Baby-Led Weaning

Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, co-authors of “The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook,” offer 6 suggestions about one approach to introducing solid foods to Baby.

1. What is baby-led weaning and what are the beneifts of this approach?

Baby-led weaning is a commonsense and enjoyable approach to introducing solid foods. It’s based on a baby’s natural development in his first year, and allows a baby to feed himself – there’s no spoon feeding and no purees. Babies participate in healthy family meals, eating with their fingers (and later with cutlery), choosing what to eat, how much and how quickly. Babies love it and it encourages them to enjoy healthy food and family mealtimes.

2. What are the top 5 benefits of BLW?

1. It allows the baby to start solid foods at the right time and pace for her developing body.

2. It develops a baby’s hand-eye coordination, dexterity and chewing skills.

3. It makes picky eating less likely by introducing many tastes, textures and colors of food.

4. It establishes good eating habits that can last a lifetime, helping to avoid obesity and other food-related problems.

5. It includes babies in family meals and lessens the stress of mealtimes for parents.

3. When should baby-led weaning start?

Most babies don’t need anything other than milk before 6 months, which is internationally recommended minimum age for solid foods. It is also the age when most babies are able to sit up, reach for and grab food, get it to their mouths and chew. It is these abilities that make baby-led weaning work and keeps it safe. Very few babies can do all these things before 6 months.

4. Which meal should parents start with?

There is no need to stick to specific meals or times of the day. Just give your baby the chance to join in with family mealtimes, or whenever anyone else is eating. Think of it as an opportunity for play and exploration, rather than for eating. Try to choose times when your baby isn’t hungry or tired, so that interest is maintained. Milk feeds should carry on being offered on demand, separately from the shared meals.

5. What foods are best to start with?

Unless the baby has a specific medical condition, or there are allergies in the family, any foods are suitable provided they can be presented in a size, shape and texture that the baby can handle, don’t have added salt or sugar, and are not highly processed. Stick shapes are best at first, with meal well cooked and harder fruit and vegetables cooked so that they are soft but not soggy.

6. Isn’t there a risk that a baby will choke?

This risk is no more likely than with other methods of solid feeding, providing that the baby is sitting upright, that only the baby is allowed to put food into his or her mouth, and that an adult is present.

Gill Rapley is an expert infant feeding and child development. She developed the theory of baby-led weaning while studying babies’ developmental readiness for solid foods as part of her mater’s degree. She is also mom to three children. Tracey Murkett is a freelance journalist and mom to one who followed baby-led weaning with her daughter.