What’s Baby-Led-Weaning (& Should You Be Trying It)?
Baby-Led Weaning involves giving baby foods at family meal times instead of pureed food. Future Foody expert Larissa discusses the impacts for your baby.
5 min read
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a process where you give your baby soft foods during family meal times & allow baby to learn chewing instead of using pureed baby foods.
So what is baby-led weaning?
The theory behind BLW is that it will improve oral motor development, as well as help to create a sensory experience for your baby by experimenting with foods that have different textures. Baby will be eating the ‘same’ meal as the rest of the family, therefore, creating a more social experience & potentially avoiding baby becoming a fussy eater.
BLW babies often have a more delayed start to solids, due to the skills needed, so they can miss the window of opportunity to learn to eat/chew which happens at 7-11 months of age. There is also a risk that babies don’t get to experience purees resulting in missed exposure to the puree texture.
So which is better: traditonal purees or BLW?
Purees are considered to be the best first food for babies due to their texture and being safer in terms of choking. Purees are also more likely to be nutrient-dense as plenty of nutrients can be packed into a puree.
Studies have shown limited evidence to date that suggests BLW encourages positive outcomes over purees. Proponents of BLW have always suggested that the method offers a range of benefits for babies: from better appetite control, to a broader diet and even motor skill development.
Initially, these suggestions came from anecdotal experience in practice, followed by other small-scale observational studies.
Baby-led infants are more likely to have tried a whole food as their first food and for that to be a food from the family diet. A central element of the baby-led approach is allowing the infant to self-feed. While parents typically perceive the baby-led approach to have a positive impact upon diet, some practitioners perceive it as a risk. The risk is that infants may consume foods that are unsuitable, e.g. being too high in sodium content or being a choking hazard.
In terms of actual nutrient intake, only the BLISS study has examined this and found no differences between the groups for consumption of ‘fruit and fruit juice’, ‘vegetables’ and ‘bread, pasta, rice and low sugar cereals’. For overall macronutrient intake, there were no significant differences between the groups.
The best approach? The most flexible
So are you confused about what feeding approach you should take with your baby? We’re not surprised!
At Future Foody we believe you don’t need to pick just one approach and you also don’t need to label it. We know that picky eaters can still develop as children’s taste buds and behaviours evolve. It’s most important that a happy and positive food environment is created at home.
Starting on purees not only gives your baby time to develop the new skill of eating but it also gives you, as a parent, confidence too – as we know this stage can be scary for everyone. If parents offer unsafe foods or foods in the wrong shape or size they could become a choking hazard.
The flip side to this is relying on smooth purees for too long. Parents are often scared of choking and the same scenario plays out where babies have missed the important window of easy learning and intuition. Of course, they can still learn these skills and will learn to eat but it may be more challenging.
Try a hybrid method
We offer 3 stages of purees for your baby:
Stage 1 – smooth; stage 2 – mashed and stage 3 – lumpy!
Finger food can be offered alongside purees from 8 months old. We believe that it is important that you find what works best for your baby and your family.
Start with purees such as our Stage 1 range (or try your own at home!) but also incorporate some BLW principles when feeding. Let them get messy at meal times, give them the opportunity to explore their puree and self-feed and feed them during family meal times with similar food to create a positive and social experience.
Larissa’s advice originally appears here on the Future Foody site, where you can view her references.