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I love baby led weaning and it’s one of the greatest things I’ve discovered in parenting. It always amazes me how people struggle with both the time consuming and financial burden of purée feeding.

I once tried to explain Baby Led Weaning to mothers on a parenting forum and what amazed me the most was how negative they all were: the most common argument was how ‘scary’ it sounded, or how ‘dangerous’. Which I felt was a little sad. I mean really, which parts of parenting don’t feel scary or dangerous at times?

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So, here are seven reasons why I think Baby Led Weaning is better for babies:

  • Benefits of longer milk feeding/ digestive preparedness

Baby led weaning doesn’t normally start until the baby is around six months old, able to sit up on his/her own and has shown some interest in food. As a result, a baby led weaned baby will probably stay on milk feeds until around a year before solids really make up much of the diet at all. Following the ‘food is fun till one’ principle, a BLW baby will receive most of their nutrients by milk while playing with food until one, when they’ll start eating more. With my little girl, there was a marked difference in the quantity of solid food she ate before her first birthday compared to how much she ate a few weeks down the line.

Since baby is still on milk, they are getting all the nutrients required, and you don’t have to worry about force feeding a child that doesn’t want to eat.

  • Natural motion of babies mouth

The mouth is designed for food. When a baby breastfeeds, their sucking motion isn’t actually sucking at all. If you watch a breastfeeding baby, you’ll see the jaw moves almost in a chewing motion – which it doesn’t do with bottle feeding. Breastfeeding prepares a baby for chewing, and baby led weaning helps them to take food in, chew and swallow, rather than puree feeding which simply requires them to suck back (which is where choking hazards come in) and swallow.

  • Natural desire to feed self

Babies have a natural instinctive desire to feed themselves. Have you ever seen a baby fighting to try and grab the spoon? They are naturally inclined to learn to feed themselves. And why not? If your 12 month old can feed herself, you won’t still be having to spoon feed at 3 years old. And you won’t be making airoplane noises or choo chooing around the room to get your child to eat either.

  • Experience of different textures and flavours

Food is fun till one is a great, and messy, principle. It means that everything that goes on the plate becomes an experiment of flavours and textures. Mushing marrow between the fingers, slip-sliding mango up and down the plate, ‘tearing’ pieces of bread or meat, and spearing sashimi (raw salmon) Baby-led weaning breakfastare all great explorations and help prevent pickiness.

  • Promotes development of hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity

Picking up kernels of rice one at a time requires quite a bit of dexterity and concentration, so it’s great for developing these essential skills. Chasing a cherry tomato around a plate and capturing it requires hand-eye coordination. And the reward is tasty.

  • Less picky eaters

It is said that BLW toddlers aren’t as picky eaters as their puree fed counterparts. This is partly due to having been exposed to different foods (I don’t see sushi and asparagus flavours in pots), but also to the different textures so there’s not the expectation of mush – blended mush- and baby gets to know individual flavours, sharp tastes, sour tastes and so on.

  • Baby listens to own body

Although I can’t find much by way of scientific evidence for this – after all, who’s going to pay for a study that’s not going to make anyone any money? – it is anecdotally claimed that babies won’t eat food that is later found to be bad for them. I have personal experience of this with my daughter. I’m willing to trust it, because in the end it can’t hurt.

But there are also at least three benefits for mama, and the family as a whole:

  • Starting Baby-Led WeaningLess strain in terms of  time and cost

I don’t know what a month’s worth of puree feeding costs, but I understand it’s quite a lot. At least with baby led weaning, you don’t have to spend money on bottles of food, and you don’t have to spend time on spoon feeding.

  • No need to puree, easier to prepare food

Maybe you’ve always made your own purees, so it hasn’t cost you that much? That’s fine, but with no need for puree’s you don’t need to stand praparing seperate meals. You don’t have to wash your blender every day. You don’t need to buy special food pureeing equipment. You make your family meal, and everyone eats the same thing.

