Starting at 6 months, babies will begin to sit up unassisted using their hands and knees for support. They will also start babbling and communicating with the people around them. By this time, paediatricians will recommend introducing solid food to your little ones.
When weaning little ones from breastmilk or formula and starting them on solid food, some parents opt for the conventional method of mixing and mashing pureed food with baby’s cereals, then spoon-feeding their baby. There is also another method called baby led weaning (BLW), where infants are introduced to solid food by letting them feed themselves.
What is baby led weaning?
Baby led weaning involves letting babies eat with their fingers, done at the very start of their transition to solid food. Compared to conventional weaning, they are allowed to make their own choices regarding which food to eat and how much.
Instead of purees where several ingredients are mixed together, BLW allows whole foods to be eaten one at a time so that tastes are not combined. Foods are also less broken down and more intact, looking more or less like their original version.
For parents who choose to start BLW, the approach can have several potential benefits. However, it also comes with drawbacks, and whether it is the right choice for your baby will depend on a variety of factors.
Advantages of baby led weaning
If you are a new mom considering baby led weaning, here are some benefits that might encourage you to adopt the method.
1. BLW allows babies to explore and learn about new textures and flavours.
With baby-led weaning, babies can try a variety of foods. This sparks their natural curiosity, opening them up to different tastes, colours, and smells. This can help them be more accepting of new foods as a result.
2. BLW encourages the development of fine motor skills.
Babies who self-feed with their hands are able to practise using their fingers and wrists to grasp and manipulate small objects. This can help with the development of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
3. BLW inspires confidence and independence.
Baby led weaning follows a more “natural” approach to eating solid foods which are based on the baby’s developmental stage. It respects their ability to make choices on what they want to eat, helping them develop a more positive attitude toward eating.
4. Prepping food for BLW can be less-time consuming for parents.
With baby led weaning, fruits and vegetables are cut into fist-sized chunks–small enough for the fist but not big enough to be choking hazards. This can cut prep time compared to making food purees.
Disadvantages of baby led weaning
While BLW sounds easy, it can be quite tasking for parents and can pose some difficulties for the little ones as well.
1. BLW may increase the risk of choking.
Parents get concerned and think that babies who are allowed to self-feed are at a higher risk of choking because they may put bigger pieces of food in their mouths or may not have the skills to properly chew and swallow food. While research does not support this view, it is still advised that parents observe the signs and check whether their baby is truly ready for solid food.
During meal times, babies must be fully supervised. Make sure they are sitting upright, the food they are offered is not hard, and it is cut up into sticks and chunks which they can pick up with their small hands.
2. BLW may require more time and effort.
Parents who choose baby led weaning may need to spend more time preparing and offering a variety of food to their baby, as well as cleaning up after meals. However, parents must avoid overwhelming their babies with too many choices. Offer a few different types of food each mealtime, aim for colour and variety, and remember that their stomachs are small and don’t need to eat a lot to feel full.
3. BLW can be messy.
Babies who are self-feeding are likely to make a mess as they learn how to handle and eat food, which can be frustrating for parents who are trying to keep a clean house. However, allowing babies to make a mess is also an important part of the overall eating experience.
To make mealtimes during baby led weaning stress-free, here are some tools that parents can use to make food prep and cleanup easier.
Eonian Care Feeding Silicone Baby Bib with Food Catcher
Keep the mess under control with this silicone bib, carefully designed to collect crumbs and dropped food. It’s waterproof, easy to wipe and clean, and soft and lightweight, so your baby won’t even notice she’s wearing one! Since it’s easy to roll or fold, you can conveniently tuck it in your baby bag for travel for worry-free feeding at any time and anywhere.
Eonian Care Baby Bottles & Feeding Solutions Value Set
These BPA-free and food-grade containers can hold bite-sized food and snacks, making it easy for your little ones to feed themselves. They’re also freezer, steriliser, and dishwasher safe, for easy cleanup.
Your child’s early overall experience with food affects their attitude towards eating, so try and make every mealtime enjoyable and fun, even if it creates a mess. Most importantly, a healthy attitude towards food will also influence your child’s food choices, helping them have a healthy relationship with food as they grow.