The following is my interpretation of baby-led weaning and is not intended to be medical advice.
Baby-Led Weaning is a style of weaning (“weaning” in the British sense refers to starting your child on solids–not weaning entirely from breastmilk) that relies on your baby’s cues and abilities to guide the transition to solid foods. With BLW, you actually wait until your child has the specific abilities required to feed themselves before starting solids. As these abilities develop, your child can eat more varied foods. What I love about BLW is that your baby’s physical ability aligns with their physiological readiness. So, by the time your baby’s gut is truly ready for simple solids, he (or she, but I’ll stick with “he” for this post) can sit up and bring things to his mouth. The internal and external development align perfectly. By the time his system is ready for more intricate, complex foods, he will have developed the ability to hold and navigate a spoon, perfected the pincer grasp, etc. Simply put, baby feeds himself what baby’s body is physiologically ready to handle.
I have long known that I wanted to do baby-led weaning. The idea of self-feeding to indicate readiness makes total sense to me. Early research suggests that babies who are fed this way have more varied, healthier food preferences and lower incidences of obesity. Self-feeding (as opposed to spoon-feeding) is a natural progression from breastfeeding because it allows your baby to self-regulate and be in control of when and how much he eats. It it also said to improve hand-eye coordination, build self-confidence, and help to avoid food battles at the table. There is even anecdotal evidence of babies rejecting foods to which they were later found to be allergic. Fascinating!
A big part of BLW is waiting for baby to “tell” you when he is ready to start solids. That is, you don’t just start spoon feeding mushed up food when your baby turns an arbitrary age. The list below is a checklist of indicators of readiness for the introduction of any solids, not just for those following BLW. In BLW, the primary indicator is when your baby literally reaches out, grabs the food on your plate, and puts it in his own mouth.
The book and this website have a lot of information on both the “why” and the “how.” I highly recommend the book, as it explains everything more thoroughly than I am able to. It isn’t complicated (with a few exceptions, baby just eats what you eat!), but it takes a lot of patience.
When I discuss BLW with other mothers, the main concern is always about gagging or chocking. The book addresses this. When you think about it, putting food in his own mouth is the best way for your baby to gauge how much food he can handle and how far back to place it. The book says it is actually more likely for a baby that is spoon-fed to choke, since he isn’t as prepared for the food to in, and is therefore slower to learn how to maneuver it.
Our BLW Journey
…has recently begun! I will write about its early stages in a follow-up post.