Baby Led Weaning

By Yogita Bhuller

When the babies were 3months old it dawned on me that I should look at weaning as that was the next stage to figure out.  I kept seeing BLW everywhere (bacon, lettuce and w???) it took me a while to understand what baby led weaning was all about, but I knew that I liked the sound of it, with a bit of a nudge from the weaning workshop run through TTC I felt that BLW was right for us.

 So what is BLW?

In a nutshell it’s starting solids without the mush and spoon feeding.  The idea is that babies can have normal food from 6months (all the baby books advise starting finger foods at 6months anyway) so instead of pureeing you just give them finger foods, the babies play and learn through handling and gumming the food and eventually (hopefully) start eating it.

Why BLW?

Healthy diet

I like food, love it in fact, eating it though, I’m just not a keen or great cook!  One of my biggest concerns is passing on my terrible eating habits to the babies.  I’ve known since they appeared in our lives that I wanted to feed them well which in turn would hopefully change my diet too.  I have been reluctant to try readymade jars anyway, this way I cook fresh food most days for us all to eat.

Babies in control

One theory with BLW is that babies are in charge of their own portion control so don’t overeat (only a small study so not scientific) but it is noticeable that the amount they eat varies meal to meal and your really can’t force them to eat.

Time saving

With homemade purees you spend all that time cooking food, then mushing it up.  I figured by avoiding the mushing I would save myself some time.

I leave the food in front of the babies and they feed themselves.  I don’t have to sit and spoon feed, I can move around, prep some fruit for dessert, have a cup of coffee while the babies entertain themselves for a bit.

Patience

I am learning the art of patience.  I have to allow about 40minutes from start to finish (including cleaning up after) for each meal.  If we need to go out, I need to make sure they sit down to eat earlier and not hurry them.  Eating should be enjoyable for them and they shouldn’t feel rushed.  I have learnt to sit and chat to them and explain what they’re eating and enjoy it because watching your six month old munch on a stick of cheese is just wonderful!

When to start

I know that the WHO advises against anything but milk until babies are 6months old, so I waited (and waited and waited or so it felt!) The babies were sitting up with some assistance, reaching and grabbing everything and it was all going in their mouths, I figured they were ready, so I finally gave the babies their first taste of solids at 24½ weeks.

We sat them in their highchairs, bibs on, newspaper on the floor, camera in hand.  I had cucumber sticks and steamed carrot sticks at the ready.  I left a piece of each food on each tray and watched….

I didn’t have to wait long of course as to the babies it was just something orange and something green to put in their mouths, but this time when they gummed it, it gave a little, and pieces of it even came apart in their mouths, unlike the plastic toys they were used to putting in their mouths.

I had been told by friends who had tried BLW not to expect much to be eaten, one had even said her daughter hadn’t started eating til 10months, so I had very low expectations.  But within a few days the nappies were telling their own stories, bits of carrot, a chunk of red pepper, ooh and the smell! Why did no-one warn me that you can smell broccoli a mile off?!!

The babies will be 8months old next week. Watching them learning different grips through food has been great, going from sticks to mixed shapes and sized food chunks and more recently to small bits of cereal and grape halves, they are on their way to developing their pincer grip (thumb and forefinger grip which is the fine motor grip for pretty much everything we ever do like writing, doing up laces all sorts).  The other amazing thing is watching how they just know which bits to eat and which bits to avoid.  I usually give them foods with skins on and they will either nibble off the soft bits, but quite often they will stick the whole chunk in their mouths, suck all the yummy bits off and eventually spit out the skin.  They are developing their own tastes, one like tomatoes the other enjoys red peppers, but they always try out everything that is put in front of them even if it’s something they decide they don’t like in the end they seem to give everything a go.

The babies have tried most vegetables that can be cut into sticks, lots of soft fleshy fruits, cheese, chicken, fishcakes, meatballs.  Their staple is still carrot and cucumber but they love roasted butternut squash, perfect in time for Halloween!!  We’ve just started cooking proper meals (pasta bakes, Hubby made a mild chicken curry and they loved it!) so that’s the next goal, having proper food that we can all enjoy together as ultimately that’s the point of BLW: to be able to eat the same food together.

The negatives:

Mess. It does tend to go all over the place, avocado facials, banana hair masks, it’s all good though as they’re good sized pieces of food it’s easier to pick up.  Also I tend to eat what they discard so I’m getting my 5 a day!!  The thing about the mess is that I know they are learning by squashing their food, in the early days they would pick things up with great gusto and mush it up, now they are better at controlling their strength and take more care when picking things up (ok they mush stuff up but I think they enjoy the sensation and seeing it squelch!)

Other people: trying to explain that you don’t intend to puree is like a job in itself, most people don’t understand.  Then there are those that come round at meal times and try putting food into the babies mouths and you have to explain that the babies will feed themselves (cue incredulous expression)

Choking/gagging: it’s not really a negative, it’s just something to be aware of and ready for.  It’s not pleasant to watch and can be worrying, the hardest part is not jumping up and thumping their backs when they are gagging.  A baby’s gag reflex is further forwards than an adults, it’s protective to prevent them choking, it just means they tend to choke a lot initially, but this lessens in time too.  You just have to watch them when they eat and monitor any gagging/choking episodes.  You soon learn when they’re ok and in all honesty I’ve never had to intervene, they will gag cough and spit out the offending item.

Equipment:

Bibs: Long sleeved (elasticated, not like the loose sleeved ones I first bought, apricot juice right up the sleeves with them!), preferably plastic backing for those water spills!

Floor/splash mat: The amount of food that gets dropped, picked up and returned to the tray meant newspaper was not a long term solution.  I’m thinking whether baby led or puree you’re going to need one! Any recommendations welcome!  It’s that or a new floor in a year or two!

Highchairs: we have the Baby Bjorn ones as our twins are on the smaller side but seemed to fit comfortably in the BB highchairs.  There are no straps or harnesses so much easier for me when cleaning up and it means the babies have their arms completely free to reach the whole of the tray in front of them.  Expensive but have been worth every penny.

That’s it, no blenders, no ice cube trays, just what you have at home anyway to make your own meals.

Useful info:

Gill Rapley: Baby led weaning (book and cookbook, although you could just buy the cookbook as it outlines the basic info in there, the main book is probably better to give to grandparents and anyone else that frowns at what you’re doing)
http://www.babyledweaning.com/

Any further questions please contact Yogita at