What Is Baby Led Weaning? And Why It Makes Life So Much Simpler
I try not to share an abundance of overly personal things here on Simply Liv & Co. I want the material shared and topics covered to relate to anyone who might click on our page, and so I've steered clear of life updates and such ever since I rebranded a few months ago. (If you DO want to receive personal updates, however, follow along on the social media pages linked at the top of the website!) That said, sometimes there are things that just work too well not to share about it. And for my family, baby-led weaning is one of those things. I prefer not to call it "lazy parenting", but really, I'm all for anything that gives me one less thing to do and is actually good for my kids.
Before I get too far though, you might have never heard of this thing known as baby-led weaning (or BLW to the real experts) so I'll start with a quick definition. There is a whole book about it and countless websites, bloggers, and experts passionate about the topic, but a quick skim of them all will leave you with this: BLW is simply letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning. It steers clear of purees, blended baby foods and goes straight for the good stuff- things like meats, veggies, and fruits.
I know what you're thinking — isn't there a choking risk? I mean, most six month olds (the recommended age to start solids) don't have many teeth to speak of. But as it turns out, babies have HIGHLY sensitive gag reflexes, which usually prevents anything from touching the back of their throat that they don't want to. According to the BLW website, there's a big difference between gagging and choking, and you'll be able to tell the difference.
One of my favorite things about BLW is that it teaches babies how to handle a variety of textures and foods right from the start; they'll use their tongues to maneuver the food around their mouths at first, not really consuming that much, just exploring it. But as they get more acquainted with it, they'll actually be able to eat the same things as their older siblings.
I wanted to share our experience with baby-led weaning in hopes that it might inspire someone else to try it out — because it really has made the weaning process and the whole baby food thing so much simpler.
So here's our story:
I exclusively breastfed both of my girls until they were at least six months. I think I waited a bit longer than that to try solids, because I wanted them to be really interested in it before I gave them any. Once they both got to the point where they tried grabbing all of the food off my plate and were beyond curious, I slowly started transitioning.
With Evelyn (my now 2.5 year old) I went with a combination of solid foods and things like avacado and bananas (that are super easy to chew) and, it's true that at first she really didn't eat that much of it. I let her play in it, essentially, moving it up to her mouth, some of it making it in, most of it ending up in her hair. But eventually she got the hang of it and I was able to give her strips of food that she could hold on to and "gnaw" on, eating most, if not all, of it.
With Mara, who just turned 1 last month, I did the same thing, only I trusted her more. She didn't get her first teeth till 9 months, so I was a little bit wary of giving her solids without a single tooth, but guess what? She did great. In the photo above, she's eating a pancake. No, she never shoved the whole thing in her mouth (and if she tried to, I was right there to stop her). She learned how to take small bites, and chew and swallow different textures from a very young age.
One of my favorite things about it is that I never have to cook a separate meal, or go through hours of preparing my own baby food. I just give them a little of whatever we're having, be it spaghetti, salad, quinoa, grilled chicken, or steak. Of course, before they hit one, I didn't give them any dairy (and even later for E, who had a sensitivity to it), so I just tweaked things as needed.
I know they're both still young, but to this day both my girls are amazing eaters — my two year old will turn down pizza for salad, and I fully credit introducing them to healthy and whole foods from a young age.
Now I'd love to know your thoughts. Have or would you ever try BLW with your kids? How was your experience?