Your baby is approaching 6 months of age and as a parent you are thinking about the next step in his development: the introduction of complementary foods. Curious, you'd like to opt for the Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) method instead of traditional purees. How do you make sure you do it the right way? The following tips will help you figure it out.
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
BLW, or Child Led Diversification, is a concept where the child learns to feed himself from the moment solid foods are introduced - goodbye purees! The food given to baby is whole, with a texture and size adapted to be easily grasped - so meals are the same (or almost!) for all family members.
The 10 Baby-Led Weaning Steps
Wait until baby is 6 months old and shows signs that he or she is ready to feed: he or she should be able to sit up unassisted, control his or her head and easily bring objects to his or her mouth.
Sit baby at 90 degrees at mealtime. Place food on the tray of the highchair so that baby can pick it up and put it in his mouth himself.
Limit distractions and always supervise the child. Do not start feeding when baby is tired or hungry.
Always let baby handle food on his own and never put food in his mouth. When offering purees or more liquid foods (e.g. yogurt, fruit compotes), offer a pre-filled spoon for baby to handle.
Introduce iron-rich foods from the beginning. Your baby uses up his iron reserves during his first 6 months of life, and therefore needs to replenish his reserves with food. In the first foods to be given, priority should therefore be given to meats, fish or boiled eggs, for example.
Offer safe, age-appropriate foods. Start with foods the size of an adult's little finger and gradually decrease the size according to the baby's stage of oral and motor development. In terms of texture, foods should be easily crushed between two fingers - most vegetables and many fruits should be cooked.
Continue breastfeeding or commercial infant formula at baby's request. Milk remains baby's main food until about 9 months.
As with the puree method, introduce 1 new food at a time. This will make it easier to identify the problem food in case of an allergic reaction.
Offer healthy foods eaten by other family members and encourage family meals. Avoid adding salt and sugar to foods.
Respect baby's appetite and trust his ability to be hungry and full. Don't force baby to eat if he doesn't want to!
Why choose Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-Led Weaning has several proven benefits. First, it allows the child to participate in family meals and thus learn and develop his tastes by interacting with his siblings. It is an extremely stimulating experience for baby, promoting the development of motor skills, coordination and chewing muscles. The meals given are often fresher, more nutritious and more economical than purees. Children fed with the Baby-Led Weaning method have fewer texture aversions, more independence and a reduced risk of obesity because it is easier for them to respect their eating rhythm and satiety.
What Are the Disadvantages of Baby-Led Weaning?
Despite the many advantages of the Baby-Led Weaning method, some parents are bothered by the fact that this method is messier than feeding purees. At first, because you don't know how much to feed your baby, there is also more waste. It may be necessary to adapt the meals of the rest of the family to ensure that the texture and size of the pieces is appropriate for a baby who is just starting to eat. Baby-Led Weaning is not recommended for babies who are stunted, anemic or have neurological problems.
What About the Risk of Choking of Baby-Led Weaning?
A major concern for parents who decide to use BLW is the risk of choking. First of all, it is important to make a distinction between choking and the gag reflex, which are often confused. The gag reflex is safe and temporary; it allows children to protect their airways from choking when they put food too far into their mouth. Unlike adults, a baby's gag reflex is found closer to the tip of the tongue, not in the back of the throat. It is therefore normal for a baby to have a gag reflex when he or she starts to feed. Choking is a very rare occurrence in babies fed through Baby-Led Weaning, and it often happens when the basic principles are not followed.
Example of foods that can be given to baby through Baby-Led Weaning:
- Tender or well-cooked vegetables, in strips, sticks or florets (Ex: sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, asparagus).
- Tender (e.g. banana, avocado, ripe peach/pear) or cooked fruits (e.g. apple).
- Tender meat (e.g. meatballs, slow-cooked meat, chicken drumstick)
- Cooked fish (e.g. whole sardines, baked fish)
- Pulses mashed, crushed, or incorporated into recipes (e.g. meatballs, spreads)
- Tofu in sticks or grated
- Cheese sticks or grated cheese
- Toasted bread sticks (can be spread lightly with peanut butter, mashed avocado or legumes, etc.)
- Well-cooked pasta (e.g. rigatoni)
Do you feel like you need more support during this time of need? Does your child seem to have no appetite, have a lot of aversions, reject food, or has any other eating problems? Don't hesitate to consult a TeamNutrition nutritionist for support!