If you google introducing solids you might come across baby led weaning (BLW). BLW is an approach that skips purees and spoon feeding altogether and encourages baby to eat whole pieces of food starting at 6 months.
Today I am sharing 5 reasons why you might want to try a baby led feeding approach when introducing solids.
Note: I have personally started using the word feeding instead of weaning because you are NOT weaning your baby from breastmilk or formula at 6 months but instead using solids as a form of complimentary feeding.
It supports the development of your child’s palate
Introducing your baby to whole pieces of food using a baby led feeding approach has been linked to less picky eating later in life (woo hoo) (Taylor et al., 2017 & Morison et al. 2016). Because this approach introduces your baby to a variety of textures early on it helps support interest and intake of a variety of different foods.
It’s a sensory experience
Offering your baby a variety of textures early on is not only giving them the opportunity to learn to self-feed but also a great sensory activity. They are feeling, seeing, tasting, hearing and smelling the food they are eating (and often playing with). They are also using internal senses including proprioception and interoception. Proprioception is the location of self in space and the understanding of movement. Your little one practices this by bringing food to their mouth and grabbing foods placed in front of them. Interoception is the ability to understand internal body signals, for example hunger and fullness cues.
Your baby can eat what you eat
This is one of my favourite reasons to try this approach, you save a ton of time! If you are planning to make homemade purees, being able to offer your baby parts of your meal instead makes life much easier. And yes they can have different herbs and spices too. Just be mindful when it comes to salt and added sugars. Try to keep salt to a very small amount or none. Aim for no (or very minimal) added sugars before the age of one.
Healthy relationships with food in the future
Interoception mentioned above is an internal sense your baby learns and practices while eating using a baby led feeding approach. They are in complete control of the mealtime. They are picking up the food, bringing it to their mouth, choosing each and every bite they take. This is much different than a purée based approach where there might be some surprise like bites or food being ‘sneaked’ into their mouth. There is research to suggest that using a baby led feeding approach can lead to an improved satiety response, meaning better regulation of hunger and fullness (Brown et al., 2015)
Encourages family meal time
Your baby is mainly eating what you eat (with some modifications of course). This means you can involve them in all or at least some of your family meals. Family meals are associated with many positive outcomes. Better eating habits later in life, better academic performance, higher self-esteem, lower rates of depression, etc. (Fruh et al., 2010 & Eisenberg et al., 2004). In addition, research has found that babies who are introduced to solids using a baby led feeding approach have a greater involvement in family meals (Morison et al., 2016). Starting to eat together (when possible) at an early age helps support your child’s growth and development. It also provides the perfect opportunity to model healthy eating behaviour for your little one.
Baby led feeding and introducing solids is an exciting but scary time. Join us for our next Baby Led Feeding Workshop. You will learn more about this approach and how to do it safely. We will talk about when to start and perhaps where purees fit into the mix.
Brown, A. Lee, M. (2015). Early influences on child satiety-responsiveness: the role of weaning style. Pediatric Obesity. 10 (57-66).
Eisenberg, M., Olson., R., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2004). Correlations between family meals and psychological well being among adolescents.
Fruh, SM., Fulkerson, J., Mulekar, M., Kendrick, L., Clanton, C. (2010). The suprising benefits of the family meal. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2010.04.017
Morison, BJ; Taylor, RW; Haszard, JJ et al (2016). How different are baby-led weaning and conventional complementary feeding? A cross-sectional study of infants aged 6-8 months, BMJ Open. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010665.
Taylor, R. W., et al. (2017). “Effect of a Baby-Led Approach to Complementary Feeding on Infant Growth and Overweight A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Pediatrics 171(9): 838-846.
Angela Wallace is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, family food expert, certified personal trainer and is a valued member of the Lifetime of Love Doula team. She specializes in women’s health, with a focus on weight loss and digestive conditions. She uses a ‘non-dieting approach’ with her ultimate goals being to help people create healthy routines that work for them and create a healthy relationship with food. Be sure to follow Angela on Instagram for amazing health tips and recipes!