Your baby is at least now six months old and has shown some interest in solid food, so you ask what now? How do I start my baby on solids? And what is this Baby- Led Weaning (BLW) everybody is talking about?
Baby-Led Weaning (BLW for short) is the practice of allowing and encouraging your baby to explore, grab and eat solid food by themselves- also known as self-feeding. This approach also lets them eat as much as they want to as oppose as to giving them a certain amount or serving and having them eat that. BLW approach encourages babies, normally starting from six months, to explore, learn and enjoy food at their own terms to help them develop self-eating and independence.
How is BLW different from spoon-feeding?
With spoon-feeding, parents normally feed their babies purees and other soft or liquid food at their own terms. Babies do not have the freedom and ability to eat and explore food and their preferences freely. With spoon-feeding method, the parents normally give babies a certain amount of food they think it is good or when the baby stops eating it. The parents normally sit their babies on their laps and hold them with their arms and feed them. This restricts the freedom of the baby to move, try to grab and explore his surroundings or have the baby sitting on a highchair while being spoon fed. The baby would normally attempt to grab the utensil and food with his/her hands, but the parent’s reaction is to prevent the baby from doing so because we think they would make a mess or drop everything (which they will but this is part of learning and developing very important motor skills and independence.
On the other hand, Baby-Led Weaning is completely the opposite where the baby is introduced to all sorts of foods (check our other blog about how to introduce solids to babies here) that are very well cooked or steamed until they are soft and cut them into chunks to avoid baby from choking. Then the baby gets to grab the food with his/her hands and bring it to their mouth by themselves. The baby is given the freedom and ability to eat by themselves and explore their food. BLW has the following benefits:
- As we previously mentioned, BLW develops an attitude towards independence and self-eating. The baby will learn to eat by him/herself with little help or intervention from the parents. The baby will also develop independence, not only towards eating, but also toward other general activities and in the future life.
- BLW can also encourage decision making and healthy eating habits from an early age by introducing them to a wide variety of foods and encouraging them to explore and experiment with different tastes and textures.
- BLW helps babies develop their senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight by presenting them to a variety of food that they can handle and manipulate by themselves.
- Babies learn and develop dexterity and motor skills when handling food with their own hands and using baby utensils (when they are ready to use them). The baby learns to manipulate and feel the texture of the food, as well as, grasping, holding, squeezing, and bringing it to their mouth.
- Lastly, according to the book “Baby-Led Weaning” by Teresa Pitman, states that a study showed that babies who are given trust by their parents to choose their own food and the amount they need can create a nurtured responsive low-control approach. This can reduce the risk of the child later developing an eating disorder, such as anorexia or overeating.
In conclusion, the difference between Baby-Led Weaning and traditional spoon feeding is that with BLW, the baby is given the freedom to explore his/her own food using hands to manipulate, grab and hold food, the chance to choose the amount of food they want to eat and the chance to explore different textures, tastes, and smells. On the other hand, with spoon feeding, the parent has the control and chooses the food and the amount they will give the baby. The baby does not have the freedom to explore and choose food. BLW has many benefits such as creating sense of independence and self-eating, making choices when choosing healthy foods, helps develop their senses and dexterity and motor skills and reduces the chances of eating disorders at a later time in their lives.