  • Family eats healthier, mum doesn’t finish off baby’s food

Everyone eating the same thing is also healthier for the whole family. For the most part, we all try to do the best we can for our babies, and we want to give them as healthy food as possible, which generally means the whole family eats healthier. In addition, there’s no weight gain from finishing little Johnny’s fishfingers after your own meal. What we do is simple: I prepare the same amount of food as we’ve always done, and take a few bits and pieces off each of our plates to give to Ameli. She doesn’t eat a huge amount anyway, but now that her appetite is increasing, I just make a little bit more, and any left overs go into the freezer for days when I don’t have time to cook.

These are my reasons for baby led weaning. Can you think of any more?

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67 Comments

10 Reasons to Choose Baby Led Weaning

  1. Pingback: Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Little Man | The Artful Mama
  2. BLW was perfect for me. My baby was exclusively breastfed for 6 months (this may not work for all but it worked for me) and by this time she was very interested in food. I started with homemade oatmeal mixed with milk, mashed banana (a real favorite). Then I gave her foods like carrots, pieces of apple,orange, or mango, and celery sticks to explore tastes and textures. By a year she was eating cooked vegetables (pumpkins, beans, potatoes, etc) chopped up meat, eggs, rice, noodles, bread and the tedious spaghetti (this is good fun!). She had weaned herself completely by 15 months and is a good diverse eater.

  3. They DID do a study about that. I read about it, I think it was in the book “Becoming The Parent You Want To Be”. They took a group of one y.o’s and let them choose their own foods over the course of several weeks. They found that babies naturally balanced their own diets over the course of the study. Even if some days a baby only wanted bananas, or some other specific food. Wish I could find a link!

  4. This is great advice! I just assumed i would Puree all the food and save on buying jar food. But this goes a step further and it makes perfect sense.

  5. With my first child, we started with cereal and purees. I made my own, pureeing or mashing what we were eating for dinner anyways and freezing extras for days when we weren’t eating things that he was ready to share. It was pretty easy and he ate everything. We didn’t force feed him and he didn’t mind being spoonfed. He didn’t get much nutrition from solids until he was about a year old, despite starting with purees. We progressed from pureed, to mashed, to finger foods as he was ready. We started purees around 4.5 months because he appeared ready and he was eating finger foods by 7ish months. I don’t think that BLW versus purees is really quite as stark as this article makes it appear. My first child accepted a wide variety of foods and continued to do so until he was an older toddler and then he had opinions that seemed to have nothing to do with the foods that he previously liked. The picky phase passed on it’s own.

    With my second child, I’ve been handing her food occasionally since she learned to grasp and now at a few days shy of 5 months, she’s started trying to eat it. Furthermore, she gets very upset if she is not offered food, now that she has realized what food is. When she started actually trying to eat my carrot stick, I handed her an apple slice so her first food is raw apple and she’s mad about it. She is so frustrate at her inability to hold onto it though that I’m thinking of giving her some oatmeal on a spoon because it will stick to the spoon and she can hold the spoon. I figure we will do a lot more BLW this time around because it is easy, but also because I am now a lot more comfortable with what is and isn’t choking and what to do about choking. That was way outside my comfort zone with my first child. BLW is no fun if you are a nervous wreck at every meal.

  6. I loved BLW. We dabbled in both BLW and purees at first, and BLW won out. Doing purees actually seemed to upset his tummy more, I think because he was eating foods he wasn’t ready for. He learned how not to gag on his food really young, and used a fork as early as 9 months. It actually feels safer to me. I monitored him, of course, but since he’s never, EVER choked on anything, I feel less stressed about what he puts in his mouth. He’s 2.5, and some 2.5’ers still choked on food, and I wonder if it’s because they didn’t get to practice eating real food as babies. I only wish we had offered him more variety as a baby, because there seemed to be this window of opportunity where he would eat almost anything, and then that window closed quite a bit. He’s not too picky a toddler, but I think he could have learned to like even more food as a baby and carried that into his toddler years.

