Baby Led Weaning: Let your baby have more control
We hear we should let our babies decide when they’re full and we shouldn’t force them to eat more. Researchers bring up concepts of baby led weaning and responsive feeding. Can this help our babies to be healthier?
Baby Led Weaning (BLW)
Baby led weaning is an alternative to the more traditional spoon-fed and purée weaning practices. While some researchers define BLW as using less than 10% than spoon-feeding or purée feeding, there is no official definition . Generally, it involves offering graspable pieces of whole food (typically same as family meals) to infants and allowing them the choice of what and how much they will consume [1,2,3].
Responsive feeding practices are integral to baby led weaning. Basically parents trust a baby knows when he/she is full. Instead of setting baby’s portion, observe your baby’s cues for hunger or satisfaction. Try not to pressure your baby to eat or restrict food too much. Researchers find responsive feeding may help a baby to learn when he/she is full, which leads to better long-term eating habits . These self discoveries of feeding behavior correspond with the embrace of food/nutritional diversity through baby led weaning practices.
When to start Baby Led Weaning
Baby led weaning can start when solid foods are introduced around 4-6 months. Parents should decide the exact timing based on the observed motor skills of the baby. These skills should include the ability to sit upright with little to no help. This ability frees up the arms to reach and grasp objects, such as food. These developments should also coincide with the physical and mental stamina/interest in consuming food [1,4]. Remember, breast milk should still serve as the primary source of nutrition for the first 6 months [1,2,4].
Benefits & Challenges of Baby Led Weaning
- Baby’s weight is more likely to be in the normal range  (yet BMI results are inconclusive )
- Mothers expressed less anxiety about how much their babies ate 
- Allows babies to better develop a diverse flavor palette (less pickiness) [2,3]
- More chances to practice and develop motor skills
- Many meals for adults are unsuitable to babies (high sodium, sugar,...), so they must be modified for infant consumption [1.2].
- Concerns of specific nutrient deficiencies such as iron [1,2].
- Choking risk involved with solid chunks of food. However studies show no difference in choking incidences between baby led weaning and spoon-fed methods [1,2].
How to Apply Baby Led Weaning in Real Life
- Set clear rules & boundaries: BLW doesn’t mean letting your baby decide whatever he/she wants to do at the table. Set a routine for meal times and locations. Minimize distractions such as toys and smartphones.
- Choose how to apply baby led weaning: Baby feeding doesn’t have to be 100% finger food. It’s fine to mix spoon feeding & baby led weaning especially with loose and soupy food.
- Introduce 2-3 ingredients at a time: Remember your baby is likely to accept the least favorite food when he/she is hungry. Save sweets until the end.
- Prepare a healthy family meal: Recipes for adult dishes will have to be altered to become suitable for infant consumption: less sodium, less preservatives, and fresher ingredients - it’s also healthier for the rest of the family.
*Most of the current data is based on self-reporting from parents that chose baby led weaning. More longitudinal and randomized studies must be done to better understand the behavioral and long-term outcomes associated with it .
Apply Baby Led Weaning with Nuttri
- Create food lists: Keep track of different food items that your baby has tried and liked/disliked.
- Scan food info: Stay knowledgeable about diverse food items to meet nutritional needs.
- Search for recipes: Review recommended preparations to alter family meals to be more “infant friendly.”
- Cameron S, Heath A, Taylor R. "How Feasible Is Baby-Led Weaning as an Approach to Infant Feeding? A Review of the Evidence." Nutrients 4, no. 12 (2012): 1575-609. doi:10.3390/nu4111575.
- Brown A, Jones SW, Rowan H. "Baby-Led Weaning: The Evidence to Date." Current Nutrition Reports 6, no. 2 (2017): 148-56. doi:10.1007/s13668-017-0201-2.
- Brown A, Lee M. "An exploration of experiences of mothers following a baby-led weaning style: developmental readiness for complementary foods." Maternal & Child Nutrition 9, no. 2 (2011): 233-43. doi:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00360.x.
- Taylor RW, Williams SM, Fangupo LJ, Wheeler BJ, Taylor BJ, Daniels L, Fleming EA, McArthur J, Morison B, Erickson LW, Davies RS, Bacchus S, Cameron SL, Heath AM. Effect of a Baby-Led Approach to Complementary Feeding on Infant Growth and OverweightA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(9):838–846. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.1284
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