BLW is the new buzzword in baby feeding in the UK and it’s slowly starting to catch on in the US. Elsewhere in the world, parents have been BLWing as long as anyone can remember.
My first two babies were raised on jars of mush. Pear and apple mush, sweet potato and carrot mush, fruity yoghurt mush. Lots of mush, warmed slightly and fed with a spoon. Messy and mushy.
This time round, I walked down the baby food aisles and saw Gerber, Gerber, Gerber (owned by Nestle for the politically or ethically inclined) .
The funny thing is, according to BLW champion, Gill Rapley, no research has ever actually been done to suggest weaning babies in stages (puree, then small lumps, then bigger lumps) is developmentally beneficial to babies. It’s just the accepted way of doing things. It’s how it’s done. Yet we’ve all seen the baby confused by the introduction of ‘lumps’ – the thbpt, thbpt, thbpt as spat out bits of macaroni or peas fly across the kitchen.
So what’s the alternative? Well, it’s surprisingly simple… and it doesn’t involve blenders, ice cube trays or mixing up special recipes. Your baby is cleverer than you think! Around the age of 6 months, they’ll let you know what to do as they make a grab for your broccoli or your cheese sandwich.
‘But they’ll choke!’ Well… no, they may gag a bit initially, but choking is rare. And after all, baby will need to figure out solid food before they hit college, so now is as good a time as any! Really? Really! The theory of BLW goes that actually, the baby has a great gag reflex – much further forward than older children. This gag reflex makes them spit out the food pretty sharpish if it goes down the wrong way.
The benefits of BLW are right up there – first of all, you can enjoy a meal with your baby! Leave off the salt and they can share your pasta, your fruit salad, a sweet potato fry. Secondly, it is normal – this is how a baby learns! Why do babies put everything in their mouth? Well, to see if it’s edible. Why would nature do this if they couldn’t possibly handle food?
More significantly, BLW introduces babies to food, rather than mush. The baby quickly becomes dextrous enough to handle a strawberry, a piece of mango or a broccoli floret. They study the shape, colour, size and take the time to explore it before chewing it. Their pincer grip develops with their capacity to eat small things and they grow up familiar with making good food choices. Also, when the baby is offered several foods, they will opt for the food that is right for them, rather than licking up indistinguishable mush.
Think about it, would you like to have that shoved into your mouth, without being able to examine, identify or savour what you are eating? The BLW baby will really have the chance to enjoy their food.
Personally, I was doubtful at first. I heard the grave warnings from doubters, but when I looked at who was funding these doubters, some of my fears were alleviated. When I saw the UK’s National Health Service recommends finger foods from 6 months, I was even more assured. So I tried it. Well, my baby tried it. We were at a buffet in Las Vegas and he started grabbing my food. So with a chunk of watermelon, a chunk of cantaloupe and a strawberry, he sat there, examining them, then giving them a suck. Gradually, over the coming weeks, he started to try other foods – lots of fruit, pasta, cheese, then crunchy things like toast, even a little cake. Homemade blueberry pancakes were a quick favourite! And how wonderful to be able to go to a restaurant and offer him some noodles or a piece of bread and butter.
Baby led weaning is such a delightful experience, and such a journey. The ‘rules’ are simple:
- Keep salt intake minimal
- Don’t wean until the baby shows readiness to eat solids (World Health Organisation suggests 6 months, and certainly no solids before 4 months)
- Be careful of foods that are hard and difficult to chew – apples, carrots etc. should be steamed, cooked or grated. Grapes, peanuts etc. are an obvious choking hazard due to their size and shape.
- Babies should eat sitting upright, not leaning back
- No ‘posting’ food into their mouths. Offer the baby food on a tray or a blanket and allow them to choose and explore the food in their own time. If they are not interested, then that’s ok. There’s no rush to get them onto solid food. Take your time! And let the baby take his or her time!
One great tip is to make everything into a manageable size and shape – broccoli for example should have the stem kept on to act as a handle. Crinkle cutters could be used to make mango sticks more graspable.
Good luck if you decide to BLW. It really is the easiest option. And probably the most fun! (although I can’t guarantee it’s any less messy!)
6-7 month old baby Sid enjoying figs, strawberries, banana and noodles!
More information about baby led weaning can be found here:
Or buy Gill Rapley’s book, ‘Baby Led Weaning’
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Consult your health care provider for their recommendations about feeding your baby.