  7. Great list! I am hoping to do baby-led weaning with my son (he is 4 months now), and actually just wrote about some reasons this week! I am going to link to yours on my blog as well, since you have several reasons that I didn’t think of; I love the chewing and hand-eye coordination ones!

  8. I discovered baby led weaning by chance when my little boy refused purees of any kind. What a great thing he taught me!!! Love the pictures, so cute!

  9. great list! we wound up doing a version of BLW sort of by accident. my little guy wasn’t into purees (maybe because they’re gross?) but was VERY into stealing food off our plates, so we let him. the gagging is still nerve wracking, but i’m slowly learning to let his body try to sort things out before i start wringing my hands and digging around his mouth. 😉

    1. @stefanie at very very fine, Good on you Stefanie! Remember the gagging isn’t really choking, just his body’s way of warning him not to go further. But within sensible limits, of course!

      As for purees. I was blindfolded and made to identify the flavours of one of the leading brands at my baby shower. I gagged big time and nearly hurled all over the room. Thankfully my husband read the warning signs and put a stop to it before I got sick. So no. I wouldn’t feed my baby that!

  10. What a great topic! We loved doing BLW. I didn’t think about the act of breastfeeding as preparing for chewing — so cool! My son ate bits and pieces for experimentation but didn’t really start adding calorically to his day until he well over a year. I’m glad, though, that I just followed his lead and didn’t worry about it. Obviously, he’s totally healthy and has no complexes around food.

    I will say that he’s become pickier about food as a three-year-old, which I was hoping to avoid — ah, well. But maybe the BLW stands him in good stead to resume his non-picky eating when he gets a little older.

    1. @Lauren @ Hobo Mama, I think the two most important points for me are ‘following his lead’ and ‘not worrying about it’. I think those are the first steps in gentle parenting, and in both supervising and supporting individuality, allowing them autonomy from the start.

      And yes, as I said to Dionna. I don’t think you can take the toddle out the toddler. Just have to hope you’ve laid the right foundation.

  11. Pingback: Top 10 Things In My Arsenal of Kitchen Witchy Mama Tricks. | Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma
  12. My son wanted to feed himself from the get go and sucks in his baby lips if you try and spoon feed him anything. He also prefers more solid food than any purees, his favorite being cooked salmon and butternut squash soup. Baby-lead solids works for us as we simply give him tidbits off our own plate and he chooses what he wants to eat/play with.

  13. with my daughter, we did homemade purees and by the time she was a year, she was eating on her own – with my son, i was too tired (and didn’t have time) to do all that pureeing so we went the baby-led weaning route – it’s super messy and a lot of it ends up on the floor but if he’s half as goon an eater as his sister, it will have been worth it!

  14. Pingback: Nature Baby Bloggings» Blog Archive » Top Ten Flower Essences for Families
  15. We did BLW for the most part, and I have to say, we still choo choo sometimes to get Kieran to eat a bit of healthy food 😉 But that has to do with being a toddler, not how he learned to chew. Great list Luschka – thank you for putting this info together!

    1. @Dionna @ Code Name: Mama, Thanks Dionna – I have a friend who BLWed and her toddler is an extremely difficult eater – BUT I don’t think BWL takes the toddles out of the toddler. They still have to go through the range of emotions, learning their independence and exerting their will.

      My suspicion/hope/belief is that it’s later on that the love of a range of food will kick in. Unlike another friend I have who was raised on purees until she went on to fish fingers and fries. Today the only ‘vegetable’ she will eat is fries and sometimes baked potatoes. No fruit either.

      I hope to avoid that, if nothing else!

