Hi it’s Dawnie Brown here from Knees Up Mother Brown, my sister has asked me to do a guest post on our experiences of Baby Led Weaning for her blog so here goes 🙂
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to babies, after all Zara was my first one and so when it came to thinking about weaning her it seemed that there were such a large variety of opinions out there it was impossible not to get completely confused.
Now I’m someone who likes to keep things simple and where possible go with the flow but I also like to thoroughly investigate all the options before I start on something and so when Zara was around 4 months old I started looking into the minefield that is baby weaning. Government guidelines are of course that you should wait until your baby is 6 months old before weaning and I wanted to wait as long as possible before starting despite well meaning advice from anyone within hearing distance. After all “babies only start sleeping through when you fill them up with baby rice at 3 months old” don’t they? Nope, that’s a load of nonsense, Zara has slept through since she was 6 weeks old and we only ever really got disturbed nights when she was teething or having a growth spurt and so the need to wean her early in order for a nights sleep wasn’t necessary.
Being a member of various parenting forums, one thing that did keep cropping up in relation to weaning was Baby Led Weaning and me being me had to investigate. Baby led weaning (or BLW as I shall call it from now on in this post to save my fingers) basically goes by the concept that if you wait until your baby is 6 months old to start weaning, then you don’t need to bother with purees and mushy stuff as they are old enough to start straight onto solid food. And that is basically it, wait until 6 months, start giving solid food and let the baby decide when it is ready to eat and how much it wants to eat. No mush, no purees, no spoon feeding, no force feeding, just put baby in highchair, give them some food and let them explore it. Sounds simple eh? The most commonly recommended book on the subject is “Baby Led Weaning” by Gill Rapley, although this is more of a theory behind it and guide rather than an actual “how to” book. If you are wanting a book which tells you that at 6 months, offer x food and in week 2 offer x, y and z food then you won’t find one as this isn’t what BLW is about.
So how do you start BLW? Well that’s pretty easy, from when Zara was about 5 months old we started sitting her in her highchair whilst we ate our meals and we’d give her some plastic cutlery to play with etc just to get her used to the idea of sitting down, watching us eating, conversations etc. Mealtimes are more of a social interaction initially for BLW than food focussed. Zara was about 5 and a half months when she started showing an interest in what was on our plates and so I started popping little bits on her tray, a floret of broccoli or a piece of carrot are always good starting foods. At first all she did was play with them, maybe throw them on the floor, maybe lick it but after a week or so she became more courageous and started putting them in her mouth. Now I will admit that the first time you watch your baby put something in their mouth, you will hold your breath and tense up, I reckon it’s impossible not too but try your hardest not to react and just carry on eating. The theory is that by 6 months old your baby is perfectly capable of managing to eat and if you sit back and let them, they will show you just how well they manage.
There will be gagging initially. Now many parents panic at this and this is probably the reason that most attempts at BLW fail as baby starts coughing and the parent incorrectly assumes their child is choking. The gag reflex is far forward in a babies mouth at this age and it is designed this way so that babies will automatically gag and bring forward any un-chewed food back to the front of their mouths. So yes you will find your baby gags quite a bit initially as it learns to chew food but you really shouldn’t step in unless the baby is clearly choking and struggling. I’d say 9 times out of 10 parents over-react to gagging when it really isn’t necessary. My rule was stay calm and sit still and wait, if baby is still coughing then they are still breathing and the airway is not blocked and they are not choking. If baby is physically distressed or struggling to breathe then is the time to step in, although this never happened once with Zara, we had plenty of gagging in the initial weeks but never once did I have to intervene.
Once started on the BLW route is really is simple from then on, you just keep giving bits of food and let the baby decide when and how much they want to eat, no pressure. You just keep giving them their bottles of milk as normal and eventually in their own time baby will drop the milk and eat more food. It may take a few months before baby is eating substantial amounts of food, with Zara she was probably around 8 months when she really started properly eating decent portions of food but now at 13 months old she eats 3 full meals a day, plus snacks and only has milk first thing in the morning and last thing at night. We will be dropping these bottles shortly as she isn’t really interested in them that much anymore.
Will I be doing BLW again with this next baby? Most definitely, it has been so much fun doing it with Zara, I wouldn’t hesitate to go down the BLW route again. Zara will happily eat anything we give her nowadays (including curry etc, we introduced her to garlic, chilli, ginger etc from an early age and so she much prefers stronger tasting food than any of that bland baby mush!) and mealtimes are a pleasure. Instead of spending mealtimes feeding our baby we spend them interacting and conversing with her and rarely a mealtime goes by without us all laughing and giggling together. Even eating out is simple as there is no messy baby food to prepare, we just give her bits of what we are having.
If you decide to go down the BLW route yourself and ever want a bit of support/advice then feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on twitter @dawnie_brown I’m no expert on the subject but sometimes it’s nice just to talk to someone who has been there and done that!