Mommying BabyT

Mommy T's adventures; bringing up Baby T

Baby Led Weaning – the solution to “Fussy eaters”

There’s a scary new word doing the rounds these days in Parenting circles. That word is baby led weaning. It also creeps up in conversations in the form of the acronym BLW. It spreads utter confusion in the minds of eager new parents who know they want their children to be good consumers of green, red, yellow, purple looking fruit and vegetables. Fussy eaters, hell no. We want our babies to be anything but that.

Introducing solid foods to the baby is advocated from the time baby has turned 6 months. WHO recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed/ given formula till they turn 6 months. Even then experts advocate checking for readiness in the infants for solids. Age is just a qualifying criterion. Signs of readiness include being able to sit up for at least a few seconds when supported, loss of tongue thrust and an interest in food.

Traditionally babies were introduced to weaning foods in the form of purees, juices, soups, mashed stuff. Basically, the texture was runny liquid. Babies tended to just swallow this down. Gradually after a few months of gulping down mushy stuff, they were slowly introduced to semi-solids like softly boiled veggies, steamed or soft fruits and more textured but still soft foods. Eating real adult food was still far off.

While this was the easy way to wean the baby, it wasn’t really introducing baby to a variety of foods, flavours and textures. It also taught them to swallow rather than chew which is the normal way of eating food. In traditional weaning methods – babies swallowed first and then time was spent to make them unlearn that and learn to chew first and then swallow. The most important element of traditional weaning was that someone had to feed the baby. Finishing everything on the plate/ bowl was also a mandate and this led to many a tears, stress and lo, behold many fussy eaters.

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Baby led weaning is revolutionary in that sense. They say the baby should not be given any gooey, mashy, pureed foods. They should straight away be introduced to real food. Babies may not have teeth but they are able to eat softly boiled solid foods right away. Ever been bitten by a gummy baby? You’ll know what I mean.

Most importantly baby led weaning is about letting babies eat on their own – right from the word GO! Yes, it is doable and it has happened to us. I was scared at first too, but the first grasp and food finding mouth action had me floored.

Now before you pop the cork and bring out the pizzas and burgers, it is important to know that baby-led weaning has a lot of principles, some of them a little too rigid. But they work and who is to argue with that –

  • Feed baby milk (breastmilk or formula) about 30 minutes before meal times. Introducing solids is to do just that – introduce them to the world of flavours, colours, textures. Milk has to be the primary source of nutrition until the age of 1. I accepted very early on that babyT would eat no more than a couple of spoons but he did like to experience new colours and textures of foods.
  • Offer softly boiled but firm vegetables or foods. There is no need to steam fruits especially banana, apple. Apple can be grated and offered in the early months. Other foods can be cut into strips or thick matchstick sized pieces which the baby can pick and eat on his own.
  • Let the baby eat on his own. DO NOT interfere if he drops it. He has to learn to pick it and put it in his mouth.
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  • Let them handle cutlery too – spoons, forks
  • There is no need to introduce a food, wait for a few days and then introduce a new one.
  • Introduce meals gradually. For the first 2 weeks introduce only a small snack in the form of a fruit or vegetable. Then introduce a proper meal food. Gradually, introduce 1 snack and then 1 meal, till you are doing breakfast, lunch, dinner and about 2 snacks per day. This may happen every 2 weeks or so for your baby or maybe on a monthly basis. You are the best judge of your baby’s appetite for solid foods.
  • Introduce allergens early on. Egg yolk is to be introduced first and then the white. We did this around 8 months and started with yellow. We did not introduce egg whites till he was almost 1.
  • Eat together as a family, ideally at the dining table with a baby strapped into a high chair or booster chair.
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  • No separate food cooked for baby – baby eats the same food as the rest of the family, minus salt – sugar and adjusted for spice. I tell you this was the biggest blessing of BLW. It worked perfectly for the minimal effort investor mommy in me.
  • Have a separate plate for baby – fill it up as per his appetite. But don’t insist he finish it. Baby knows how much he wants to eat. Serve less, you can add more if baby wants it. Reduce wastage.
  • Baby will get messy with the food. Face and hair massages, decorating the walls, sprinkling the floors will happen. Have lots of spare clothes for baby and be ready for laundry. They eventually learn to not make a mess. Food is for fun and learning happens through play.
  •  Baby led weaning does not mean baby can get away with the all the junk you adults eat. Reform your own ways so as to set a good example for your little ones. (This one has been my personal best achievement with BLW. You’ll be  hard-pressed to find much junk in our home.)
  • Keep a watchful eye when baby eats the BLW way. No distractions allowed for you. You need to be alert in case baby gags or chokes or has bitten off more than he can chew. Do read up the difference between choking and gagging. In my personal opinion since baby chews before swallowing, baby led weaning is pretty safe. However, there are babies who tend to have a natural gag reflex. Gagging is not choking. Gagging is body’s way of sending signals that you are about to choke so spit this thing out. Do not panic if baby gags, usually they learn to work the back of their throats to shift the big piece of food. But keep a watch in case an emergency arises.

