BLW, Baby-led weaning

Beyond spoon-feeding and smooth purées You may have heard about this increasingly popular method of moving babies onto solid foods.

Baby-led weaning (BLW) encourages baby to self-feed. The idea is to place small pieces of age-appropriate food in front of your baby, allowing him to explore and touch the food, and put it in his mouth.

You might present him with a cooked broccoli floret, a soft peeled pear, toast with avocado or a strip of meat. In its purest form, BLW sees babies skip spoon-feeding altogether, and instead try to eat soft solids at family mealtimes.

Self-feeding not only encourages baby to appreciate a food’s colour, texture and smell, but also helps him develop better hand control. Spoon-feeding your baby purées promotes only sucking, whereas his early attempts at eating soft foods further the essential development of new munching, chewing and swallowing patterns.

British infant-welfare nurse Gill Rapley coined the term baby-led weaning about eight years ago. As BLW grows in popularity, its advocates claim that babies end up eating a wide range of foods, can cope with a variety of textures and are less likely to become obese, as they develop the ability to self-regulate how much they eat. (Science has yet to support the latter claim.)

On the downside, BLW is very messy and creates more wastage. At first, it’s likely that baby won’t swallow a lot of the food — he might lick or suck it, and will probably drop it on the floor. There is also a perception that this approach carries a greater risk of choking. (If worries about choking are stopping you from trying BLW, try one of the mesh-covered feeding devices that are available.)

Every baby is different: One may love grasping and munching on family foods, while another may prefer to start with spoon-fed puréed or mashed food. Many mothers choose to combine BLW with spoon-feeding, but no one knows your child better than you, so go with what works best for you and your baby.

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