Baby led weaning

What is Baby led weaning?

Overview

Baby-led weaning (often abbreviated to BLW) is a different approach to weaning your baby. Rather than the more traditional approach of offering purées on weaning spoons, the baby is simply allowed to feed themselves. Babies love to copy adults and older children and try to grab food from their plates.

When starting out with baby led weaning, the baby should be presented with a plate of varied finger food from which to choose. Foods should offer different textures, colours and tastes. One theory is that the baby will choose foods with the nutrients that they may be lacking.

Babies learn best by watching and imitating others. Allowing them to share the same food as the rest of the family promotes learning and includes them in family meals from an early age. By 6 months of age, babies begin to grasp with their hands and to chew, making this an ideal time to introduce finger foods for them to improve their new skills.

Finger foods can be a much less stressful way of feeding. Often a baby will refuse food offered on a spoon but readily accept it if they can help themselves.

The World Health Organisation recommend that solid food is only introduced to a babies diet after 6 months when the child's digestive sysem and their motor skills and sufficiently developed to cope.

How do I know if my baby is ready for BLW?

It is very important not to start baby led weaning too early. Your baby should show developmental signs that they are ready to try solid foods. Babies should be able to sit upright (on a lap/knee, in a highchair or unsupported), they should be eager to participate in mealtimes and ideally trying to grab food and put it in their mouth.

Safety during baby led weaning

Most parents are comfortable with the idea of giving their baby puréed food but it can sound more dangerous to give a young infant finger food. However, it is thought that the baby led method is less likely to lead to choking as initially babies are not able to move food from the front of their mouth to the back until they have learned to chew.

Accordingly, they do not learn to chew food until they have grasped how to hold objects and put them in their mouth. Thus the baby's general development of skills moves along with their ability to manage food.

Parents should avoid the temptation to place food in the baby's mouth. If the baby cannot pick up and hold the food themselves, they are unlikely to be able to manage chewing and swallowing it. If your child puts food too far into their mouth, they usually clear it quickly by coughing or gagging until it is back out. It is important that the baby is sat straight and well supported when eating.

Most importantly, your baby should NOT be left unattended during baby-led weaning just in case they do choke and need assistance.

Baby led weaning guidelines

  1. To begin with the baby should be allowed to reject food and this type of food can be offered again at a later date.
  2. Allow your child to decide how much they want to eat. Avoid filling up at the end of meals with a spoon.
  3. Do not rush meals. Allow sufficient time for a relaxed meal.
  4. Give small sips of water during meals.
  5. Begin by giving soft fruits and vegetables that your baby can easily "mush" with their gums and tongue. Harder foods can be cooked to make them soft enough to chew.
  6. Give food in baton shaped pieces or shapes that are easy for you child to grasp e.g. cooked carrot sticks or broccoli florets.
  7. Avoid obviously dangerous foods such as nuts which can cause either serious allergic reactions or choking.
  8. Other foods which cannot be made into finger foods such as oatmeal and yoghurt can be given using a spoon so that your baby can eventually learn to spoon feed themself.

Baby led weaning recipes and meal ideas

There are a number of suitable recipes within our children's finger food section. Please make sure that you check the age that the meals are suitable for before offering them to your child.