Around six months you will notice your little one starting to show signs of readiness to eat…in fact, it will start to become difficult to keep your food away from them! Once they are physically able they will start reaching for EVERYTHING on your plate. They are old enough, eager and have hit the appropriate milestones… before you start pureeing, blending, mashing….like a mad woman, consider just passing them what’s on your plate!
I hear all the time what a power struggle meal time can be. Babies literally put everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in their mouths and yet when you come towards them with a spoonful of whatever blend is on today’s menu, they often seal their mouth (despite your best airplane).
So what is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
It is a natural transition from breast (bottles) to solids. You are allowing your baby to experiment with colors, flavours and textures on their own terms. By providing your baby with real food in its natural form you are giving them the opportunity to explore, something babies are notoriously good at. You might be surprised at how willing a little one will be to eat avocado, sweet potatoes, chicken, and even broccoli when it is simply placed in front of them.
WARNING: It can be messy… Like very messy! Mostly because babies are messy, coordination is still developing and more importantly because they are having fun with their food! This takes me to my next point, the role of food in the first year of life…IS FUN! This is the number one criticism parents who choose BLW face. You will hear things like; “ are you sure he is getting enough?”, “didn’t most of that end up on the floor “ ,“ I think there is more on her face then in her tummy”, “How can she possibly be eating that if she doesn’t have all her teeth?”…
Here is the answer…
If you are a breastfeeding mother you have always relied on your baby to adequately eat. When breastfeeding you don’t know how much milk has been consumed but you trust your baby’s instincts and follow their cues. You know your baby is growing appropriately; that they settle following nursing; and have a suitable amount of dirty diapers. There is no magic switch that gets flipped at 6 months making your baby suddenly need 3 full meals a day when they had previously been thriving off milk alone. With BLW you offer your baby foods in their natural form to touch, suck, chew, swallow, spit out, smash and essentially experiment with on their terms- no pressure. As your babies’ appetite evolves, coordination improves, digestive system adapts/matures and most importantly when READY they will eat more and more of what you put in front of them. It allows for a gradual transition to solids, where your little one controls how much breastmilk vs. food they need at any given stage.
A common concern for parents wanting to try BLW is the fear of choking. I will be honest despite being a pediatric nurse the first few chunks of foods my little ones shoved in their mouth terrified me. The truth is while learning to eat there is a period of time when some gagging happens, and it can look pretty scary. This is normal, your little one is pushing food forward and out if they have bitten off more than they can handle.
The first year of life breastmilk will be your #1 source of fat and nutrients. If you cook healthy foods for your family (being particularly mindful of sugars and sodium) there is no reason baby can’t eat what you eat. So don’t be afraid to skip the hours of pureeing….life with kids is supposed to be messy, go ahead and play with your food!
**Disclaimer- At the end of the day there isn’t a wrong way to feed your baby. It’s your choice and if you love spoon feeding and it works for your family, I think that’s great. Always talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about introducing solids and what is the best way to do this for your child.**