Baby Led Weaning was a concept started in the 1980’s which involved a significant change in the way we introduce babies to solids. Traditionally babies started solids from as early as 4 months old and began with very smooth pureed versions of any food.
Baby Led Weaning takes a different approach – allowing baby to self feed with solid foods straight away. According to the philosophy this approach has a range of benefits over starting your baby on pureed foods.
There is some controversy surrounding the approach, some say it increases the potential for choking and that babies don’t get enough nutrition but there are also many potential benefits of introducing solids this way.
Because babies skip the pureed food stage they explore the real tastes and textures of foods sooner. They also learn to suck and chew food. This gives them a more real food experience earlier potentially making them less picky eaters later on.
Instead of having well meaning parents over feeding them spoonful after spoonful, self feeding babies learn to stop eating according to their fullness. This establishes normal, healthy eating habits early.
Another benefit of Baby Led Weaning is that baby can eat pretty much the same as the rest of the family, reducing the need to prepare special food for baby.
The down side:
Choking: It can be scary watching your baby gag and splutter when they start solid foods. Gagging is a normal reflex and will occur as baby learns to manage chunks of food. When introducing solid foods start with softer foods, such as cooked veges, avocado, etc. Introduce different textures and firmer foods slowly as confidence increases. Always supervise babies when they are eating and keep a close eye for choking. The general rule is that choking is silent while gagging makes a noise.
Mess: There is always going to be a level of messiness when baby starts solids. Unlike spoon feeding from a bowl where you have some control, when baby is allowed to feed themselves it means a large amount of it ends up in places other than babies mouth including the floor, their hair, your hair, their ears, shoes and pretty much anywhere else within a 3 metre radius. (I recommend a dog- they do a great job of cleaning up the scraps leaving you only to sanitize the area after them!)
How much are they actually eating? When Baby is self feeding it can be hard to tell how much has actually been eaten. (As mentioned above a lot ends up in places other than their mouth). It is recommended to supplement their diet by spoon feeding some food and continuing milk feeds – as much as baby will take.
For more tips and guidance on Baby Led Weaning you can get the book Baby Led Weaning (aff link) written by the originators of the of the philosophy Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett