Baby-Led Weaning

Lately I have been looking into weaning Bug as she comes up to her six month milestone. This is kind of scary for me as we have already overcome our breastfeeding issues (Bug was exclusively formula fed from 6 weeks due to severely low milk supply) and we only just got the reflux and regular feedings under control and now we have to change it all up again.

In 1994, the U.K. Department of Health raised the recommendation of the minimum age of weaning from three to four months. The law changed at this time as well so that manufacturers cannot market their products for weaning for babies under four months.

In 2003, the U.K. Department of Health raised the minimum age four to six months but the law did not change so you still see items marketed for four months +. Some people wean before this time because they think that the baby will sleep longer, the baby is very hungry or that they are ready to wean but even the CDC says that babies should not be weaned until they are 6 months old. It is advised that you do not wean your child until they can situp (aided but can control their head and neck), can pick up things with hands and bring them directly to their mouth and can swallow. This usually comes together around the 6 month time.  They also want you to start weaning at six months because the iron stores in your baby start to dwindle. Some parents start earlier but it is said that you should not do it any earlier than four months.

In regular weaning you introduce the food along side with a feed, so breastfeed or bottlefeed half way, then let them eat a bit of food and then finish it up with the rest of the feed. This is usually started with purees, then mashed foods and finally finger foods.

In baby-led weaning (BLW), you introduce the food when the baby is not hungry because you are not feeding them and not even putting the food in their hands. The food is placed in front of them (not all of it as it will overwhelm them and end up on the floor).  This is why they have to be six months if you are BLW. You give them finger food size pieces so that they can pick them up but they don't have the ability to open their hands yet so they will only be able to munch on the part outside of their hands.

Initially when I heard about BLW, I thought it just meant feeding them baby food when they seemed ready for foods. I had not really looked into weaning until I knew the time was approaching. I heard about this from the mummies in the baby groups I go to. It seems some of my friends have done a varying degree of BLW and feeding them purees. They liked the idea of them getting to play with food and work on their hand to mouth coordination but then they also knew that they had eaten.

So why does BLW appeal to me?

  • I went to the store to look at the things for weaning and to be honest, it was overwhelming. I am not a lover of stuff so the idea of having to kit out my kitchen so I can make purees because I don't want to feed Bug baby food from a jar or baby rice, made me feel like there had to be a better way. Baby food and baby rice are not allowed to add salt in their manufacturing processes in the UK but they can and do add a lot of sugar. 
  • I want to feed Bug real food. BLW makes it easier to do this. You are just steaming broccoli or carrots, cutting up a pear or banana and giving them a slice of meat. Eventually they are eating the same things so you are only making one meal for the whole family. So when you eat out, you skip the children's menu which is usually chicken nuggets and not very good for them and instead share your meal with them. I personally don't agree with children's menus, most restaurants will make smaller portions for your children of adult foods. Also one thing I learned is children's menus have only been around for 20 years in the UK. Even in Europe, they don't really do children's menus and are know to have children eat better than the US and UK.
  • I don't want Bug to be a fussy eater. This is why some parents really like BLW because the stress of getting them to eat what you want them to is removed. They are experiencing all sorts of tastes and textures from the beginning and that helps with them being more open to all sorts of foods. This approach is relaxed which means that you should be able to avoid the tantrums that often occur around making children eat.
  • They learn to know when they are full. We have trusted them with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding up to this point but when it comes to food we take that away from them because we are trying to get them to finish this jar or bowl. You have enough so that they will leave a little bit left over and that is how you know they have had. They are eating at a slower pace so they will be able to know when they are truly full.
  • I hope it will get Mr B and I to eat better. We don't eat horribly but we can do better. I have made the rule, we are not allow to eat what she can't have in front of her. I say this because if she reaches forward at a meal, I want her to be able to try the thing she is reaching for. We are following her lead. Mr B has crisps and candy bars to take to work as he has a physical job so can burn calories like no one I know (not jealous at all!!! Okay I am!). So his stuff is in the pantry with the cat and dog food. So I think he may turn into a closet eater.
  • The mess doesn't appeal to me but I have Dusty so hopefully it will be minimized! But it is also supposed to be so much fun!

I just thought I would give you an insight to a trend going on over here in the UK. Two books that I felt were very good at explaining BLW were Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food and The Baby-led Weaning Cookbook: Over 130 delicious recipes for the whole family to enjoy.

I know it all sounds very hippyish but I think it is a great approach to food when we have as a society really skewed how food fits in. Also if you know me, it suits the closet hippie in me ;)

All the Best!

American to Britain