Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Great Big Baby-Led Weaning Post, Part 1

When Lilah was six months to a year old, you could often find me in the kitchen, boiling, pureeing, and freezing organic fruits and veggies to serve to her at mealtimes.  Sound familiar?

This time around, as Henry approached the six month mark, I knew I would have neither the time, nor the desire (and certainly not the energy!) to spend his precious naptimes boiling and pureeing away.  I wanted to make starting solids as painless as possible for all of us.  So I started looking into Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), also known as Baby-Led Feeding or Self-Feeding.  I knew a number of families who had tried this method for feeding solids, often with their second or third babies, and I was interested to know what it entailed. 

Now that I'm the one doing it and posting photos all over Instagram and Facebook, I've had several friends ask me about it, and I am more than happy to share my experiences.

There are some good resources on the internet, including the Baby-Led Weaning site, Baby Center Canada and Canadian Family. But there aren't a lot of specifics out there, mainly because the idea with BLW is that pretty much anything goes.  You kind of have to wing it, which can be a bit challenging for those of us who are admitted control freaks.  And I think that would be especially true for first-time parents. 

Even this time around, it felt like a bit of a leap of faith, given that Henry's diet had consisted exclusively of breast milk up until he turned six months.  I had been intimately acquainted with every drop of sustenance that had passed his lips, and now I was about to plop some food down on the tray of his high chair and let him go to work on it.

But, when it comes to babies, I have always tried to consider how things would have been done back in the bad old days, before high chairs and blenders and fortified baby cereals and the onslaught of parenting information with which we are bombarded every. single. day.

So I let him go for it.  But that's not to say that I didn't have a preliminary checklist to ensure safety and my own confidence in this practice.

First off, my research indicated that babies should be able to sit unassisted before starting self-feeding.  Henry was able to sit up by himself by five and a half months.  Check.  He was showing a definite interest in the foods on our plates and started to get a little peeved when everyone around him was eating without him.  Even when we sat him up in his high chair with toys to entertain him while the rest of us ate dinner. Check.  I still waited until he turned six months, though.  Just to be sure.

I also talked to our family doctor about my plans.  Her resident, who I initially told about my interest in BLW, brought up concerns about Henry's iron levels when I said I was planning to skip fortified cereals.  But then I talked it through with our doctor, mentioning my concerns about him becoming constipated, the way Lilah did on fortified cereals, given that he was already one of those legendary, exclusively-breast-fed-once-a-week poopers. The bottom line of our conversation was that fortified baby cereals are not actually a necessary step, and you can introduce meat and dark, leafy greens quite early on, if you are concerned about baby's iron levels.  (Which, I'll be honest, I really wasn't.)  Again, I go back to the days of our ancestors.  Somehow, billions of babies have survived and even thrived without iron-fortified baby cereals or iron supplements.  Gasp!

There are plenty of reasons to try BLW, but here are a few of the reasons I decided to do this with Henry:

-I'm lazy.
-It seemed like a natural progression from breastfeeding.
-There are some studies that show it encourages babies to grow into children who make healthy choices and are in touch with their satiety cues.
-I had a hunch it would make family mealtimes easier, less stressful, and more inclusive.
-Cavemen didn't have blenders or fortified baby cereals.
-Fine motor development.
-Did I mention I'm lazy?

It turns out I have a lot to say on the subject of BLW, so I've divided it up into segments to make it a little more digestible.  (Haha, get it?)

***Stay tuned for the next installment of this post.  I'll give the specifics on what foods we started with and how it all went.***

Please share your own experiences with feeding babies - I'd love to hear about them!


  1. I think babies/toddlers/children are all annoyingly unique little humans and it is nearly impossible to guess how a food strategy will work on one kid based on how it worked on another. I was a BLW believer with Juju, and frankly all that meant was that she was 18 months old before she really started eating anything other than breast milk and now, at 4, she is picky and difficult. She is simply not interested in food, which in retrospect I can appreciate has always been true. That made it easy for me to believe BLW was the right choice. She didn't seem to care about solids, so I never pushed them, thinking she wasn't ready (and like you, because I was lazy!! my boobs were always handy...). If I could go back and do it again, I would definitely introduce cereals and purees early, before she was in a habit of disliking food as a general principle.

    1. Huh, that's an interesting take. I have a feeling that a lot of pickiness in babies and young kids is due to texture more than taste. Of course, kids are hard-wired not to like anything with a really strong flavour and to always go for sweet stuff, but that aside, I think texture is a huge factor. The good news is, super sensitive kids do, eventually, outgrow many of their sensitivities (or so I hear - still waiting for that to happen with L). Which is why I like BLW. But like you said, some kids are probably just destined to be picky eaters until they eventually develop a little more food confidence and start trying new things on their own volition... perhaps by age 30? ;)


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