Baby-Led Weaning (BLW): Let Your Child To Start Eating With Their Hands

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) would literally translate as: “The baby directs its feeding” or “The baby eats alone.” Although weaning in English means “weaning”, in this context it refers to solid food. So, explains Clara Farrás, author of the book “With my hands”, «BLW is what we call the feeding of solids in a complementary way directed and self-regulated by the baby that covers the period between six and twenty-four months of age». “It is a fun, natural and respectful way to incorporate solid foods into the diet of babies without going through the mash and porridge phase, letting them eat for themselves using their hands, ” he explains.

In her book Farrás explains how and when to start making BLW with your baby and adds a lot of simple, delicious and healthy recipes for the whole family extracted from her blog Happy BLW , which she created with the birth of her children. “My intention is to make the day-to-day organization at home much easier, since with this you don’t have to prepare different meals,” he adds.

What is this technique, still unknown to many families?

The Baby-Led Weaning, precisely is not a technique or a method that has to be followed strictly, it is simply a way of feeding your baby from 6 months in a more natural and respectful way, without having to go through the porridge and mash phase. The baby eats normal food. We just have to make some small adaptations, but they can practically eat the same as the rest of the family.

Spanish pediatricians, do you agree? Do you know if they help put it into practice? Or it is necessary to go, as in your case, to books, websites, foreign blogs … 

Today there are several pediatricians, nutritionists and dietitians who advise the introduction of food on demand or Baby-Led Weaning. In our case, with our second child, at the medical center they gave us information and recommended us to do Baby-Led Weaning. But I know from other families that there are still other pediatricians who still recommend giving porridge at 4/6 months.

We usually give bottles until very late … What is the best time to start in the Baby Led Weaning? 

To start with the complementary feeding on demand or Baby Led Weaning (BLW) we must wait until 6 months. At this age babies are prepared both physically and digestively to start eating normal food alone. But we must expect other equally important signals, such as that you have lost the extrusion reflex, that you remain seated, that you are able to grab food with your hands and put it in your mouth, and that you are healthy.

All these conditions can happen at 6 months, but it can also take longer and appear around 7 months. It will depend on each baby.

How do you think current feeding recommendations contribute to childhood overweight or obesity? 

Personally, I think that fortunately a great effort is being made by health professionals and administrations to raise awareness of the problem of overweight and childhood obesity and are making healthier recommendations.

The main fear of many is choking, arching and choking. What recommendations do you give in this regard? 

I think it is a totally reasonable fear, until now we had always been told that babies could only eat porridge. Now they tell us no, that they can eat normal food from 6 months, and of course, it is hard to understand that they can eat normal food without choking. According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies who are fed with normal food (Baby-led Weaning) do not suffer more choking episodes than babies fed with porridge. During the first months of complementary feeding babies are learning to eat, and it is quite normal for them to suffer some retching. The most important thing is to be well informed about what foods we should not offer to avoid drowning, such as whole nuts, hard foods, with round shapes such as grapes,

Do you think that this quiet approach to food influences their taste for theoretically complicated foods for them, such as vegetables? 

It is very likely that by not forcing or forcing the baby to eat, you will be more curious to try new things. By offering porridge, all flavors are mixed. Giving food separately helps the baby define their tastes. Not being obliged to eat everything on the plate will help them in the future to be more open to try new foods. But babies go through different stages, first they try everything you put in front of them but then they become more selective, and preferably towards more caloric foods. 

Many mothers complain that their babies do not eat. Maybe we go over the amounts, or have high expectations … 

Both things, sometimes we go with the amounts and almost always have high expectations. Feeding your baby with the BLW is no guarantee that they will eat a lot. Like adults, every baby has their food tastes and preferences, and not all babies always have the same appetite. There are babies who eat a lot, others who eat less, so it is best not to compare. Complementary food on demand, as the name implies, is a complement. The main food is still breastfeeding, if possible, maternal. Complementary feeding is for babies to learn to eat, discover flavors, smells and textures.

Finally, advice for parents who want to start in the BLW. 

The most important of all is that they inform themselves well of what foods can be offered and what not, both the mother, the father, grandmothers, grandparents or people who are in their care. And, above all, a lot of patience. Do not forget that it is a natural and respectful way of eating, and that it is an opportunity to learn to eat enjoying and experiencing as a family.

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