What is baby led weaning? Find out about the trendy approach to starting solids!
If you've got a 4-to-6-month old infant (or even if you've got a younger one!), you may be doing research on starting solids. Your pediatrician will likely tell you to start feeding your baby solids around 4 months, starting with rice cereal and working your way through a slew of purees, one food at a time. What your doctor probably won't tell you is that there is another approach to starting solids that doesn't involve jars or pouches of baby food. It's called baby led weaning.
Read More: Can I Skip Rice Cereal?
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning, also called self-feeding (or BLW), is an approach to starting solids that skips the purees and spoon feeding altogether and goes straight to finger foods when babies are around 6 months old. The approach was popularized by Gill Rapley, who has done extensive research on the topic.
With this approach, babies are in control of what and how much they eat. A better term is probably baby-led feeding, since babies are not actually being weaned from milk at this stage. With BLW, babies use their hands to pick up age-appropriate foods and put them into their mouths themselves. They are guided by their own hunger and fullness cues, rather than a parent or caregiver pushing a spoon into their mouths until the jar or bowl is empty. You read that right - no purees, no rice cereal, no coaxing baby to open his mouth for one more bite of grey-green mush!
It may seem counterintuitive if all you've ever known is purees for young babies, but if you think about it, it's not a new concept. How did babies learn to eat before the invention of rice cereal and purees? By eating soft foods that their parents ate!
Is Baby Led Weaning Better Than Spoon Feeding?
I'm all for the self-feeding approach, as are many other dietitians. We used the baby led weaning approach with my two daughters and were very successful. There are several research-backed advantages to baby led weaning, including the likelihood of having more adventurous (read: less picky!) eaters, faster motor-oral development, and ease for parents. That said, the baby led weaning approach may not be the best fit for everyone. If you'd like to learn more about baby led weaning (or BLW), continue reading my articles on the topic here on Baby Led Bliss, or take a deep dive by purchasing Gill Rapley's book, Baby Led Weaning, The Essential Guide or one of my other favorite books on the topic, Born to Eat.
Read More: Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
Is Baby Led Weaning Safe?
Safety is a big concern when feeding little ones. But rest assured, BLW is safe as long as food is an appropriate shape and texture! Read more about the research on safety and my top safety tips.