As your baby grows, surely at some point you have wondered what it will be like to start complementary feeding. And, when is the best time to do it? In what order of foods? How should you prepare your meals? How much should you eat?
I understand that it is a subject, that generates many doubts and that is why in this article I will explain everything; you need to know about the Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and what the best high chair for baby led weaning. So that you can decide if you want to apply it at the beginning of the complementary feeding of your little one.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
The Baby Led Weaning is a baby-guided feeding. Some understand it as a new fad but, in reality, it is the way to feed babies of a lifetime carried out according to current scientific evidence on infant feeding.
With this method, the baby eats by himself, taking solid, non-crushed food to his mouth, properly prepared according to his needs and respecting his maturational development.
When To Implement The Blw?
Babies should be exclusively fed milk until 6 months of age, without giving them anything else, not even water (they do not need it and it makes them satiating, reducing their milk intake).
Introducing other foods before 6 months increases the risk of infections and choking in the child and before 4 months can be fatal due to the immaturity of their digestive, neurological, renal, and immune systems.
In addition to the general age recommendation, each child’s psychomotor preparation must be assessed to begin eating other foods. So it will be if:
- Stands up by itself
- He has lost the extrusion reflex (it is a defense mechanism by which babies expel any solid object that enters their mouth with their tongues)
- Show an interest in food
- He is able to grasp food with his hand, even though he has not fully developed the ability to clamp with his fingers
The introduction of complementary feeding should not be delayed beyond the 7th month of life, to avoid nutritional deficiencies and, contrary to popular belief, to avoid allergies. It is believed that allergenic foods are better to be given when they are older, when in fact what is advised is not to delay their introduction to prevent allergies precisely in this way.
If you have any doubts, consult your pediatrician, since he or she is the professional who knows the development of your child best and may individually decide to advance the introduction of food or delay it. As well as orient, a specific mode of complementary feeding that is more in line with the needs of the child in the event that it has been premature or has any neurological or psychomotor development difficulty.
Remember that, during the first year of life, milk will continue to be the main food for the baby, so the teat or bottle will be offered first and the other foods will be the second course, never the other way around. If we only offer milk “for dessert”, you will not receive the nutrients and calories you need.
From the second year, the child will decide to reduce milk intake and increase the intake of the rest of the foods (it is advisable, however, to maintain breastfeeding until at least 2 years of age).
Baby Led Weaning
What leads many families to choose BLW as a method of feeding their babies are its many advantages:
- Eating is an apprenticeship in which you experiment with different textures in your hands and mouth and discover different flavors. A puree is always the same and the baby is unable to differentiate the different foods it contains. But being able to touch, squeeze, and put a piece of chicken breast, a handful of rice or a piece of banana in your mouth is so much more fun! In addition, trying to take pieces of food of different sizes and consistencies will develop a great psychomotor job. When he is a little older, you can give him a learning spoon so that he gets used to using utensils in addition to his hands.
- The muscles involved in chewing have been training since their first milk intake, especially in breastfed babies. With the BLW they chew with the gums keeping these muscles active. When your child can drink water, a non-spill glass can be useful since they work with this same chew. The great thing about this glass is that, when children are older and know how to drink perfectly, they can use it at night. It is very useful because they do not need to sit up and they can drink lying down without getting wet.
- The baby learns to identify and regulate his feelings of hunger and satiety. When he doesn’t feel like eating more, he will stop putting food in his mouth. If the puree is given, his attitude is much more passive, favoring excessive intake.
- You avoid having to learn to eat solids when you are older and the rejection that some textures can create is reduced. There are children who eat pureed fruits without problem because they have become used to them that way, but they do not like the texture of the fruit in pieces.
- Eating at the adult table includes in family dynamics and, at the same time, represents a new social activity.
For The Family
- Better organization of time: it is not necessary to make different meals. This may also lead to adults eating healthier.
- It is not necessary to sit with the child to convince him to eat.
