When I became a parent, I knew nothing about the benefits of BLW (baby-led weaning), let alone what it even was.
I was so excited when Nugget turned 6 months old. Finally, I could offer her some food! She had been staring at my food for a few weeks now and definitely seemed interested in our meals. I had all of these illusions of grandeur…purees in ice cube trays would fill our freezer (along with the bags and bags of frozen breastmilk I would pump). Nugget would delight in the creative recipes and interesting mixtures of fruit and veggies I would come up with. This would be fun!
About two weeks into purees (we got as far as bananas and peas), I read about something called “baby-led weaning”–BLW for short. The term “weaning” is not what we think of in American English…not quitting something, like breastfeeding, but rather, “eating”. Baby led eating. Hmm. Sounds interesting. Tell me more!
The more I read about it, the more it intrigued me…and the more it made sense! I had read that for younger babies, the gag reflex is located towards the front of the mouth (as opposed to the back, for adults). When spoon feeding a younger baby, we are bypassing the gag reflex. Baby learns to swallow first, then chew later (when solids are introduced). With BLW, the baby is in charge of putting the food into his own mouth. There will be lots of gagging at first but he will eventually learn how to move the food around in his mouth and then swallow. Much to my surprise, teeth weren’t necessary at all! The baby’s salivary glands help break down the food!
I was fascinated. Hubs was terrified.
I did the prerequisite “reset” (where you go back to just breastmilk or formula for a week or so to help baby forget what she’s just learned) before delving into the world of BLW. We’ve never looked back!
KEY CONCEPTS OF BLW
- Offer babe whatever you and the family are eating. This made so much sense to me! I loved this. Growing up, my siblings and I always ate whatever my parents ate. There was no “kids’ menu” at our house…and we never ordered from the kids’ menu at restaurants either. Everybody eats the same thing.
- Put food on the babe’s high chair tray and let her feed herself. Model how to eat by eating with her. Eat together as a family. Again, this made so much sense. Let’s eat together. Babe will learn by watching me and by doing. Sure, a ton of food made its way onto the floor (and into our dog’s belly)…or in Nugget’s hair…or her clothes…but it was all part of the learning process. We eat together…talk to one another…connect as a family, baby included.
- Cut food into finger length and finger sized pieces. Round foods, like grapes, should be quartered lengthwise. Berries should be smashed before offering. The long pieces make it easier for Nugget to grab and pick up food. Brilliant!
- Babe will probably gag. As scary as it is to witness, gagging is ok and perfectly normal! If baby’s face is red, do not intervene by sticking your finger in her mouth–you could end up pushing the food farther down baby’s throat. Give her a chance to work it out on her own. If baby turns blue, that is another story. Many parents who do BLW feel more confident after taking an infant CPR class or learning what to do in case of choking.
**Babe should be sitting up on his own before offering food (most pediatricians recommend 6 months, for gut development). Babe should be sitting upright in a high chair, on the floor, or on an adult’s lap only.**
BENEFITS OF BLW
- Our family accidentally started eating healthier. It was important to me that Nugget be exposed to as many different foods as possible. I also wanted to make sure she had a balanced meal at every meal…protein, veggie, fruit, fat, and carb. In doing so, the whole family accidentally started eating more balanced meals!
- Nugget eats practically everything we offer her. I’m not sure if this is her personality, the fact that she is exposed to different foods, or directly related to BLW…but I love it. Of course, she is slowly showing us her preferences (e.g., she LOVES raisins but does not care for blueberries) but she’s willing to try everything we put in front of her. It’s wonderful! I hope her lack of pickiness carries over into the toddler years!
- Meal times are at the table. Growing up, my family always had dinner together at the table. Pre-baby, Hubs and I would plop down in front of the TV and eat our meals in the living room. I love that we’ve gone back to a ritual from my childhood. I love connecting and enjoying each other’s company and our food without electronics or media.
- There aren’t multiple menus. I love making one meal for the whole family!
- Nugget loves to feed herself. Enough said!
To learn more, read about my “must have” items for BLW.
Wishing you and your LO good luck on your BLW adventure,