This is a guest post by one of our blog team members, Kiran…to learn more about Kiran check out our team page!
Recently the term “Baby Led Weaning” (BLW) was introduced to us here at 100 Days of Real Food, a term that, believe it or not, none of us had heard of before. Our small team collectively has 11 kids (4 of which are mine) and without a doubt, we are tuned into lots and lots of real food-related information. Yet none of us knew about or (thought we) had personally used Baby Led Weaning with our own children. We were encouraged by some readers to take a look into the philosophy… and so we did. Interested in learning about this method – and how it might help introduce baby to real food – we did a little research on the subject so that others, like us, who may not know the term or ideals, can become informed.
Before we dive into Baby Led Weaning, however, a few important points should be made:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for babies until around the age of 6 months.
- The AAP also offers guidelines as to when babies may be ready for solids; generally speaking, they suggest some time around 4 – 6 months, though every child is different.
- This post is not medical advice regarding feeding your baby; this is simply informing you of another method that is out there regarding feeding your little ones.
Now to get on with business.
What is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
In a nutshell, Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a feeding philosophy that means skipping the purees and starting babies on solid foods by following your child’s cues. This is suggested to be done while continuing to breastfeed at the same time. It’s giving your baby soft, whole foods (of the right “bite size”) and letting baby decide which they’d like to try. Stephanie Cornais, one of our affiliate partners at Mama and Baby Love, did BLW with her daughter. She explains it further with this:
“The idea is that as babies gradually start to learn how to pick up and eat food, they will proportionally start weaning themselves from breast milk or formula. At first when babies don’t get a whole lot of food in their mouths it is OK, because breast milk or formula is more than enough to sustain them. Introducing food at this age, whether traditional or BLW, is just about introducing food to them, not getting X amount of calories in them at each feeding. So it is a very easy, gradual and peaceful way to introduce food and start the very slow weaning process.” – Stephanie Cornais
What are the benefits of Baby Led Weaning?
Those who follow BLW principles feel that the benefits are plentiful. It allows baby to be a part of family meals from the beginning, to be able to experiment with food at his or her own pace, and to develop new abilities, including self-feeding and chewing. My opinion is that this could also help out with confidence, and as a parent of multiple children, not having to hold a spoon for baby is an added plus. Trust me – I always loved spending time feeding my babies, but sometimes parents don’t have as many hands as they need!
Added benefits include:
- No need to purchase or prepare (i.e. puree) separate foods for baby
- Babies are in control of what they eat
- Babies are exposed to textures earlier on and learn to chew first
- In terms of “real food,” you know exactly what ingredients you are feeding your little one
My personal take
In my personal experience, I definitely became more laid back with each of my four children. With my first, I did what many of the “mainstream” parenting web sites and books advised. I did jars of baby food (even the – gasp – non-organic) and followed the “stages” as suggested. Though I didn’t know what the term BLW actually meant until looking into it (through this post) I discovered that I had actually practiced a little bit of it with my fourth child. Yes, I did a few (organic) jars in the beginning; I also made my own purees, and I also used pouches. I guess I went the combination approach. I also started letting him eat table foods at a very early age (mine was probably more around 8 months of age). Though I obviously hadn’t read the advice on how to get started with BLW, I had followed his instincts; when he was grabbing for foods on my plate, I let him try them, ensuring that they were the right size and consistency, of course. Just for the record, I am happy to say that all four of my kids are great eaters – including my eldest who I fed regular ol’ Gerber jars to, as well as the rest, who received better and better nutrition as my knowledge expanded.
When it comes to parenting, there is honestly no “right” or “wrong” way – at least in my opinion. It’s important to recognize that everyone’s situation (and knowledge) is different. Our work situations, financial positions, family sizes and so on are just a few of the factors that influence our decisions on how we raise our children. Yes, I chose to breastfeed all of my kids, each one for well over a year. But by no means do I expect every other mother to do the same. For example, both of Lisa’s daughters voluntarily “gave up” breastfeeding all on their own before 3 months of age (which was extremely difficult for her to accept, but it was her reality). It’s important for us, as moms, as women, to support each other. While one mom may choose to do all jars and/or pouches, another may decide that BLW is the right choice for her. We are fortunate to have so many options available and the ability to choose.
A recipe that is family-friendly AND BLW friendly
Cornais wrote a (super popular) cookbook that we actually wrote a post about earlier in the year.
“My slow cooker freezer recipes are the perfect dinners for babies because they are cooked slowly at a low temperature; the meat and veggies are very soft and are an easy thing for baby to grasp, chew and swallow,” says Stephanie. “I also loved using these recipes for BLW because they not only introduced a wide variety of meat and vegetables, but also a wide variety of flavors and spices – something that is great to do to help your kid not be a future picky eater. If you are curious to know how much food is enough to fill up a baby’s stomach, just look at the palm of their hand. If the pile of what they ate is the size of their hand, that is one serving, and plenty for their little tummies.” – Stephanie Cornais
- 3 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes
- 1 pound of new potatoes, chopped
- 2 onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 6 carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 2 parsnips, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of arrowroot flour
- 2 tablespoons of dried thyme (or 6 to 8 fresh springs)
- ½ cup of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
- 1 6 oz jar of tomato paste
- 2 cups of gluten free beer, divided (the alcohol will boil off during cooking)
Equipment: 2 one gallon freezer bags
- Label your freezer bags while they are empty and flat.
- Evenly split all ingredients, except for the beer, between the two freezer bags.
- Massage the ingredients together in the bag, mixing well.
- Before closing the bags, get as much air out as possible. Lay each bag flat like a brick in your freezer.
Note: These last 3 to 6 months in a side door freezer or 6 to 12 months in a deep freezer.
- Dump the frozen brick of food from one bag into your slow cooker and add 1 cup of beer.
- Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4.
Note: You may leave the slow cooker on the warm setting for several hours after it is done if you wish.
If you are interested in more slow cooker freezer recipes, check out Stephanie’s cookbook From Your Freezer To Your Family, Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes (which is on sale till August 14th) and her newest ecookbook, Back to School Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes, which was just released.
Have you tried BLW? Please share your experience and opinion in the comments.