What Is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
Baby led weaning is an approach to introduce solids to your little one. In this approach you are able to introduce foods that have been cut into thick finger-sized pieces. The food presented should be soft and easily mashed in the baby’s hands. This makes the food easy to hold for the baby and makes it a low risk for choking.
When To Start BLW?
Typically, the best time to start BLW is when:
Your child is showing an interest in food, i.e., reaching for food when you’re eating.
Is able to hold their head up well and is starting to sit up unsupported. You do not have to wait until they are sitting completely independently, but they should be doing so with minimal to no support.
How To Start BLW
Plan to start with one food at a time. Try to choose a food that will appeal most to a child, i.e., banana, sweet potato, avocado, etc.
Always stop the feeding when your child becomes fussy or is turning away from the food. Mealtime should be a fun and pleasant experience and you don’t want it to be associated with something negative.
You can mix BLW and presenting purees! This allows your child to be exposed to various textures, which will help decrease pickiness and food aversion in the future!
What About Gagging?
Gagging is a natural and protective reflex in babies. It is actually a way for them to protect their airway and prevent choking. Of course, as a parent it is difficult to see and can be very scary. However, the best thing you can do, is try not to overreact. Keep an eye on your child, don’t panic immediately, and allow them to figure out what to do. They may surprise you and continue to eat the food presented or they may stop, however, one thing is for sure, the bigger the deal you make of it, the more they will likely be turned off from trying the food next time.
First Foods To Introduce When BLW
Some great foods to begin BLW with are:
Roasted sweet potato wedges
Steamed broccoli florets
Banana with some of the peel still on (helps babies to hold it)
Roasted or steamed apple wedges (skin on will help to get a better hold on it)
Note: foods presented should be about finger-length and width. Once your little one has broken the majority of it down, take the smaller piece away and present another finger-length piece to avoid choking on a small chunk.
Can You Mix BLW And Purees?
This is what I would absolutely recommend! Mixing BLW and purees exposes your child to more varieties of foods and textures. This will decrease their likelihood of food aversions and becoming picky eaters, later in life.
The best method is to offer your baby a preloaded spoon and allow them to feed themselves. However, you can also present the spoon with the food to them directly. Just remember to allow them to accept the food by closing their mouth around the spoon instead of scraping the spoon against their gums/teeth.
First Pureed Food Options
Roasted sweet potato puree
Mashed banana puree
Mashed pea puree
Note: Mealtime should be a fun shared activity. Don't make it stressful by forcing a food, instead try again another day. And remember, every child is different, and they become ready for solids at different times. No need to rush anything!