Weaning a baby onto food is an exciting time for both child and parent. But depending on who you ask, you are likely to get various recommendations for how to introduce real food to your little one. Common weaning approaches include:
– Traditional Asian soft-boiled, slow-cooked method
Rice or grain is cooked with vegetables and meat till it is very soft
– Pureed foods
Foods are often steamed and blended to a fine mush. Many commercial bottled baby food are created based on this approach. Chunkier pieces of food are sneaked into the foods in progression as baby ages.
These two, time-tested methods are premised on a caregiver-led approach where babies are fed, and often, fed till the meal bowl is emptied.
Lately, there is a new weaning approach that is slowly gaining parent fans. Baby-led weaning, or commonly referred to as BLW, is an approach that is distinct from the former two mentioned methods. This technique was founded by Gill Rapley, a healthcare professional from the UK, and she co-wrote a book with Tracy Murkett in 2008, Baby-led Weaning: Helping your Baby Love Good Food.
So how is BLW is different from the two earlier methods?
1. BLW advocates that babies handle all foods.
Babies pick up the food themselves and feed themselves. Hence, the term ‘baby-led weaning’. Through this interaction with their foods, babies are also actively exploring the textures, smells and tastes. There is no spoon-feeding, and no adult to be putting foods into baby’s mouth.
2. Instead of watery gruel or mushy goo, a BLW baby’s first foods are often served up fresh out of the skins like fruit or cooked, and in baby-grip friendly sizes like in wedges or chips.
3. By self-feeding, babies learn to chew their foods first before swallowing.
In our rather traditional Asian society, BLW often draws the initial “Won’t the baby choke? Isn’t it going to be really messy? Will the baby eat enough?”
Rina New, mother to 10.5 month-old triplets, shares that she had turned to BLW as a desperate measure to try get them to eat. She had started them on the traditional puree, spoon-feeding approach but every meal soon turned into a struggle and they did not want to eat from the spoon. This was also what led second-time mom, Claudia Sim, to try BLW with her younger girl, Aly. “Aly hated all mushy food, rejected anything on a spoon and seemed to enjoy self feeding” recalls Claudia.
These BLW moms now enthuse about how well their children are eating chunky foods from the family table even before they turn one.
“It’s always a great joy to see them having so much fun! My eldest boy can now hold a whole apple n eat it himself, my youngest gal loves chewing on a corn cob while the other boy, who started eating solids the latest due to sensitive throat, can also chew and eat chunkier foods.” says Rina.
However, the BLW journey has its own challenges. Allowing a baby to explore the food also means mess, and cleaning it up can wear thin a caregiver’s patience. BLW moms also have to contend with the objections and criticisms of naysayers.
Finding a lack of local resources for BLW led first-time mom, Elaine Cheah-Yeo, to start up a facebook support group, Baby-Led Weaning-BLW. This FB support group actively shares recipes, meal ideas and tips. It also welcomes parents who are keen to find out more about BLW before they make the decision to try it. You can also watch videos of babies as young as 6 months attempting self-feeding.
“I would recommend parents read up on the basics of BLW first and decide if they can deal with some paradigm mindset shifts and the mess before theycarry on.” Elaine says, “Otherwise, I don’t see anything wrong with traditional puree weaning either. At the end of the day, at age 16, I am sure all kids, BLW weaned or otherwise, will be weaned well.”
BLW Tips & Guidelines (Call out Box)
While parents are encouraged to have babies share family meals, the usual nutritional guidelines on balanced and healthy meals, salt, sugar and oil apply.
- Cut foods into wedges for easier handling by baby.
- Hard fruits like apples and pears can be introduced to young babies but only when given whole.
- Lay the floor with newspaper or plastic sheet for easier clean-up.
Some BLW Favourites
- Fresh fruit
- Wholemeal toast fingers
- Homemade Chicken Nuggets
- Oven-baked chicken drumlets
BLW Support Resources:
By Sarah Lee-Wong.
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