You’ve probably already come across the term BLW while researching how to introduce solids to your baby. It sounds like an alien concept, but it’s not. 

Basically, BLW, or Baby-Led Weaning, means allowing your baby to take control over their introduction to solids. Essentially, this means that, instead of offering baby food, you’ll give your baby solid food and let her explore.

They can hold it themselves and put it in their own mouths as they see fit – smashing it before, trying to take bites – bare in mind there are no wrongs here.

This doesn’t mean you have to give them challenging to bite foods: the food should have a firm consistency but should be soft enough for the baby’s gums – like a peach.

Gill Rapley, the British nurse who came up with the term, recommends that the method be adopted as early as six months of age. Before starting a solid diet, the child must be able to keep themselves upright while sitting on a chair.

At this point, you’re probably wondering:

So no baby food at all?

Because BLW emphasizes the baby is the one in charge of their feeding by picking and choosing what they want to eat, baby food isn’t a part of traditional BLW. Many pediatricians, however, recommend that parents use a combined method: starting by smashing up the food, offering it to the baby themselves, and slowly introducing the practice of BLW, giving the child independence as they feel comfortable with doing so. Some say that, as of 9 months of age, the baby is more than ready for this. This way, parents can also guarantee the baby will eat enough to keep themselves satiated. In the beginning, BLW usually takes up more time during meals.

But won’t the baby choke with BLW?

Any kind of solid food is a choking hazard, even baby food. That’s why the baby should always be supervised by an adult. Supervision is crucial in any scenario. In fact, during the introduction to solids, it’s normal for the baby to show signs of a choking reflex. They are still getting used to chewing and swallowing, which is very different from just drinking milk. One of the secrets of BLW is to gradually increase the size of the food pieces offered. In practice, the baby must have different foods readily available in front of them to pick and choose which ones to experiment with according to their own curiosity and hunger.

What about meat? Will the baby eat it on their own?

Families who adopt BLW usually give the child bigger pieces of meat they can suck on.

And how do I start BLW?

If you still have any questions or doubts, always consult your child’s pediatrician to check if they’re ready. If you think it’s best to start off with pastes and smoothies, then go for it! But remember that the current recommendation is that foods be offered separately and smashed up with a fork, but not a lot so the baby can still feel the texture and taste the food. If you opt to combine both methods, smash the food less and less as your baby develops and perfects their chewing and swallowing techniques.

As you introduce BLW, know that foods should be cooked and easy to chew. Carrots and beets cut up in sticks, broccoli and cauliflower, overly cooked rice stuck together in little balls and pieces of tomato, zucchini squash, and boiled potatoes are good foods to start off with. When in doubt, try the food yourself and try smashing it with your tongue against the roof of your mouth. And never put the food in the baby’s mouth.

Prepare for a huge mess.

Because babies tend to make a huge mess as they try eating meals on their own, it’s a good idea to cover the floor with a towel or anything you can just toss in the washing machine. Silicone or plastic bibs can also come in handy. If the room temperature is nice and warm, you can leave your baby wearing only a diaper. 

And don’t rush the “meal.” 

On the bright side, you’ll have unforgettable moments that will make for incredibly colorful pictures.

Remember: it’s fundamental that the baby eats their meals alongside the family and, preferably, eat what everyone is eating, even if the meal has to be adapted to their chewing capabilities – in fact, this makes it easier for parents who don’t have to cook up a hundred different things at once. After all, meals are much more than just curbing hunger. They are a moment for sharing love, ideas, and expectations.

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