Feeding | What is baby-led weaning?
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In today’s episode, I am talking about baby-led weaning, the pro’s and con’s
A BLW approach focuses on the independence of your baby taking food to their own mouth and consuming the quantity and variety they choose.
You don’t puree foods, but rather offer them foods from what everyone else is eating at family mealtimes. This allows the baby time to learn the art of eating independently. Your baby is the only one to put food to its mouth using hands and when older, cutlery.
Benefits of this approach include independent eating sooner, a focus on learning to chew and managing foods rather than just swallowing foods thus allowing babies to decide when they are full and what foods they would like to select. Family meals are appropriate from day one so no separate cooking.
Some of the downsides of BLW include concerns around gagging and choking. However, speech pathologists describe the presence of a sensitive gag reflex to protect infant airways as key. As with any infant eating, supervision is essential but gagging is a typical part of learning to eat and should be expected. Choking should be infrequent if textures and food is being selected well and only your baby places food in their mouth. Knowledge of basic first aid can alleviate some parents’ concerns.
Wondering if the baby is consuming enough food. Typically, babies will not consume much food for the first 2 -3 months of BLW and then consumption will steadily begin to increase. Swallowing larger volumes of food usually takes longer using a BLW method as the focus is on learning to self-feed, bite and chew first. This is fine as long as extra milk feeds are available as needed and there are no growth or medical concerns. If you are unsure, seek the advice of a health professional.
Mess...I repeat mess! Feeding infants using any method is messy, but when using BLW, plan for the mess. Embracing it is central to everyone’s enjoyment. Start with drop cloths, easy clean high chairs, full sleeve bibs and a newfound appreciation for your dog’s insatiable appetite. Clean your baby once at the end of the meal. Wiping throughout the meal is usually disruptive and disliked by babies.
Food allergy identification. Because of the introduction of many foods simultaneously rather than a systematic exposure of new foods one by one, allergies may be harder to identify and treat. Ensuring you know the ingredients of the foods your baby has and using sensible steps to increase variety can help. Currently, the recommendation is that you do not delay the introduction of solids that may cause an allergy so this works well with BLW.
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