If you think your babe is ready for solids — and find the idea of pulping gallons of good food into amorphous mush a tragic waste (and totally blech), then welcome Baby Led Weaning 101.
Baby led weaning is, in short, an alternative to the purée-and-spoon tradition, allowing tots to choose their own food and eat independently – when they’re ready. Giving them control during this important developmental stage gifts them opportunity to learn about food in a meaningful way, distinctive to their unique methods of discovery (think smooshing, smashing, and eventually, tasting…eventually).
It’s true that going the BLW route requires patience – and a blind eye to banana stains ad nauseum – but the numerous benefits are so worth it; particularly when you behold that first expression of delicious pleasure when little one discovers his favourite food.
So, without further ado, ditch that blender, and forget passé purees – just follow these eight tips to get your tot tucking into nosh with relish; simply and safely:
1. Keep it simple. But don’t be boring.
BLW is meant to uncomplicate your life, so don’t get into a tizz about offering four course extravaganzas; at this point, babies have yet to understand what a potato is, nevermind boeuf bourguignon. Still, bear in mind that what you offer now will shape that lil’ palate for the future. So be interesting, adventurous, and fun.
2. Don’t get hung up on how much.
At this introductory stage, food is about exploration – not so much eating. So don’t focus on cramming calories; that’ll only set in motion a dysfunctional approach to mealtimes. And check out this handy guide on toddler portion control to assuage your fears.
3. Can they handle it?
Rule of thumb is to give babs anything they can get a good grip on, and gnaw safely. Mix it up with more challenging, smaller bits of grub (like peas), too, to flex those pincer skills.
4. Make peace with mess.
And stains. And 2-week-old mouldy surprises lodged into corners and crevices you never knew existed.
5. Buy bibs.
In bulk. Or go frugal: birthday suits are way easier to wipe down.
6. Get Pinspired.
Pinterest is chock-a-block with yummy, easy-peasy BLW recipes…don’t just rely on your own repertoire, there’s an entire world of deliciousness out there (for the whole family to enjoy).
7. Brush up on First Aid.
Not because BLW presents more choking hazards than old-school feeding methods (in fact, BLW teaches babies to chew before swallowing, whereas purees prompt swallowing without the child having had a chance to practice chewing through potential lumps), but because knowing what to do in the unlikely situation will build your confidence and help you relax – which is good for everybody at the table. Experts advise never to put food into a child’s mouth; instead, let them put it in by themselves so that they can control it as it moves backwards. If the baby gags, remember that it’s their way of moving food around in the mouth – and don’t panic.
8. Keep a camera handy.
BLW will provide you with the best photo opps. Ever. So keep a camera close to the action. But if it’s a pricey one, maybe not too close.
For a real-life look at BLW in practice, check out this mum’s adorable video.