Starting solids; it’s such an exciting time in your baby’s life! Finally your little one is going to start getting a taste for the good stuff – one slobbery, awkward, half-spat-out mouthful at a time. If you’ve done any research at all on the matter, you know that there are two camps when it comes to starting solids – good old-fashioned purees, and the newer baby led weaning craze.
True baby led weaning (or BLW to those in the know) involves giving your baby zero purees at the start, and allowing their very first food experiences to be with whole pieces of food that they can pick up, taste and explore for themselves. The focus is less on making your baby eat something new, and more on allowing her to discover food at her own pace – and if that means for the first few weeks all she does is pick things up and smush them between her fingers, then so be it!
There is an entire movement of Mums singing the praises of baby led weaning, so when you begin your research, be prepared for lots of loud and proud opinions, and brags about 7-month-olds eating table food. Take these with a grain of salt though, as ultimately the decision depends on what you are most comfortable with.
What are the benefits?
BLW enthusiasts claim that babies who learn to eat solids this way are doing it on their own terms, and will therefore be more willing to try new foods as they grow older, resulting in less picky eaters. While we can’t say for sure that this is a totally accurate claim, it is true that babies generally prefer picking up, tasting and experiencing new foods themselves far more than being force-fed purees without having any control over the situation, and so may take to solids more willingly this way.
What foods are good to start with?
Foods that are soft and easy to grip work best at first. Think baked sweet potato “chips”, banana, long strips of avocado and very ripe slices of pear. Once baby has the hang of these, more foods can slowly be introduced.
Will my baby choke?
This is the number one concern of parents considering baby led weaning, and it’s a valid one! It can be daunting handing over a piece of baked sweet potato to a tiny human who has never experienced swallowing anything more substantial than gulps of breast milk or formula. However, babies are equipped with a gag reflex that is much further forward than ours, protecting them from swallowing things that are too big for them to manage. Your baby will almost certainly gag in the beginning, but this is a normal tool that will allow him to bring the food back forward and continue chewing and sucking on it until it is a more manageable, swallowable size. It’s all a learning experience, though it can give you a fright at first!
Can I start BLW after trying purees?
Purists will quickly point out that true baby led weaning starts on day one, and not after trying purees for a few weeks. However if you find that purees aren’t working out, there is no reason why you can’t change your approach and start implementing some baby led weaning tactics.
Is it ideal for everyone?
Nope. The decision is entirely yours. In your research, you will no doubt come across people who passionately support BLW, as well as some who violently oppose it. Try not to be influenced by people’s opinions, and instead use the facts to make an informed decision that you are 100% comfortable with.
The main thing to remember when it comes to baby led weaning? Patience is key. Your baby has suddenly had a whole new world of experiences open up to him, and getting food into his tummy isn’t going to be his number one priority. Don’t worry though; once he has the hang of eating, there will be no stopping him and he will soon be enjoying meals alongside the rest of the family.