  16. Here’s another big benefit for mom and dad — we get to eat our dinner at the same time as the baby eats his! He joins the family and enjoys his food without us having to let our food get cold while we ladle glop into his mouth. BLW takes literally no time at all — just put a little food on the tray and let him mess with it while you’re nearby doing something else!

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  19. Great post! I’m surprised those mothers thought it was dangerous, although I can understnad it. Babies are pushed to start eating solids early so one that doesn’t is seen as “wrong”.

    I’m in the middle of baby-led weaning right now! My 10mo. is just starting to get her first tastes of food. Sometimes she reaches for it, sometimes not. Sometimes it gets in her mouth, sometimes not. She’s still getting my milk which changes for her age (yep, I got smart milk. LOL!).

    Baby-led weaning is laid-back parenting to me. You rely on your baby to let you know what’s going on with them and you take their cues. No one’s anxious and trying to make something happen. You just enjoy your baby and go with the flow.

    1. @Chante@My Natural Motherhood Journey, I love ‘which changes for her age (yep, I got smart milk. LOL!)’! It made me laugh. I’ve told people that in the past – and that it changes to suit the weather/temperature – and you won’t believe how many people actually just don’t believe me!

      I totally agree – BLW is laid-back parenting. As is so much of the rest of attachment parenting.

      Thanks for your great comment!

  20. Pingback: 10 Family Systems and Routines That Work for Us « Intrepid Murmurings
  21. Pingback: Ten Top Ways to Connect Kids with Nature - Child of the Nature Isle
      1. @Luschka, Well, we waited the full six months to start solids and didn’t do purees or cereal, but there were some “mashes” involved the first few months — sweet potato, banana, avocado, etc. I was just too much of a worrier to give him regular table food (I know it’s fine, it just wasn’t something I could do). And he had some mild stomach issues as a newborn so I really micromanaged his food intake and wanted to give him “blander” versions of our meals. But by 9 months or so all his meals were all DIY. Now at 14 months he refuses the “milder” meals and only wants exactly what my husband and I are eating — like off of our plates! He only wants things with sauces and spices and seasoning!

  22. This is a fabulous post and I am emailing the link to several of my friends. I would not have thought of doing things any other way. Baby led weaning is NATURAL and in today’s world of targeted advertising, so many new moms are suckered into feeding solids and weaning far earlier than their baby is developmentally ready for. Thanks for such a good list!

  23. Pingback: Ten Ways for Families to Enjoy Nature (For Free or Nearly Free!) | Monkey Butt Junction
  24. We also do baby led weaning, and we never will do anything else. Babies learn about the gag reflex and their own limits much sooner and better when given chunks. If they learn that food is only purees and they do not have to work to eat right away, I believe this leads to choking.

    My son also preferred chunks and exploring to purees. We were given a ridiculous amount of organic jarred purees each month through the WIC program. But since we started expeimenting with BLW at the start, he turned his nose up at those almost immediately. He liked fresh purees better, but given the choice between a spoon or something he could hold himself, no contest.

    He is constantly working on autonomy and being a “big boy” and part of that I attribute to BLW.

  25. So much of this helps to explain a lot in the differences between my children, especially the chewing, multi-textures, and spoonfeeding through toddlerhood. Wow. Eye-opening. Thanks.

  26. Pingback: In The Now » Top Ten “Dad” Things
  27. Pingback: Top Ten Shows Worthy Of Screen Time | momgrooves.com
  28. Great list! I think it is also important to note that it is totally ok if your baby isn’t ready or interested in solids at 6 months, 8 months, even 12 months and after. Have confidence that your child knows what they need and will make the best choice for themselves. I think BLW can sometimes be sabotaged when there are too many well-meaning “your baby isn’t eating anything yet!” comments or starting solids early is seen as a milestone contest. Like other aspects of attachment parenting, the goal is to respect your child and their individual needs 🙂

    1. @Brittany@Mama’s Felt Cafe, Thanks for the comment Brittany. I think that’s a very valid point! We focus so much on NOT starting babies before six months that we don’t think about how long it can take. I know my daughter started reaching for food at around four months, but she put the first in her own mouth four days before she was six months. I didn’t fret about the four days, because obviously she was ready – but she didn’t actually EAT very much, apart from accidentally, until she was almost a year.