- Saving money: “baby foods”, in addition to not always being the healthiest option due to the amount of sugar they contain or their level of processing, have a higher cost.
- Greater comfort when planning meals. There are no rigid lists of foods to enter. Each family will flexibly incorporate their own food, adapted to the baby, in the feeding of the baby.
Does The Blw Have Drawbacks
The Baby Led Weaning makes a mess.
Babies experiment a lot with food: they pick it up and squeeze it, rub it over their heads, and throw it … It’s normal and part of their learning, so we must be willing to let everything get a little (or a lot) dirtier. For these situations, bibs with long sleeves or that include a tray, or tablecloths on the floor are very useful to catch the food that falls and offer it again and delay the bath until after dinner.
It is also necessary to talk about other disadvantages in complementary feeding that are not exclusive to BLW, such as the insufficient supply of nutrients, choking, or suffocation.
At 6 months, it is necessary to supplement breastfeeding because it begins to not meet the daily iron needs of the infant. Therefore, we must prioritize introducing foods rich in iron such as animal meat or eggs. To promote its absorption, vitamin C should be included: strawberry, orange wedges, or broccoli is a good complement.
Choking is one of the main concerns of parents for BLW, although children do not choke more on pieces of food than on purees. It is important to differentiate the relevance of a gagging or eating cough from that of a choking, which can be extremely serious.
The recommendations to avoid suffocation are common to all children up to 3-5 years:
- Never eat lying down or lying down.
- Do not eat with distractions, such as cartoons or toys.
- Do not force the introduction of food in the mouth, it will always be the child who decides when and how much to eat and when it will be necessary to respect when he does not want more.
- Certain foods that, due to their form, can lodge in the respiratory tract, preventing the passage of air, should be avoided: popcorn, grapes, cherry tomatoes, nuts, carrots, or raw apples. This does not mean that these foods are prohibited, but that must be prepared to be able to eat them without risk: you can make homemade peanut butter, crush nuts to make a batter, cut the tomatoes and grapes into wedges and cook or grate the apple and carrot. In this way, the same foods that are dangerous due to their form are no longer dangerous and are now suitable.
Advantages of Baby Led Weaning
- Planning the introduction of foods with a calendar will help you prioritize foods rich in iron and control allergies.
- It is advisable to give the same new food for 3-5 days before introducing another. If you give your baby 4 new foods at the same time and one gives him an allergy, you will not know what it was and you will not dare to repeat with any of them.
- Delaying the introduction of potentially allergenic foods such as gluten, eggs, strawberries, kiwi, or nuts (crushed or as butter) facilitate allergies. They can be introduced from 6 months. Also, keep in mind that there is no point in starting with gluten-free cereals and then gluten, so you don’t need to separate them.
- Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of food you see him eat. It seems that he does not swallow anything, but you will notice significant changes in the diaper. Your stools will change in smell and consistency substantially.
- Tailor food preparation to the baby. They should be soft, especially if your teeth have not yet come out, and adapted to your motor skills.
- It is advisable to make it easier for him to grasp the pieces of food, for example, cut a chicken breast into strips so that it makes it better than in small cubes. It will be easier for you to tear off chunks with your gums if you cut the meat perpendicular to its fibers, not parallel.
- It is preferable to steam vegetables so that they retain all their nutrients and avoid fried. When you give them to them, check that they are soft and do not burn.
Take into account the forbidden foods in children’s meals:
- Salt, sugar, or honey should not be included.
- Soft cheese and yogurt can be introduced in small quantities for 8 months.
- Spinach and chard should be avoided for up to 12 months and their consumption limited to 3 years.
- Before the age of 6, you should not eat game meat with lead ammunition.
- Before the age of 3 years, the consumption of swordfish, tuna, emperor, or dogfish should be avoided, and they can be eaten very sporadically until they are 10 years old.
To finish, I can only say that you enjoy this stage! It is very satisfying to see how your baby is acquiring motor skills and how he has a good time eating everything.