Are you wondering if baby-led weaning is right for your baby?
Are you trying to decide between traditional spoon-feeding or baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is a fairly new, popular way of introducing solids to your baby. It goes against what many of our parents, and maybe even grandparents, were taught about introducing pureed foods to your baby!
Check out these 10 benefits of baby-led weaning to help you decide if baby-led weaning is for your baby!
What is Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)?
If you’re a newbie to baby-led weaning you may be wondering what the heck this is that all your mom friends or pediatrician may be talking about…
Even though I described baby-led weaning as this “new and popular” way of introducing foods to baby it’s a much more natural way of introducing foods that occurred with parents and babies long before pureed baby foods were invented.
Baby-led weaning, in a nutshell, is introducing the same foods you eat, at mealtime to babies when they are ready – no purees & no spoon-feeding! This encourages babies to wean from breastmilk or formula on their own time, hence the name baby-led weaning!
When Can You Start Baby-Led Weaning?
You can start introducing the solid foods that you eat around 6 months of age.
Usually, around this age, your baby will start to naturally develop self-feeding instincts.
Around 6 months of age is also the current recommendation from the World Health Organization for starting infants on solid foods.
You can read my article about How to Start Introducing Solids to Baby for more information on how to tell when your little one is ready for solid foods.
The first couple of months of BLW is about exploring food. It is more of a sensory experience than anything. This is totally okay because your baby will still be getting the majority of her nutrition from breastmilk and/or formula. Infants don’t need the additional nutrition from solid foods until around 9 months of age.
Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
The reason this new (somewhat actually old & ancient) approach to introducing solids is gaining popularity among parents is because of the many advantages it has for both baby and baby’s family.
Here are some of the many benefits of baby-led weaning:
#1 Promotes Self-Feeding
Your baby learns to feed themselves from day one. First, they will eat with their hands. Over time they will develop the skills needed to feed themselves using silverware too.
#2 Promotes Developmental Skills Needed for Feeding
BLW helps them develop hand-eye coordination & dexterity at an earlier age. Developmental skills such as the development of their pincher grasp are readily practiced and used when they are in charge of picking up their food and bringing it to their mouth.
Chewing skills are also developed at an earlier age. When you are providing your child with the food textures that need to be chewed and moved around in the mouth – unlike pureed foods – you are allowing your child to practice feeding skills needed later in life.
#3 Develops Healthy Eating Habits
Allowing your baby to self-feed and be in charge of how much to eat, what to eat, etc. leads your baby to develop healthy eating habits from the minute they start eating solid foods. BLW allows your baby to explore and learn their hunger and full cues.
Developing healthy eating habits in childhood helps reduce the risk of obesity and eating problems later in life.
#4 Encourages Weaning On Their Own Time
As your baby progresses through BLW they will slowly start to eat more and more solid foods while slowly decreasing the amount of breastmilk and/or formula they are drinking. The best part about this is that it is totally led by your baby on their own natural time and instincts!
#5 Mealtime is Easier and More Enjoyable
When you allow your tiny foodie to self-feed at the dinner table you are free to enjoy your own meal along with your family. A more laid-back approach to introducing foods and allowing your baby to lead through their journey of food alleviates the stress and challenge it can be to get our little humans to eat sometimes.
#6 Learn and Develop Social Cues
By eating with you at mealtime and watching you (and the rest of the family) eat helps your child understand the social cues of eating at an early age. Babies watch everything we do and mimic us, so by watching others eat and partake in family dinners they are learning the social skills they will use for the rest of their life at an early age.
#7 Lower Chance of Pickiness
Introducing babies to the foods & seasonings you eat every day in your household lays the foundation for them to like those foods later on in toddlerhood because those are the foods and tastes they are used to. Avoiding pureed foods also helps them become used to the many textures of foods.
Picky eating is extremely common in childhood and there is really nothing you can do to avoid it. Every child usually goes through a picky phase – which may not even be related to their likeness for foods. BLW just may help decrease the many other reasons – new tastes, smells, textures – that often cause picky eating.
#8 Saves You Money
Avoid having to spend the money on pureed baby food. With BLW you are offering baby the exact food you cooked for the rest of the family. Some foods may need to be prepared or served a certain way to make them safe for your baby to eat, but there should be no additional cost at the grocery store for you.
#9 Eating Out is Easier
Obviously, restaurants don’t serve pureed baby foods on their menus, but with BLW there are a number of things your baby could eat when eating out – including your meal!
#10 Promotes Family Bonding
There has been a lot of research that shows the benefits that eating meals together as a family has on your children. BLW promotes this familial setting of eating together from the get-go.
Can You Mix BLW and Spoon-Feeding?
It is totally possible to have a mixed approach – both spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning – to introducing solids to your baby.
This is actually what we did with our little guy and probably plan to do with the next baby too.
When it comes to my advice for what approach to use, I always suggest educating yourself on both methods and then doing what works for your family and what you feel comfortable with.
From personal experience, my little guy was showing the developmental signs he was ready for solids & showing interest in food at 4 months of age. I didn’t feel comfortable offering whole solid foods just yet, but wanted to respond to his interest in eating!
I decided to start him on a basic pureed diet – baby oatmeal & stage 1 fruits and veggies. After he turned 6 months old and I felt more comfortable with feeding him whole foods we transitioned over to a BLW approach.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Introducing solids can be scary and leave you full of questions, especially for first-time parents.
If you are interested in learning more about starting your infant on solid foods you can read these other articles by me:
Here are some great books on BLW that I would recommend are worth reading:
Download my 20 Superfoods for Babies + Toddlers PDF Guide to give you some quick + easy ideas for nutrient-packed foods you can introduce to your baby when they start solids!