So, what is baby led weaning?
Simply put, baby led weaning is a method of introducing solids in which you simply allow baby to feed themselves. This often means forgoing purees and instead going straight to soft, mashable finger foods (like banana or avocado). (I love this website for more in depth info.)
Why did WE choose baby led weaning?
As a breastfeeding mother, I feel very strongly about breastfeeding on demand...allowing my daughter to nurse whenever she needed/wanted, for as long as she wanted. For me, baby led weaning was a very natural extension of that. Rather than feeding her myself, I was placing the food in front of her so that she could eat if she wanted, but wasn't being forced to if she wasn't interested.
Likewise, I'm also a huge advocate for not rushing a baby to start solids before they are 100% ready. I wait until they are at least 6 months old and watch for all signs of readiness before even attempting to introduce solids, allowing them to breastfeed exclusively for as long as possible. For my son, that wasn't until he was about 7.5 months old, but my daughter was actually showing all before 6 months, and though we pushed it off until that point, starting so soon still worried me a bit. She was showing the signs of readiness. but was she REALLY ready? By allowing her to feed herself, I felt more comfortable knowing that I was leaving that choice up to her.
How did we do it?
As I said, typically speaking baby led weaning means completely skipping 'baby foods' altogether. Personally, I did a mix up of options for my daughter. Primarily she WAS given a variety of soft foods like avocado and banana, or steamed veggie like squash or broccoli, BUT there were a few foods that I gave her mashed as well... like carrots and sweet potatoes. They were never pureed, but more the consistency of a later stage of store bought food. However, even when introducing mashed foods we allowed her to feed herself with her own spoon, which she surprisingly mastered very early on with no problems!
We started at 6 months. Rather than feeding her ourselves, we gave her small pieces of soft foods and just let her do with it as she pleased. (Note: We did introduce one food at a time, every three days as is typically recommended when introducing solids due to an increased allergy risk.) For the first few months, we found she played with it more than she ate it. Occasionally she would eat a few bites, but mostly it was experimenting with the new textures and the occasional taste. I never saw this beginning stage as in any way a necessary means of nutrition, as she was still breastfeeding on demand as well, but more of a supplementary source instead. At around 9 months old, she began eating more and more, as she was ready.
- At 2 years old, my daughter is a fantastic eater. She will eat just about anything at least once (she even enjoys spicy foods!), and often chooses healthier options like fruits, veggie and cottage cheese over less healthy snack options. I believe this is in large part due to offering her a variety of foods early on.
- It saved time! Because I wasn't having to take the time to spoon feed my daughter, it allowed us to all truly eat as a family. I did not have to wait until she had finished to eat my now cold food, she ate on her own, right along with us.
- It encouraged independence. If you try to feed her now, my daughter will snatch the spoon right from your hand...she loves doing it herself!
- There was no transition period from purees to table food, it was a much more natural progression than first introducing purees, then having to reteach her to feed herself with a spoon, etc.
- It's messy! Let's be honest, feeding a baby no matter how you do it is going to be messy, but giving baby complete control? Yes, messes are inevitable! That being said, I did find that the mess of steamed veggies was often easier to clean than that of purees!
- More food goes to waste. As I mentioned, in the early days, much more food ended up on the floor than in the belly, so many find this method to be a bit wasteful. I tried to avoid excess waste by giving small bits at a time, but you are still inevitably find that some food will go uneaten.
Overall, I found for us, baby led weaning was the perfect, natural extension of breastfeeding and it worked wonderfully for our family. Is it the best choice for everyone? I cannot say for sure, but its what worked for us. I highly encourage you to learn more and see if this option is a good fit for your baby!
Did you do baby led weaning? How was your experience? Any advice to share?
Do you plan to try BLW? Are there any questions or concerns you would like to have answered?