your baby’s will, too.
  • Don’t pin your hopes on a particular outcome. Set up the pleasant foundation for a meal, and then relax and let your baby do ou thing.
But there are a few baby-specific differences:
  • Keep breastfeeding as often and as long as your baby wants.
  • Don’t offer obvious choking hazards like peanuts or grapes.
  • Avoid foods with added sugar and salt. The best foods at this point are whole foods, so that your baby can explore individual tastes while ensuring that those tastes are from healthy sources.
  • Brace yourself for the mess! There are a lot of very sticky, dripping, squishy, crumbly meals in your future!

Trust

Baby-led weaning fits into the overall attitude I want to cultivate in my relationship with Dylan, which is about trust and letting go of control. With feeding “baby food” there is often a focus on feeding a certain number of jars at certain times of the day. BLW instead focuses on turning control over to the child.

I’m here to provide access to good foods, but all the other mealtime decisions about what goes into Dylan’s body are left up to him. I feel really good about this process, and we’re both having fun with it, too!

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