For my upcoming baby I´m thinking to explore and try Baby Led Weaning (BLW), an alternative way of complementary feeding that originated in UK, is trendy in the US and has an increasing popularity in Latin America. BLW is a method for introducing solid foods that doesn´t involve spoon feeding and purees. If you are not familiar, here are the basics of BLW that every RD should know:
Why? After 6 months of exclusive on demand breastfeeding where the baby regulates the amount he eats, BLW allows him to continue with this self-regulation in a natural way. The initial goal is more didactic than nutritional: it aims for the baby to develop its autonomy, to learn how to coordinate and to explore textures, tastes and sensations.
When? At 6 months (and not before), when the baby can sit and hold pieces with his hands and shows interest in food. Always recommend moms to discuss BLW with the pediatrician.
How? Adults have to offer (by putting directly on the chair tray) healthy, varied and soft foods that the baby can take with their hands. The food is not given by parents. It´s recommended to place baby highchair at the family table and to adapt family meals instead of cooking a totally different meal. Some BWL food examples are:
Pumpkin, potato, sweet potatoes and carrot cubes or sticks
Strips of avocado or ripe fruit such as pear, banana
Steamed broccoli pieces
Chicken or shredded meat
Pieces of egg
Apple & oat muffins
The baby decides whether to grab food and how much is taken to the mouth (goodbye to the spoon and the airplane!). There are not too many food restrictions but to avoid addition of salt and sugar, honey, whole nuts, large fish and seafood, foods with “empty calories” and excess fats.
Pros? The purpose of this practice is to develop a more positive and natural relationship with food. It allows to respect baby´s hunger and interest of food without pressure. Food is not a reward or punishment. Even so, there is no evidence that BLW prevents childhood obesity. More studies are needed to confirm potential benefits.
Cons? Prepare yourself for messy meals and it may demand more time to end a meal. A recent study confirms that babies fed in this way do not have more episodes of choking than those who use traditional feeding methods. Moreover, the UK Department of Health recommends foods in pieces from the beginning of complementary feeding.
No more spoon feeding? Not necessarily. You can easily combine this method with some baby purees with spoon feeding once and then. BLW is not for everyone, some babies (and moms) prefer purees at least at the beginning and later introduce finger foods. It´s essential, whatever the method, not to push or force food when feeding babies, introduce new foods every three or four days and be patient! As professionals, it´s important to support parents in the decisions they made for their child, providing the best information available.
Any experience to share?
Brown, A., Jones, S. W., & Rowan, H. (2017). Baby-Led Weaning: The Evidence to Date. Current Nutrition Reports, 6(2), 148–156.
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