Baby-led Weaning

I had read about baby-led weaning (BLW for short) at moms4mom.com when researching the whole “eating food” thing. The description by a parent made it sound like you feed them solid solid food (not purees) from the get-go. At first I was confused by the name, since weaning was not what I was looking to do. It’s kind of badly named — I’d call it baby-led feeding.

I read a little bit more online, about the idea. Right now in the US, the conventional first foods for a baby are soupy grain cereals and vegetable purees. Outside of the US, and historically, this has not been the case.

I was excited about the idea of it because it’s apparent that 80 is into eating, and we haven’t had any trouble with her wanting to try new food, gagging on the purees we’d been giving her, or anything else that would be a sign that this wouldn’t be a good idea.

In fact, one big reason why I was so excited is that the babies feed themselves. 80 is acting so independent, and wasn’t very happy being fed. She’d tolerate it at the beginning, but by the middle of the feeding she’d grab at the spoon. It’s amazing how fast her reflexes are, which meant she would have her hand (or hands) around the spoon, and I’d be saying “let go, please” in my nice voice while prying her little fingers off it. This did not make her happy. So then we’d have a crying, frustrated girl, and I’m trying to give her more food ON THE VERY SPOON I’D JUST TAKEN AWAY. It reminded me of that meme crying while eating.

I didn’t find a comprehensive explanation online, so resolved to see if the library had a book on it. I asked at the weekly mom meet-up we have on Friday afternoons, and one of the moms offered to lend me the book she had. Perfect! It’s Baby-led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.

Basically, the idea is that babies are capable of eating on their own, because their tongue-thrust reflex keeps them from eating before they’re ready, and the gag reflex helps to teach them how far they can put food into their mouths. It takes some courage to just hand your baby a “stick” of food, since we’re told not to let them near anything they could take a bite out of. The only other unpleasant part of starting BLW was freaking out about 80 gagging on food.

The gag reflex is awesome — it lets 80 know when she’s crammed that banana too far into her mouth. It’s just that she then make the “gork gork” noise, and Jason and I jump from our chairs and stare at her with our arms out to the side like we’re ready to tackle her. Just like the book said, she’d gag a bit, spit out the food, then calmly continue eating. All babies are going to do this, even if they’re eating purees. The book goes over in great detail how to handle gagging and choking (which is less likely to happen). 80 hasn’t choked once, but she’s gagged maybe three times — not recently though.

BLW is said to be messy, since your kidlet has access to all the food, but I found purees to be just as messy, since they’re basically food paint.

The big thing on what to feed your baby is that you should be offering them food from your plate, and eating together. Outside of the big no-nos (honey, salt, nuts, peanuts, dairy), you can feed your kid anything. It’s a little hard to wrap my brain around, since we’ve been in a pureed vegetables culture for so long, but once I finished the book, and started offering 80 some different things, it got a lot easier to imagine what I could feed her from my plate.

A side benefit is that you end up eating healthier! It’s hard for me not to eat salt, so this is an excellent exercise in moderation.

I’m going to give you a list of what 80’s eaten so far, but bear in mind that the point is not that she’s ingest much (if any) of all of the foods. The point is that she’s practicing eating for when she’ll need the calories.

Since we’ve started, 80’s eaten sticks of avocado, apple, carrot (baked and peeled first, so it’s solid but not crunchy), potato, rice cake (I found regular old plain rice cakes broken into sticks work better and are cheaper than the baby versions), kale (from a soup), lettuce (she mostly gummed it and didn’t eat any), chicken breast, grapefruit, lemon, and she’s moved on to eating the standard “O”. I looked at Cascadian Farms version of Cheerios, but they had way more sugar. Turns out Cheerios (or their generic equivalent) have the lowest sugar — 1g per serving. Os are great, since they are the perfect shape for little chubby hands. It’s an excellent exercise in the pincer grasp, and it keeps 80 amused for a long time. We brought Os on the plane to NC last week, and she’d pick one from our hand and work on getting it to her mouth — and then we’d put another in our hand for her to take. Not messy on her face or clothes, tiny snack, not hard to clean up even if she got it all soggy and it ended up on the floor, and it was a good way to pass time.

I’d suggest the book I read — it’s well written, it has a nice balance of historical information, reasons to BLW with reasonable encouragement (not making you feel like you’re signing up for a cult), and lots of suggestions for foods.

The only downside for me was that it’s British, and I had to look up what a rusk was, as well as try to remember the American words for aubergine and courgette.

If you’re not a fan of personal stories (they are in all the baby books I read), you can just skip them. In fact, if you don’t care about the history of feeding babies, you can just skip to chapter 4 where it gets down to the nitty gritty.

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7 Responses to “Baby-led Weaning”

  1. Kateri says:

    Thanks for posting about this Sonya. You guys are just a few steps ahead of us and it’s fun to see what you are trying and learning before we have to figure it out for Cora!

  2. E says:

    I imagine this is also a good way for your baby to figure out what is good for nomming. Table top? Not good for nomming. Avocado? Totally nommable.

  3. sunday says:

    I’m happy to forge ahead for you! I have Abby and Sara, Kelly and Houston to do the same for me.

  4. sunday says:

    E, it is. I think she’s going to keep nomming non-food for a while, since that’s a preferred way to explore her environment, but since she’s going to be feeding herself for the rest of her life, she might as well learn how to now. I want an independent 80.

  5. melissa says:

    That is precisely what we do. The Beast discovered that he likes hummus (homemade – so way less salt than you’d think) by grabbing a container from the table and licking his fingers. (:

    Sadly, most of what we eat is slathered in cheese.. so we have to limit what he can have from our plates. B gave him a slice of onion to chew on today. I think they’re both crazy.

  6. Karla says:

    Great post! H. loved bananas, kiwi and grated cheese.

  7. Gill Rapley says:

    Hi, Glad you’re enjoying BLW. I love your comments (especially the bit about it not being a cult!). Bit late for you, I know, (sorry) but others may like to know that the American edition of our book was published in the US in November by The Experiment. The title is ‘Baby-led Weaning – The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods’. All aubergines are egg plants!

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