For those of you reading who have children in grade school or beyond, perhaps the concept of Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a bit foreign. For those of us still in the trenches toddlerdom and sleepless nights with hungry babes, I have a feeling you have come across this concept. Likely during one of MANY middle-of-the-night feedings in which you are pinned to your rocker, passing the time perusing Pinterest or chatting with fellow Mommy’s about what is normal.
At least this is how I came across the concept (Working on that phone addiction, I promise!).
As a registered dietitian, I was taught about feeding basics for babies in school. I was handed a book by the infamous Ellyn Satter during a stint at WIC. And I even attended a conference solely in support of breastfeeding. But little did I know, all of the books in the world, can NOT prepare you for what you face as a mom.
I remember being filled with excitement about making our own baby food! Stocking up on baby cookbooks with intriguing concoctions such as butternut squash and pear or spinach and peas. I even made a few of the more advanced recipes, but as a working mom who quickly found out she was pregnant with No. 2 (then while feeding No. 2, I realized I was pregnant with No. 3…), with each feeding that my little man turned his nose up at the colorful meal I prepared, I felt less and less enthusiasm. I found myself sticking with the basics of mashed avocado, sweet potato, banana, and squashes (with the random purchase of manufactured pouch purees to add variety).
And then, I realized there was a better way. Moreso, an EASIER way.
For me, the simplicity came with BLW.
With this concept, you ditch the effort of pureeing and spoonfeeding your kiddos and allow them to FEED THEMSELVES! What a revelation? Most babies do not yet have the motor skills needed to do so until they are at least 6 months old, which is truly another reason I love this art. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics AND World Health Organization are in support of holding off on introducing solids until 6 months, despite the push of many older generations who encourage young moms to start feeding as early as 3 months – before your baby’s digestive tract has even had a chance to prepare for the massive task of digesting solids. There is also research indicating that BLW may reduce your little one’s risk of childhood obesity later in life – largely because by letting baby take charge of the feeding process, we are enabling them to listen and respect their own hunger and satiety cues, without us pushing them to have “just one more bite” or to finish off the entire pouch or jar.
Let me repeat that. You no longer have to sit and spoon feed EVERY bite and EVERY meal, AND you are quite likely setting your child up for a healthy lifestyle!? SOLD.
Starting out, I offered our little man soft, graspable pieces of whatever our meal entailed. Steamed carrot sticks, grilled zucchini, corn on the cob, sweet potatoe rounds, jicama sticks, rotini noodles, mini bagels, Pinchable Pancakes, French Toast Sticks, nut butter rolls, peanut butter banana bites, even my lactation cookies. Then, as he became more adept at picking up smaller pieces, I offered beans, peas and truly anything we were eating that was not salt or sugar laden and did not seem to pose a choking hazard.
Easy peasy! And it was SO much fun! With baby No. 3 on the way, I am so excited to be able to go through this process once again. Each child is so very unique, I know our little lady will be teaching me just as much as I am teaching her throughout the entire feeding process (when does that actually end, again!?).
Although I am a huge proponent of BLW, I certainly did not ban purees in our home.
When our boys would go to my mom’s, she was not as keen on the idea of BLW, so she used a healthy combination. Typically serving something like a peanut butter rollup with a purchased pouch of vegetable puree or some of her own mashed banana.
A happy balance!
By incorporating both feeding methods your little one is able to explore a greater variety of tastes and textures, while still furthering their fine motor skills by picking up their food or grasping the spoon.
I promise. If you are not having fun introducing solids, let me know! It should be a pleasant experience for both parties involved.
If BLW is too nerve wrecking for you, stick with purees. If purees are too tedious for you, try BLW. If it changes by the day, mix things up. Do what works for you and your child. Just keep it fun and remember that this entire introductory phase is more about learning and exporing than it is about nutrition. Before the age of one baby is primarily relying on the nourishment of breastmilk or formula, so PLEASE do not stress out when more food ends up on the floor than in your cutie’s mouth.
Consider them little scientists with each meal as a new experiment 🙂
Wishing you the very best as you get started in this new adventure, bite by sloppy bite.
Unitl next time, Happy Feeding!
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