What is baby led weaning and why should you choose this method of introducing solids to your little one? Learn the research-backed benefits of baby led weaning and decide if it's right for you.
Baby led weaning is becoming ever more popular with new parents. If you or someone you know has an infant, it's likely you've heard the term. Baby led weaning is a method of introducing solids to infants where traditional spoon-fed purees are skipped. Instead, baby uses his or her hands to self-feed foods that the rest of the family is eating.
New here? Read: What Is Baby Led Weaning?
If you're on the fence about which method to use for starting solids with your little one but are interested in BLW, let me share with you some of the benefits, and the reasons I ultimately chose this method.
Top 7 Benefits of Baby Led Weaning Vs Purees:
1. Improved dexterity and oral-motor development skills
When babies are allowed to feed themselves, they start practicing their motor development skills for feeding right away. That means they get to use and refine their hand-eye coordination, pincer grasp, and even using utensils multiple times a day. They also get to practice chewing and swallowing skills earlier, so they develop in these areas more quickly.
2. Exploration and Discovery
With baby led weaning, babies get to spend a lot of time exploring different tastes and textures of foods versus single food purees, which have limited seasoning. Being introduced to a wide variety of interesting foods early on has many benefits, including more nutrients, willingness to try new foods and…
3. Less Picky Eating
Because BLW babies get to experience (and get used to trying) so many different foods, flavors and textures, they are more likely to be adventurous eaters as toddlers and kids, leading to less picky eating for years to come. Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters, and limiting exposure to a select few purees and pouches can increase the likelihood of picky eating.
4. Increased Nutritional Value
Because baby eats what the rest of the family is eating with BLW, she gets to enjoy fresh, whole foods instead of packaged purees that often lose a good bit of nutritional value during processing. Assuming the family is eating a well balanced meal, then bite for bite, baby is getting more nutrients packed into a single bite than with watered-down, jarred purees.
5. Convenience For Parents
No blending, freezing, baby food jars, or expensive pouches. Baby eats what you eat! Parents simply offer texturally and nutritionally appropriate foods from their plates to babies. Not only is it easier for parents because they don't have to prepare an extra meal, it's also less expensive!
6. Encourages a Low Stress Meal Time
Not only is it more convenient to allow baby to eat what you're already preparing, it's also more enjoyable for the whole family at mealtimes! Allowing baby to participate in mealtimes as a member of the family who feeds himself is not only a better experience for him, it's also a better experience for parents. Both parents get to enjoy their meals together with the family, rather than one spoon-feeding baby while the rest of the family eats. There is no pressure for baby to eat a certain amount, and parents have their hands free to eat their own meals. It's less stressful all around and sets the mood for positive family meals early on.
7. Sets The Stage For A Positive Relationship With Food
Because babies feed themselves with BLW, they start to develop eating patterns based on appetite rather than external factors (spoons of purees being shoved in their mouths). This means they are more likely to respond to their natural, bulit-in hunger and fullness cues, setting the stage for life-long habits of self-regulation and body trust. It's teaching babies to eat intuitively right from the start.
Is BLW Right For Everyone?
While I absolutely LOVE the baby led weaning approach, it may not be the best choice for every family, and that's okay! Do what works for you. Babies with disabilities or developmental delays that affect swallowing or other oral-motor skills may not do well with BLW. Or they may do great! I suggest having an evaluation by a qualified SLP to determine if BLW is safe and to learn how to modify it to fit your needs. Some other families may find that purees are just better for them. Here are some questions you can ask to determine if BLW is right for you. At the end of the day, whatever the approach, I encourage you to practice responsiveness and respect for baby's cues.