Weaning is the time when your baby is ready to start solid foods and explore food choices. However, there is a difference between weaning and baby-led weaning (BLW). Weaning means the baby is off the breastmilk completely, while baby-led weaning means that the baby starts self-feeding (no spoon-feeding) complementary foods. During this time, he may or may not be on breastmilk or formula.
Breastfeeding counsellor and writer Gill Rapley, in her book Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food, supports BLW and says that babies should be made to eat along with the adults in the family, instead of feeding them pureed food separately.
Making them self-feed helps develop hand-eye coordination and what’s more, they begin liking the food they eat – a challenge for most mothers.
BLW supporters discourage purees. Instead, they suggest the mothers to start solids such as finger foods or foods that the entire family eats. By doing away with mashed or boiled food, babies will get an opportunity to try food with different textures.
Research studies indicate that by six months, babies mostly try reaching out to hold food offered to them. They are developmentally ready to feed themselves. That could perhaps be one of the reasons why mothers are suggested to start weaning their babies around six months.
One study (1) was aimed at investigating the impact of the weaning style on weight gain in infant. A group of 298 mothers having six to 12 months old infants were given a child feeding questionnaire. The questionnaire measured things such as the duration and frequency of breastfeeding, time of introduction of solids, weaning style, and maternal control. A follow-up questionnaire was given to the mothers when the babies reached 18-24 months, to check on the child’s responsiveness to food — hunger and gratification of hunger, fussy or non-fussy, enjoyment of food, and child weight.
The results showed that babies who followed the baby-led weaning method were far more satiety-responsive and gained a healthy weight against those who weaned the traditional way.
Previous studies show that babies who follow the baby-led-weaning method acquire better eating styles and gain healthy weight compared to babies who wean the traditional way.
Below are some more benefits of baby-led-weaning.
- Babies get to know how much to eat and when to stop eating – improves their self-regulation.
- They are introduced to more family foods than processed baby foods.
- Strengthens bonding with family (having meal with the family) and the baby enjoys some family time.
Here are some things to remember while your baby is on baby-led-weaning:
- Introduce baby-led weaning only after your baby’s motor skills are developed.
- Give foods high in calories such as meat, eggs, and beans.
- Don’t give foods that pose a choking hazard.
- Keep an eye on your baby.
- Give fruits and veggies in the form of purees.
While baby-led-weaning has its benefits, do note that this method will not work for premature babies, babies with oral motor delays, and those who just don’t want to self-feed.
Some babies might not receive the right nutrition if you skip fruit purees. A mix of both baby-led-weaning and spoon-feeding purees provides a balanced supply of nutrients. So, do consider these factors when you encourage baby-led-weaning. Even if your baby is only on baby-led weaning, make sure that he is getting enough nutrients and vitamins in his diet.
How was your experience of weaning your baby? Do share your story with us.
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