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Baby Led Weaning

February 21, 2013

I first heard the term ‘Baby Led Weaning (BLW)’ around the Internet and my curiosity was piqued. After some web based research and reading the book on the subject by Gill Rapley, I brought the idea to A and we decided to try this approach to start Molly on solids. (FYI, the term weaning doesn’t mean replacing breastfeeding with food, rather it means that breastfeeding is no longer the only source of nourishment).

The basic idea of BLW is to let your baby decide when they’re ready for food. Starting at six months, you begin offering your baby foods (not puréed but soft enough for them to handle) and allow them to feed themselves. If they don’t like it, don’t force it. If they don’t eat, don’t force it. Try again at another time. In the meantime, continue breastfeeding (or formula feeding).

_DSC3314 (1280x848)I love the idea of BLW for several reasons:

  • It’s a natural extension of on demand breast feeding. Since I trust her to tell me when she’s hungry for and when she’s full of milk, it stands to reason that once she realizes food is filling, she’ll be able to do the same in that situation.
  • There’s less prep work for me. She’ll eat what we eat!
  • It teaches her to manipulate food herself
  • We’re letting her decide developmentally when she’s ready to eat.
  • It promotes a healthy attitude towards food and allows her to figure out for herself when she’s full, rather than us telling her when she’s done
  • She gets to explore texture and colour of food in it’s original form

There are of course concerns surrounding it. There’s the fear of baby choking to contend with. But from what I read and have seen when watching Molly over the past few months, babies are equipped with natural mechanisms in their mouth to prevent choking, such as a gag reflex that’s not as far back as an adults and the tongue thrust reflex if they’re not ready for anything in their mouths yet. By allowing then to feed themselves, these instincts kick in and they learn to recognize what they can handle.

And of course nutritional needs are always at the forefront of food discussions, particularly baby’s need for iron. It’s true that around six months a baby’s iron stores start depleting. But the decline is gradual and as long as you start incorporating foods that are good iron sources and continue breastfeeding or giving baby formula, all iron needs will be met. Iron fortified cereals do not provide an easily digestible source of iron. And take it from someone who needs iron supplementation beyond anything my diet can give me: Iron is tough on the digestive tract!

I’m not opposed to puréed food, and who knows, we might end up doing that too, but everything I’ve mentioned makes sense to A and I and so on with the baby led weaning!

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A few weeks ago, on a  Saturday, the three of us sat down for lunch, with Molly in her highchair. We’ve been sitting her in her high chair for a few months now while we eat, to get her used to it.  I started her off with some avocado, cut into slices. It’s soft, has a mild flavour and is a nutritional powerhouse! It’s one of my favourite foods and I would love it if Molly shared that love.

Molly was stripped to her diaper and I’m glad we did that! As soon as I put the avocado on the tray, she dove in and within seconds her face, torso and arms had taken on a green hue. Despite the book advising not to, I watched her like a hawk, ready to jump in if she got into trouble. But trouble wasn’t to be found. She had no problem getting it to her mouth, since that’s a skill my daughter excels at! Everything goes to her mouth. It was hilarious watching her face as she maneuvered small bits into her mouth. You could see her jaw working as she moved it around with her tongue, wondering at the texture and taste. She wasn’t quite sure what to think. At one point she took a big piece into her mouth and I held my breath…but after a bit of moving around, she spit it out, recognizing it was too big.

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It’s hard to trust that your baby will know what to do with food, but since we trust that Molly rolled when she was ready, will crawl and walk and talk when she’s ready, it seems likely that she’ll eat when she’s ready and handle it just fine. Since avocado she’s tried banana, carrots, apple, red pepper, rice, broccoli and oatmeal. We’re going slow because of food allergies in the family, trying to follow the three day rule where you only introduce one new food every three days so that you can easily pinpoint the cause of an allergic reaction.

This week I’m introducing toast fingers with cream cheese on them, peaches and we’re giving yogurt a go. This is where I’ll be tweaking the BLW concept a bit, as she can’t quite get a full spoonful of yogurt into her mouth. But our trip to the doctor for her six month appointment showed that her weight gain has slowed a bit and my doctor recommended more fatty foods, such as yogurt. I’m not overly concerned about this, knowing that weight gain tends to slow around her age, but it can’t hurt!

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All in all so far we’re doing great! Molly’s having a blast and so are we watching her experience new tastes and sensations. And I still get plenty of quiet nursing time with my baby girl, who is growing up way too fast.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2013 9:46 am

    This is awesome! I wish I weren’t so afraid to try this myself. How do you prepare hard fruits and veggies for her? Is there a recipe book for BLW?

    • February 21, 2013 11:15 am

      I’ve been streaming or roasting the veggies, cutting into sticks when I can, which are easier for her to handle. I just got a crinkle cutter to try on the more slippery foods to give her a better grip. Bananas naturally split into sticks lengthwise, which I didn’t realize until I read it! I’ve given her big chunks of cucumber and red pepper raw to knaw on. Great for teething!
      There is a recipe book I think but haven’t read it, just the basic instruction book.

  2. February 21, 2013 12:33 pm

    That’s awesome that Molly likes avocado! Isla hates it, even after a couple tries of spoon feeding. Maybe next time I’ll just let her try it on her own terms – who knows!

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