For those of you who know me and have read my blog, you’ll probably know that I’m a huge advocate of doing a mixed approach to weaning with some BLW (baby led weaning) alongside spoon feeding, too. If you want to know the difference, check out my complete guide to baby led weaning, which explains what it is and what I like to recommend in a little more detail.
However, I know that there are a lot of people out there who are big fans of BLW, and that’s great too, so I wanted to talk about this popular approach to introducing solids to your baby: Baby-Led Weaning (BLW).
If this is the style of weaning you prefer and you want to go down the BLW route (without using spoons or first-taste purees), that’s fine and you can certainly go for it. Below are 5 of the benefits you might find to BLW.
To caveat this, I want parents to know that there are also plenty of benefits to using some purees or mashed foods and to offering baby foods off of a spoon, too…so if this is the method for you, absolutely go for it. I do like the best-of-both approach myself but know that every family and child is different. Don’t be afraid to offer food off of a spoon though.
This method is all about letting your little one take the lead in their feeding journey. So, let’s dive into it.
The top 5 benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
1. Promotes Independence
One of the benefits of BLW is that it allows your baby to make choices about their food, what they want in that moment, what they decide to pick up and this in itself allows them to explore foods at their own pace entirely. This can help your little one with autonomy around mealtimes, including building their own independence and confidence in eating and food choices. Read more in this blog about feeding your baby finger foods and what works best.
2. Introduces Variety of Textures
With BLW, your baby can be exposed to trying new food textures during weaning right from the start. BLW allows them to really hone and develop eating skills as they have to use hand eye coordination and a wide range of oral motor skills right from day one. This can help them become familiar with more of a variety of textures and more skilled and proficient at eating as they learn about food via their first finger foods.
3. Encourages Family Mealtime
BLW encourages offering your baby food that you yourself are eating – just perhaps not everything and initially the softer foods such as pieces of soft, cooked potato or avocado. You can then move on to foods like scrambled egg and toast fingers, for example. So generally, it’s focused on foods that the whole family is eating. This not only makes meal preparation easier for you, but also allows your baby to be part of family mealtimes, learning and watching what you eat as a family which can really help with their familiarisation and acceptance of foods themselves. Some studies have found that BLW can help families to eat together more regularly and even make mealtimes calmer and less stressful, but this isn’t completely conclusive research. Check out this blog for my top tips for including your baby in family meals.
4. May Lead to Healthier Eating Behaviours
Some research suggests that babies who feed themselves are more likely to understand their own appetites better and practise Responsive Feeding more readily. It’s suggested that the practice of independent eating and self-feeding skills means that babies who practise BLW may be more likely to be in tune with their own appetites and know when they are full or hungry. I go into more detail about portion sizes for babies during weaning in this blog and I also have a free factsheet you can download all about portion sizes for young children.
5. Enhances Fine Motor Skills
The act of picking up and exploring food can help your baby develop their fine motor skills more readily, which is an important milestone and needed for development. Offering finger foods with meals can certainly help with this.
In conclusion, Baby-Led Weaning is a wonderful way to introduce your baby to the world of solid foods. It promotes independence, introduces a variety of textures, encourages family mealtime, may lead to healthier eating behaviours, and enhances fine motor skills. However, it’s important to remember that every baby is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. There are multiple ways to feed your baby and giving them a choice around mealtimes can be a really helpful experience to allow them to explore what works for them.
I hope this was helpful! If you would like to read more, do check out my bumper blog all about baby-led weaning