      I have had the ‘your daughter isn’t eating enough’, ‘you’re starving your baby’ comments too – even now, since she eats very small portions. But, then, I look at her, how developed she is, how smart she is, and how she’s a head taller and bigger than pretty much anyone else of her age that we’ve met, and I’m okay with her food portions!

      When people say she’s not eating enough I respond that the food is there in front of her, she’s perfectly capable of having it, and no healthy baby will starve themselves. That normally ends the conversation.

      Thanks for your comment!

  29. We did BLW with my oldest only because I wanted to breast feed at least as long as my mother breast fed me, which was 18 months. We got to 16 and pressure finally got to me as my in-laws thought I was psychologically damaging him.

    Whatever. Now I know better!

    With my daughter, she’s still happily on the boob at 6 months old, and we’ll go as long as she wants!

  30. Excellent post! My baby is just getting to the point where we are thinking if solids, and this is so relevant to us right now. I loved the point about the natural mouth motions–I had not connected it to solids before. Thank you!

  31. Love it! Fantastic post. BLW was one of the BEST things I ever did as a parent (even DH loved it and tells everyone about it). I only have one point I’d like to disagree on and that’s the waiting until they are 6mo. There is a lot of research out right now pointed to the fact that waiting 6mo + to introduce anything but milks in to a baby’s diet is actually causing all of the allergies (peanut, milk, gluten, etc) that are becoming so common right now. In most parts of the world babies are offered foods other than milk much earlier than 6 mo and in these places food alleries are almost unheard of. I started all of my children at 3 mo (both the twins who were NOT BLW and Nolan who was) and it worked out well for all three. I hated baby jar food feeding the girls – the expense, the difficulty weaning them to table foods, ugh. But with Nolan when he started reaching for food off my plate at 3 mo, I let him. At first it was just rice or a piece of crusty bread to gnaw and he didn’t get much in…and then it progressed naturally from there. There was no dramatic weaning from stage 3 to soilds like there was with the girls (*shudder*, the DRAMA those girls put me through!).

    Anyhow, sorry this got so long. 🙂 That’s my 2 cents.

    1. @MrsLaLa, There has been one study lately that’s been all over the news saying waiting till six months isn’t a good idea … but the reporting for it was very bad, acting like it was a conclusive study when it wasn’t. There isn’t actually any evidence that waiting longer causes allergies, just speculation. Personally, I think the rampant allergies in developed countries have other causes — not enough exposure to germs, vaccines, and so forth.

      For every 3-month-old who reaches for food (just to gnaw on it, I’m guessing) there are 10 who show no interest at all at that age! Mine started reaching for food at five months, and after a few weeks of giving him chew toys and so forth, I finally let him steal some of my carrots.

      1. @Sheila, Thanks for replying to MrsLala for me. I agree on both counts: the study was bogus and the allergies are more to do with the things you lsted – especially sterilising everything.

    2. @MrsLaLa, Thanks for your comment Mrs Lala, and no worry about the length – it’s great 🙂 I must say I don’t agree with the recent studies, unfortunately – I wrote about it here: http://www.diaryofafirstchild.com/2011/01/17/misleading-inaccurate-headlines-harm-babies-too/ but in short, it wasn’t conclusive research and there were worrying questions around the motives behind it.

      I do agree with you about jar food though – what a waste of time and money. I don’t think letting your child reach for food and gnaw at it before six months is BAD, per se (unless you’re HIV positive, then it MUST be exclusive) as they’re not actually EATING much of it, and i think letting them play with it is fine – and in fact, the point.

      I’m glad it was easier the third time round though!

      Thanks for the comment!

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