Baby-led weaning is a growing trend for introducing your baby to solid foods without the use of commercial baby foods, purées, or spoon feeding. Proponents extol its numerous advantages, which include the ability to simplify feeding times for parents, improved appetite control, less fussiness around food, and protection against obesity later in life. Nonetheless, many medical professionals point out its disadvantages, such as an increased risk of choking. This article looks at the most recent research on baby-led weaning, its benefits, and how to use it safely with your own child.
What exactly is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) was introduced around 15 years ago and has gained popularity since then. Weaning is the process of introducing solid foods to your breastfed or bottle-fed baby. Beginning around 6 months of age, BLW encourages the introduction of foods through self-feeding. It offers an alternative to the purées and spoon-feedings that have traditionally been used as babies’ first foods in most Western countries. BLW encourages parents to offer baby-sized pieces of regular foods from the start, rather than gradually transitioning from parent-fed purées to family foods as the baby grows older. The parents choose which foods to offer, when to offer them, and in what form to offer them so that their babies can feed themselves as effectively as possible.
The Advantages of Baby-Led Weaning
The benefits of BLW are numerous, ranging from healthier eating habits to improved long-term health outcomes for children. It could encourage healthy eating habits. BLW emphasizes allowing your baby to choose what and how much to eat, transforming them from passive recipients to active participants in the feeding process. As a result, it is frequently claimed that BLW promotes healthier eating habits later in life.
Babies weaned using a BLW approach were more in touch with their hunger and better able to recognize feelings of fullness around 18-24 months of age than those weaned using a more traditional, purée-feeding approach, according to one study. They were also less responsive to foods as toddlers, which means they were more likely to eat foods because they were hungry rather than because they were within view or reach. A lower likelihood of childhood obesity has been linked to being less responsive to foods and having the ability to recognize feelings of fullness. As a result, BLW may aid in the development of healthy eating patterns based on appetite rather than external factors, which will benefit them throughout their lives.
It is possible that it will protect you from gaining too much weight
BLW may protect children from gaining too much weight later in life. Experts believe this is because babies are more involved in the eating process. Babies with BLW are allowed to grasp foods and bring them to their mouths at their own pace, with little parental influence. They may also have a better chance of stopping eating when full when compared to spoon-fed infants, who are more likely to be consciously or subconsciously overfed. Numerous studies show that BLW babies are more likely to be of normal weight than babies weaned using more traditional weaning methods.
One study discovered that spoon-fed infants were 2.2 pounds (1 kg) heavier at 18-24 months than BLW-weaned infants. They were also 2.4 times more likely to be obese. In another study, approximately 1% of babies weaned using the BLW method were classified as obese, compared to 11% of the spoon-fed group. Larger and more recent studies, however, find no link between weaning method and infant weights, highlighting the need for additional research on this topic.
Food fussiness may be reduced
Because more tastes and textures are introduced early on, it is often claimed that BLW reduces picky eating behaviors and promotes acceptance of a wider variety of foods. In one study, BLW babies were less likely than spoon-fed babies to be rated as fussy eaters by their mothers at 18-24 months of age. Another study found that babies who were weaned using a baby-led approach were less likely to prefer sweets as preschoolers than babies who were weaned using a more traditional purée-feeding approach.
It could make feeding your child easier
Proponents of BLW frequently mention its simplicity as a motivator for using this method. Parents no longer need to consider making or purchasing appropriate purées. They can simply serve BLW-appropriate versions of the family meals to their babies. Furthermore, the child is trusted to choose what and how much to eat, which relieves some of the pressure from the parents. According to research, mothers who use BLW report less anxiety during the weaning period. They are also less likely to express concern about their child’s weight or to monitor it.
How to Begin Weaning Your Baby
Some foods are better suited to BLW than others. Starting with foods that are appropriate in size and texture, as well as avoiding potentially problematic foods, can make it easier for your baby to eat and reduce safety concerns, such as choking. Breastfeeding or infant formula will continue to provide the majority of the calories your baby requires while weaning. Their consumption of breast milk or formula should gradually decrease as their consumption of solids increases.
Some BLW-appropriate foods to get your kid started:
- baked, skinless potatoes or sweet potatoes
- beans or peas, slightly mashed
- orange without inner skins
- ground meat
- ground nuts and seeds
- boiled eggs
Starting around 6 months of age, baby-led weaning is an alternative approach to introducing solids that involves offering baby-sized pieces of regular foods rather than purées. It may have several advantages, but as with any weaning method, certain safety precautions must be taken. Baby-led weaning can help parents feed their babies more easily, promote healthy eating habits, protect your baby from excessive weight gain, and reduce fussiness around food.
Baby-led weaning can be a great way to introduce your child to a variety of healthy foods early on if you choose the right foods, serve them in appropriate consistency, and take active steps to reduce the risk of choking.