As with so many things baby-related, I knew nothing about weaning and first foods a year ago. I had seen people spoon-feeding babies purÃ©e, and accepted that as how the process of learning to eat starts. In my journey into parenthood, however, I came across the term â€œBaby Led Weaningâ€, which really intrigued me. So much of my parenting style involves Ameli, my daughter, guiding us to knowing what’s right for her that this seemed a strange exception to make.
About a month and a half after beginning baby led weaning (BLW) I began reading the book of the same title by Gill Rapley and Tracy Murkett.Â One of the first things that really stood out for me was the definition given for spoon-feeding: â€œto provide (someone) with so much help or information that they do not need to think for themselvesâ€ and â€œto treat another in a way that discourages independent thought or actionâ€.
(Something to note about weaning: weaning a baby doesn’t mean that they no longer have their milk feeds. Especially with BLW, the first solids are so little that continuing milk is essential. I met a very upset mother recently who kept crying as she was desperate to breastfeed her baby, but had â€œstarted weaningâ€ and kept trying to feed her baby purÃ©ed food, no matter how much he (or she) herself longed to breastfeed!)
Some of the great things I love about the concept behind BLW are that:
- There is no additional cooking needed, i.e. no separate meals
- Babies are involved in the experience from the start
- As there is no force-feeding occurring, eating doesn’t have a negative connotation (so no here comes a train, open the tunnel, the aeroplane wants to land!)
- They can eat till they are full and then stop.
- We can eat as a family together. No separate mealtimes required (according to Sue Palmer in her book â€œToxic Childhood â€“ what the modern world is doing to your children and what you can do about itâ€, all children in a merit class she was involved in, without exception, had one thing in common â€“ they all had dedicated family meal times at the dinner table).
- BLW babies are more adventurous eaters as they’ve learned to explore new textures and flavours. At seven months old my daughter has a definite favourite: smoked salmon. She will actually try to get into my mouth to take it out if I haven’t given her any.
Admittedly, I am not a purist. There are times when a pre-packaged puree, whether bought or home made, can be a life saver. I was happy, then, to read Ms Rapley say that the odd spoon feeding or soft food isn’t harmful, but never allowing a child to roll lumpy food around their mouths, or having them always sucking the food off the spoon to the back of the mouth could delay chewing.
She goes on to explain that babies have never needed purÃ©es, but because they were being weaned on to solids before they were ready (i.e. 3 or 4 months) it was assumed to be the only way. Since we now know that babies shouldn’t really have solids until about 6 months, it becomes easier to understand why they don’t really need solids â€“ by six months they are able, if given the opportunity, to feed themselves.
A few other bonuses of BLW mentioned in the book that I had not thought about before are:
- Long term health. If a baby is breastfed and BLW, they still have breast milk for much longer than a baby weaned on to purees (as they are fuller and require less milk)
- No stressful meal times
- Fewer food phobias etc
- Less need for games or tricks
- Eating out is easier as baby can eat something off your plate, making it also…
The only downside to BLW is the mess. And boy, can it be messy.
When we started in March, I made this video of our first solids attempt for our far off family. Watch how she devours those courgettes.
There’ll be more soon. Watch this space!