By: Jennifer Conium, RD from Live in Nutrition
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian of Ontario who works with individuals in the York and Durham Region with various nutrition-related health challenges to help them manage their conditions, meet their health goals and improve their overall quality of life. She joined our last Baby Let’s workshop and we look forward to working with her again in the future! You can connect with her though liveinnutritionrd.com or through instagram @liveinnutrition
What is it? How do I start? Is it even right for my baby?
Baby led weaning (BLW) is a way of introducing solid foods to your baby in their handheld forms instead of spoon-feeding purees, to supplement breastmilk or formula. It puts your little one in control allowing them the opportunity to actively explore foods, at their own pace, instead of passive spoon feeding.
Why should I consider BLW?
BLW shows a few different benefits in comparison to the more traditional pureed spoon feeding. This approach may help babies to better develop dexterity, oral motor skills (the ability for them to form a ball of food- or ‘bolus’- and swallow it), and expand their palate, and reducing pickiness. It also allows them to be more involved in family meal times. They can eat what you eat (with some exceptions). An indication in which BLW is not recommended is if your baby has a neurological condition or developmental delay.
How do I know when my baby is ready?
Between the ages of 4-6 months, your baby will let you know when they are ready to start solids. Watch for the following signs: they are able to sit up and show they have adequate neck support; they show interest by reaching for food when you are eating; they are putting things to their mouth, and/or sucking on hands and toys.
How do I start BLW?
Remember this- there is no specified amount of food your baby should eat. The underlying purpose of this approach is to allow your baby to self-regulate and trust their hunger cues. When they are full, they will stop eating- just as they do with breast milk or formula. You will get to learn your baby’s signs of wanting more, or being full.
- When first starting, try offering solids 1-2 times per day and increase this to 2-3 times by the time they are 8 months. Around 9 months you may find 4 times per day is more appropriate.
- Start with soft foods: avocado, bananas (cut in quarter shapes), steamed sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, cooked apples and pears (with skin removed), scrambled eggs, ricotta cheese.
- Ensure the shape of the foods are in finger-like shapes. Avoid round foods, or cutting foods into tiny pieces
- Offer them water to sip on
- Sit them up safely in a high chair. Feeding in a bumbo seat is NOT recommended.
- Mess is good! Just be okay with it. If you have a dog this may help this issue!
An important word on choking: your baby will probably gag at some point and this is not reason to panic. Gagging is a defence mechanism where your baby is working to cough up food. As your baby gets older their gag reflex begins moving further back in their mouth and they gag less. Gagging has sound, with coughing and spitting out of food, while choking is silent because the airway is blocked. Supervision during feeding times is important. It is recommended all parents take an infant CPR course, regardless of BLW! Overall, to prevent choking, avoid the following:
- round foods (grapes, cherry tomatoes, hot dog slices)
- make sure baby is sitting upright in the high chair
- no dry foods such as crackers and popcorn
- no crunchy foods (peanuts, tree nuts)
How can I make sure my baby is getting enough iron?
Include these higher iron foods in your baby‘s meals: meats, whole eggs, iron fortified cereal sprinkled on foods like avocado and bananas, and tahini. You can also pre-load spoonfuls of iron fortified infant cereal and have them self-feed as they get better with their coordination and dexterity.
DOs and DON‘Ts to BLW:
- Be a role model. Eat with them, and include them in family meal times as often as you can. They are always watching and observing, so help make meal times a positive experience!
- Continue to supplement with breast milk or formula. When they are 6-9 months offer milk/formula 30-45 minutes before solids. After 9 months you can offer food first.
- Provide distractions. Remove toys and screens during feeding times.
- Rush them. In the beginning they may take longer, but as they grow, time in the high chair will decrease.
- Praise, pressure or scold about food. If they want more, provide more. If they are full, then feeding time is done. Some signs of fullness are moving food around on the tray, or throwing food on the floor.
- Give up! Like everything else with your little ones, it takes time as they learn.
Did you use Baby Led Weaning? Leave us a comment and tell us about your experiences.