At around 9 months, I offered fish to babyT. He chewed on a piece and swallowed the fleshy part. But I saw that he still kept sucking on something in his mouth. I was a bit annoyed that he was still lingering over the first bite. But soon he came to me and spat out a 1-inch piece of fish bone. I was shocked at my own negligence to remove this bone and also surprised he knew this piece was not to be pushed down the throat. I think he developed this skill due to BLW.

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Pomegranate seeds post being chewed on

Oh, and you should see baby led weaned babies eat pomegranate seeds. They beautifully chew on the flesh and spit out the inner seed. A skill which no grown adult with years of chewing and eating experience can boast of.

My friend Ophira has a very comprehensive blog on Baby Led Weaning. It is a masterpiece and if my post has not convinced you yet, her’s sure will. Read it here.

The advantages of baby led weaning are many. The end result of a baby who has been weaned in this manner is that your baby will eat independently, making you the Goddess of mom-dom. But jokes apart, it means the time you could have been spending on feeding, fussing and finishing his plate, is invested in a happy family meal time instead. You get to eat your meals hot and at a decent hour.
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BLW babies also typically eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Be prepared to see the shock and awe on people’s faces when your baby is eating chicken meat off a leg bone, karela (bitter gourd) curry, and all other varieties of family foods. But it is also not a given that BLW babies will eat every fruit and vegetable under the sun. They have their own preferences too. I know BLW whiz babies who will not touch a fruit. Individual preferences do come in to play.

Baby led weaning does not ensure that babies won’t have allergies. If there is an inherent tendency then he will have it, like babyT has his dairy allergy.

Every BLW habit will get disrupted and thrown out the window by the monsters, namely, teething, regressions, appetite drops and plain old interested in some other life skill development phase. As my favourite parenting mantra goes, don’t quit on a bad day! Hang in there.

My biggest grouse with baby led weaning are some of its rather rigid principles such as:

  • DO NOT FEED the baby under any circumstances – there have been times when I have had to rush to a Doctor appointment and I have fed babyT. A purist would fire me from the club.
  • No talking at meal times – I don’t get this. Aren’t meal times an opportunity for interacting, bonding and catching up with family?
  • Absolutely no TV or phones at meal times – I agree somewhat with this in principle. However, remember our childhood when we would all gather around the TV to eat our dinner over serials like Surbhi, The World This Week and other gems? These were some of the best times we had as a family. But I would be a hypocrite if I say I don’t eat some meals over a good movie.

Yes, I am not a BLW purist but I adopted a flexible approach without losing sight of the foundation pillars of the concept. In hindsight, I can say baby-led weaning has been one of the best decisions of our parenting journey. Baby led weaning is really easy and fuss-free in terms of the effort you will put in your baby’s eating. And the output at the end of it is a baby who loves to eat and is not, a fussy eater! Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?

Have any baby led weaning questions? Do drop them in comments I will try my best to find you a solution.

This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.

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27 Comments

  1. I thought this was the way most babies are weaned now – it just seems like an extra stage introducing puree first
    Debbie

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 7:02 pm

      Yes it is increasingly being seen as the easier and more effective way of weaning babies. Thank you for visiting.

  2. We had a fussy eater due to sensory processing disorder. It was quite the challenge, but worth being patient through the process. You have many great ideas in your post. Glad I stopped by through the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      That must have been challenging. But I agree if one has the patience then much of parenting is easy and fun. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Wow! Where were you 8 years ago? I would have loved to try all this with my son. He is 9 now, and I still feed him sometimes. Guilty!
    Your post is like Bible for young mother’s. You must write a book!

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      I will admit there are times when the grandparents are around and lot of feeding happens. Sigh. Building habits again is hard for me then. And you are too kind with your compliments. 🙂

  4. I did all of this, at the insistence of my paediatrician but didn’t know its called ‘Baby led weaning’. But yes, this works. Mishti has never been a fussy eater as I never gave her pureed food. We always had our meals together. I don’t remember eating cold food ever. Now she is almost nine years old and I do ask her choice but only for weekends. On weekdays she eats the food that is cooked for the family without any special preferences. She knows there are few family rules which each one of us follows. Also thankfully my family supports me.

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm

      Family meals is what I always aimed for even before I knew we were expecting. It gives so much value to quality family time.

  5. Such an amazing write up Nayantara. I am biased to Blw, but experiencing it first hand and watching other blw babies from my mommy group I agree these kids have better feeding skills than adults even. The pomegranate seed thing is so true. What I love most and the reason I support BLW is just the confidence it gives children. They approach every meal time with confidence and even reject food when not to a liking in a very non fussy manner. Just like you I am grateful I chose this as a part of my parenting journey. Always enjoy reading your perspective on things, I am sure this will help new mommies make the desicion.

