Transitioning My Child to Solid Foods With BLW

baby feeding self
Image via Mindi Stavish

 

When my second son was around 5 months he started reaching for foods when others were eating near him. It was then that I introduced him to his first pureed baby food.  Within weeks of introducing spoon feedings, he was purposefully grabbing food out of my hands.

The premise behind BLW is that babies are ready for suitably sized pieces of table food, when they can sit in a high chair and bring the food to their mouth independently.

 Coincidentally, around this time I stumbled upon a podcast about Baby Led Weaning (BLW).

The term Baby Led Weaning was invented by  Gill Rapley, a former midwife. and author of Baby Led Weaning- Helping Your Baby Like Good Food.  According to Rapley, the term “weaning” is based on the British meaning of the word, which is means adding complementary foods to a baby's diet of breastmilk (or formula) instead of the US usage, wherein weaning refers to giving up breastfeeding.  Here is how Rapley describes the differences between the traditional approach to introducing a baby to solid foods and the BLW method. 

The key thing is that in the BLW method, the parent just has to take a step back and let the child get on with it. The baby learns to chew first, and to spit out, and THEN to swallow food.

With the more traditional approach the baby is using everything that they’ve learned from taking in liquids to swallow the puree, while also tackling this new, and in some instances rather thrilling, experience of chewing and swallowing as well.

I'll admit, my first thought about Baby Led Weaning is that it was ridiculous and dangerous. My professional background is in infant and child feeding and swallowing disorders, so I have a lot of knowledge about oral motor development. Babies don’t efficiently chew until they are almost 2 years old.  My biggest concern with this method is choking, because a six month old does not have the oral motor development to break down a piece of food if they do happen to try to swallow it.

Advocates of Baby Led Weaning suggest that the risk of choking is less than with the traditional spoon feeding method; however, there are no clinical studies to back up this statement.  A baby who is spoon fed may suck food back into his or her throat, before he or she is developmentally able to handle it.  A baby who is fed solid foods through the BLW process controls what is put into his or her mouth and then moves it back to trigger a swallow reflex only when he or she has developed the ability to chew it.  

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Most first foods fall out of the mouth, with the baby exploring the different flavors and textures of the foods only.  If a baby can not safely swallow a food that is brought to the back of the throat, a gag reflex is typically elicited to propel the food out of the mouth. Gagging is different from choking in that a gag protects the baby from choking.  Excessive gagging may be an indicator of a hypersensitivity to textured and solid foods.   In regards to choking – any child or adult can choke while eating at all stages of their life.  That is why it is important for parents to be infant CPR certified before their baby is even born.

I did a combination of spoon feeding and BLW with my son initially.  As his interest in food increased, I gradually stopped giving him pureed foods.  Baby led weaning worked for us and Noah easily transitioned to eating solid foods during his first year of life.   When it is time to introduce your baby to solid foods there is no right or wrong way as long as your baby remains safe and happy. Parenting is all about doing what works best for you.

What aspect of parenting have you said you would never do, and then you surprisingly did after becoming a parent?

What do you think?

Transitioning My Child to Solid Foods With BLW

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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1 comment

  1. Kira says:

    If you’re still spoon feeding, then you’re not doing a mix of spoon feeding and BLW. That’s still traditional weaning. BLW is giving them solid food from the get go and letting them feed themselves. Also you should not start it until at least 6 months. Google the term “virgin gut” and you’ll see why it’s still dangerous to give food before then. I love BLW because it’s so much easier then trying to force feed them with a spoon.

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