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As soon as you plan to start your baby on solids, an assorted menu of pureed food runs through your mind. That’s a primitive method of introducing solids to your kids. The latest, of course, is baby-led weaning which allows the baby to munch on whatever they like as soon as they are 6 months old. So, here is your chance to bypass pureed and jarred food to allow your baby to eat what they like.
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning simply means allowing your baby to jump straight to finger foods as soon as they are ready for solids. No pureed or mashed or jarred food for your little one!
This method of introducing solid is termed as baby-led because here your baby gets to choose what he or she wants to eat and start eating on their own. This helps your baby to learn how to use the gum for chewing as they learn that they must chew first and then swallow their food. The bonus here is that the baby controls what and how much they put in their mouths. This means parents are freed from the responsibility of pushing food into baby’s mouth. Now, that’s a relief!
What Does Research Say?
The Ministry of Health recommends that parents introduce their little ones to solids once they turn 6 months old. New-borns at this age can have stronger necks and can even sit with some support. Their hand and eye coordination at this age can help them to grasp food and put it in their mouth.
When and How to Start BLW?
Once your baby is six months old, make them sit on your lap during meal time and offer nutritious finger food that is appropriate for his age. You can start with cooked cauliflower or broccoli that is easy for your baby to clasp in their tiny hands. Initially, they may just play around with the food and then slowly start sucking it. Continue to breastfeed your baby in between meal times till they start eating solids properly. As their solid intake increases, his breastfeeds will come down.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
Here are few benefits of BLW that may encourage you to start the same with your baby.
- You don’t have to work on an exclusive baby menu every day. Training a child to eat adult food from the beginning can go a long way.
- There is no need to force food into baby’s mouth. Pressurising baby to eat can be quite exhausting for both the parents and the baby.
- When the baby eats with you, you get to eat on time yourself. That can be quite relaxing.
- The baby grows up to learn self-regulation that may result in healthy BMI.
- Baby learns to select their food as per their liking. This has proved to increase weight in children as they eat what they like wholeheartedly.
- BLW gives you an option to introduce healthy solids (age appropriate) early in the life of your child. And, you never know, they may just hold on to these healthy food choices for life.
- Babies learn to handle food properly as they manage different texture, size, and shape of food. This way they also get fine motor practice through regular hand-eye coordination.
- Sitting with the family and eating meals with them is a healthy habit as it helps them to value family time. They learn what and how to eat by copying other members of the family.
- They will learn how to chew faster than babies who are spoon fed. This is very important for digestion.
There are a few disadvantages of BLW, and they are as follows:
- Baby eating finger foods on his own at such a tender age can be messy.
- Most of the food gets wasted and ends up on the floor.
- The supply of nutrients, especially iron may reduce. Hence, your doctor may give your baby a supplement for the same.
- It will be difficult for you to keep track of how much the baby has eaten as a majority of the food on the plate may find itself on the floor.
BLW First Foods
Just to make it a little easy for you, here is what you can offer your baby as finger foods at the advent of BLW.
- Sweet potatoes
- Soft cooked apples
- Soft cooked carrot, beans, and beets
- Green beans without the skin
- Well-ripened peach, pears, and melons
- Meat or poultry
- Egg yolk
- Slices of bread, pasta, and rice
BLW Foods to Avoid
Before going through, keep in mind some baby led weaning safety issues:
1. Foods With High Choking Risk
Some food items like nuts, grapes, tomatoes, whole hot dogs etc. will choke your little one often.
2. Foods That are Allergenic
Some foods have allergenic properties and must be avoided. For example, gluten, egg whites, peanuts, seafood, citrus fruits and the like. If any member of your family is allergic to any of these food items, it is more likely that your baby has inherited the same. You don’t want to take any risks!
3. Foods With Added Salt or Sugar
Avoid adding any extra salt or sugar to your baby’s food. Let your baby enjoy the natural sweetness or saltiness of the food.
4. Processed and Unhealthy Foods
Processed foods are unhealthy for children and we all know that. Hence avoid giving chips, popcorn, sugared food, breakfast cereals, gum and hard candies.
Don’t introduce honey yet as it contains a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum which can damage the baby’s poorly developed digestive system!
Say ‘no’ to stimulants like chocolates or direct intake of sugar. These foods disturb your baby’s BMI in the long run and turn them hyperactive.
If your doctor approves of mineral sea salts, then go ahead and add it to your baby’s food in very small amounts.
Can Baby Choke if You Try Baby Led Weaning?
The most common doubt about BLW is if the baby will choke on the food while trying to eat by himself. This doubt is justified.
Research says that if a baby can sit upright and eat, he/she should be fine. They should never be left alone with food.
- The baby’s hands must be washed before and after the meal to ensure that there is no food in their hands that they may put in their mouth while playing after the meal.
- Clip your baby’s nails to keep infections away.
- Your baby should sit on a high chair in an upright position. Eating while lying down is a complete ‘no’ as it could go down the wrong pipe.
- Allow the baby to eat at their own pace. Hurrying the baby could lead to choking.
- Don’t give any food that is too big for their mouth. Give them small bite-sized finger foods that are soft and easy to chew and swallow.
- Consult your doctor and take first aid lessons before starting BLW.
Will Baby Get Enough to Eat?
Breastfeeding will supplement most of the baby’s nutrition from 6 to 12 months of age along with solid foods. The main purpose of starting BLW in the first year is to train a baby to chew and swallow. If the baby is active, healthy and gaining weight normally, then rest assured that your baby is doing well. Usually, a baby knows when he/she is hungry, and they eat enough to fill themselves. In case your baby is not gaining the desired weight, then you may want to add some smoothies and purees to your baby’s diet along with breastfeeding. In case you are unable to breastfeed, one can use baby formula and get the same results.
The best part about BLW is that it can be worked around, and it is not an all or nothing situation. Always, consult your baby’s paediatrician for guidance when in case of doubt.
Baby-led weaning is a great way to introduce your baby to the family tradition of eating together. As they eat along with the rest of the family, they will learn not just how to eat by themselves, but table manners as well!