Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a term that’s been around since 2008 when a book was published titled “Baby-led Weaning” by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. The idea is that instead of feeding your little one pureed food at around 6 months, the introduction to solids takes the form of soft, baby-bite sized pieces of food, similar to what the grown ups are eating. The pieces of whole foods should be presented for the baby to explore using their sense of sight, touch, smell and taste.
Many parents worry too much about the choking risk – the real risk may not be as bad as it seems, with studies on the topic confirming the risk is about the same for choking in babies who undergo BLW versus those who do not – see here and here. It is always wise to be cautious though, so pay attention as always and watch out for genuine choking (versus the gagging and spitting that normally happens).
So which foods are best to try? Anything that is big enough to fit in their hand, and is not an obvious choking hazard can be tried. Some known foods that can lead to choking are grapes, nuts and popcorn. It should also be soft (eg. steamed vegetables or poached meat that is shredded). Try not to add sauces and seasonings that change the natural flavour of the food. This disguising of the real flavour can lead to a fussy eater when it is taken away.
Some other points to consider:
- Be patient and try not to show frustration or praise when they do or don’t eat the solids you lay out for them. They need to be left to their own devices.
- Offer plenty of variety and let them play with it!
- Get the whole family at the table so they feel part of the team and this gives them a chance to bond
- BLW is great for developing fine motor skills, and also develops their own self regulation of when to stop eating from being full. A more open palate and a healthier relationship with food should result in the future, or so the theory goes!
Many parents combine the baby-led weaning approach with spooning of pureed foods, often out of neccesity if they are struggling to get baby to eat the solids. It certainly does not have to be all-or-nothing, so use your judgement about what is best for your baby.