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Ophira and for your link. I so agree with you – even when they dont want to eat something they do it in a very non-fussy manner. I did not think of that.

  6. Can you guide me with my 8 month old . I have feeding her all kinds of purées and porridge since 3 months . She started refusing everything as soon as she completed 7 months. What all can I give her now ? And what if she doesn’t eat anything ? Also how will I know if she is full ? Should I breastfeed after the meal if I find her hungry and not interested in food ?

    • At 8 months her primary source of nutrition is bm or formula. So pls continue to give that and offer only 2-3 solid meals at this stage. It’s important give variety of foods to baby. So move on from purées and porridge’s and start giving foods like Idli, dosa, veg parathas or theplas. Do feed her 30-40 mins before the meal as suggested in Article.

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      I am sorry you are in this state right now. But please dont worry. I think she may be going through a teething phase or some developmental phase and hence is refusing to eat. Pls dont fuss or force her. Keep offering her food and let her be the judge of whethr she wants to eat. Babies are aware of their inner instincts and will naturally come to eat when they are hungry. If she skips meals then just keep offering her milk. She will eventually ask for food. Pls start her on foods like steamed veggies, soft foods like roti dippd in dals, idlis, soft parathas, cheelas, minus salt – sugar – spices. Pls also do read up more about introducing solids and BLW. It will give you more ideas. Good luck Nikita.

  7. Wow a nice article. I never saw it from this perspective. Thanks.

  8. I did BLW with my little one and loved it. Apart from a few adjustments due to her allergies she always just ate the same as us. Nursery always tell me what a good eater she is. It’s so messy in the early days but that just adds to the fun!

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      We have allergies too – dairy and Indian food is full of dairy. As a family, we have completely eliminated dairy products from our diet. But we feel fresher and lighter so I suppose it turned out ok.

  9. Such a beautiful article on BLW. My LO is going to complete 6 months on April 28th and she’s been EBF despite force from family to start solids while she completed 3 months. But, I was adamant to start solids only after she completed 6 months. Though I want to follow BLW, I’m kinda scared of baby choking as against traditional weaning where initially porridges are introduced. Could you please suggest what solid food can be introduced to the baby at 6 months?
    Thank you.
    Love to BabyT 😘💕

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      You are absolutely right to be scared of choking. It is a valid fear. But trust me most babies dont choke. CHoking happens when you swallow a big piece as opposed to chewing it first into smaller bits and then swallowing. BLW babies do learn to chew first. So when u begin eat with your baby encourage her to eat and show how to chew by moving your mouth (and even now sit her with you while u eat and see the chewing action.) Start with soft boiled carrots, broccoli, potatoes fried in ghee, banana, grated apple. SLowly introduce home made food like strips of roti dal, sabjis without spice, rice (rolled in dal and made into balls) Hope this helps. Oh yes,, watch some youtube videos to know differenc between gagging and choking.

  10. Very informative post. Kudos to you for the detailed research.

  11. This is such an informative post, well researched and detailed. I follow a mix of traditional weaning and BLW because there are times when I just pick up the food and make Cookie eat.
    Cookie had also learnt how to eat the pomegranate the same way, he still throws the seed away.

  12. My daughter didn’t let me wean breastmilk and she was also shifted to normal food so double food till she turned one .and I too tried all this puresss but all handmade

  13. We have spent 19 months without BLW. But now I feel Ayu is ready to eat by himself. He conveys that many times. So I let him eat by himself. Sometimes small pieces of roti or dosa

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 3, 2018 at 5:36 pm

      That must be so wonderful to see and experience. There are of course multiple ways to wean babies. And each have their advantages.

  14. Personally, I see adapting a philosophy to your own family’s circumstances is more important than simply following precepts too rigid for you and your child.

    And I say this as the mother of thriving teens. BLW wasn’t something I knew about at the time they were learning to eat – but I went with their lead, letting both begin experimenting with food when they reached to take food off my plate!

    • mommyingbabyt

      April 12, 2018 at 8:34 am

      That is true. Every situation and home is different and parents must do what works best for them.

  15. My second born is a BLW fed baby and I couldn’t be happier. My first born wasn’t blw. Their eating habits, tastes, likes and dislikes are so different from each other. This is a very informative post, Nayantara. Good one!

  16. Hi! I was looking for different foods to be offered to my LO as he is turning 6months and I landed on the BLW method. I am looking forward to trying it with him. Could you please advise me on how many meals he would require initially and how much quantity of it. Could I start with grated apples and he is expected to eat it with the spoon on his own? Also how do I introduce ragi to him.. Could I give him ragi porridge?

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