Content written by The Organic Butler
There are all sorts of recommendations out there when it comes to introducing “real foods” to your little one when the time comes. This important milestone is a complex mixture of a lot of fun…and a lot of worry. With this, comes great responsibility, as you are taking the first steps that will help form your child’s nutritional preferences and habits!
First things first – current recommendations specify that generally, breast milk or corresponding formula should be your baby’s main source of nutrition till 6 months of age. This doesn’t mean, however, that solid foods should not at all be introduced until this time, as a large proportion of paediatricians recommend starting solid foods from 4 months of age, slowly increasing the variety of flavours and textures your little one gets to try, as this makes for the smoothest transition.
Speaking of textures, there are so many commercially available “baby foods” out there – from purees to juices. The very existence of this category of products tricks new moms into believing that starting with this kind of foods is an essential milestone on a long journey towards “adult” nutrition.
However, what if we told you that it is not at all necessary to start with runny foods and spend endless hours feeding your baby with a spoon? Today, we would like to talk about a different approach in paediatric nutrition, often referred to as baby led weaning (BLW).
- What is baby led weaning?
In short, the concept of BLW implies skipping the dreaded thin and runny purees stage, opting for appropriately prepared solid foods instead. Methods of preparation depend on the food and the baby’s age (consult your paediatrician or a paediatric dietitian if unsure), but usually it’s something along the lines of cutting the foods into smaller chunks or mashing them slightly to make them manageable for little ones.
For example, you may offer your child a piece of apple they can grab and play with while nibbling on it. Or, if your baby can’t quite manage that yet, a slightly mashed banana in a bowl will do the trick as well. All you need to do is cook the foods if needed and make them more manageable, and your baby will do the rest. Of course, this is not to say you can leave the room then – close supervision is still required! The main concept here is letting your baby explore whole nutritious foods as much as they can and trust their instincts, while providing minimal guidance but still being present (some foods may be potential choking hazards, for instance, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your child).
In short, BLW lets your baby decide what, when and how much to consume when it comes to solid foods. Although this is hardly much “easier” then puree feeding (but nevertheless less messy and annoying – we promise!), the main benefit here is that your baby gets an opportunity to advocate for their own food choices and potentially form a healthier, more conscious relationship with food.
- When to start baby led weaning?
Not much different from the overall recommendations above, BLW can generally be started at around 6 months of age. General requirements here are that your baby can confidently sit upright, not express the tongue thrust reflex and be able to hold on to foods you’re offering. Start small, exercise all precautions and supervise your baby closely – and chances are you’ll be able to transition to BLW soon. Please do not hesitate to consult your health practitioner if unsure!
- What foods are the best for baby led weaning?
Starting on solid foods may be a bit scary at first, but with a lot of attention to detail and close supervision and guidance, you little one will master the art of munching on solid foods in no time at all.
The main rule for choosing the first solid food items to introduce is the more wholesome and nutritious the choice is, the better! Consider skipping boxed foods such as cereal and going straight into easy to prepare choices such as:
- Sweet potato
- Butternut squash
…and anything else along those lines! Please refer to the charts linked above for more ideas.
- The importance of offering organic choices
We’ve mentioned that offering a variety of whole, nutritious foods to your toddler ensures that the little one is meeting their requirements for growth and development, and to achieve that, organic produce is your best bet. Grown with safe pesticides sans any harmful chemicals, organic fruit and vegetables deliver the natural goodness – and organic foods even contain more vitamins and minerals compared to conventional counterparts!
When it comes to organic animal products, the animals are treated in accordance with the highest possible standards and are not stuffed with hormones and other potentially harmful substances.
Managing baby nutrition is hard enough as such – eliminate a large chunk of worries by offering your child predominantly organic choices to ensure they are meeting dietary requirements whilst staying away from harmful unnecessary contaminants that may interfere with development.
- How to introduce new foods for baby led weaning?
To maximise the benefits of the BLW approach, remember to take it reasonably slow and not dump numerous food choices on your baby’s plate, as it is quite overwhelming for them.
Many parents successfully follow the so-called “4 days rule”, which implies waiting 4 days before introducing new foods. This lets your baby to get used to previously introduced foods and play with them enough to move on.
Another reason to space out foods in time is to monitor for adverse reaction such as allergies, diarrhea, bloating and other gastrointestinal issues. It’s much easier to rule out “naughty” foods when you’re only introducing one at a time, saving you a lot of worry!
- A couple of safety notes
Safety first! We can’t imply enough that consulting your paediatrician before introducing solid foods into your baby’s diet is desirable. Specifically, it’s a good idea to discuss potential allergens (e.g. you may have food sensitivities and allergies running in your family, and in some cases, it’s possible to test for those).
Ultimately, only you can decide if baby led weaning is right for your little one. Overall, it’s a great option for introducing solid foods to your baby, as well as a great fun way to facilitate healthy eating habits!
So go ahead and give it a go if you feel like it’s suitable for your baby, and you will likely enjoy the journey.
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