What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning is basically just letting your infant self-feed. You cut food up into manageable sticks and offer it, they eat. It’s really pretty simple.
The key difference between BLW and traditional weaning, when you think about it, is in the order that children learn to eat. With a puree, they learn to swallow first and then chew, which works fine until they meet a lump. With BLW, the babies learn to chew first and swallowing might come some time later.
It’s ‘baby-led’ in the sense that you let them do what they need to do while they’re learning, parents just need to be a bit cold blooded ( your child will gag but not choke) and not care too much about getting messy because it is really messy, but also fun! Get ready to get some of the best pictures of your baby!
Why BLW is better for children with a Visual impairment?
Try to imagine sitting on a chair, not seeing clearly and all of a sudden a spoon appears and get stuck in your mouth with something - I don’t think anyone would like that sensation especially considering that until then they have been breast fed or bottle fed in the loving arms of their mum.
BLW is good for any baby because it helps them also in developing healthy tastes; it helps teething and helps them being independent.
It’s particularly good for V.I. babies for all these reasons plus it:
- Helps developing eye and hand coordination
- Helps fine motor skills
- Reinforces exploring of the environment
- Enhances hand manipulation
- Is a fabulous sensory experience
Downside of BLW:
Well there is no point in me lying; BLW is messy, really messy.
But if you are weaning during the summer you can eat outside and leave the baby only with her nappy on, if its winter well buy a messy mat and pop it under the high chair.
Buy a cheap, all plastic high chair, like Ikea Antilop, if it really turns into a nightmare you can always pop it under the shower to rinse it down.
You will save a lot of time with the cooking so you can spend a bit more of time in cleaning up; your baby will soon become an expert in eating up so it doesn’t last too long.
Gagging vs. chocking
Some people can get really nervous when they see their wee baby struggling with food in their mouth, I remember when I was weaning my boy, and my mum would stay around waiting for the first sign of gagging just to start shouting “He’s chocking!!” then she would slap his back and we would end up with an upset child, an angry mum and a granny in tears!
But what is the difference between chocking and gagging?! Gagging, as opposed to choking, is actually a safety response to food travelling too far back into the mouth so when we see our babies gagging they are actually handling the problem and it’s best just to keep calm (or at least look calm) and wait until it passes and give them a wee drink of water immediately afterwards.
If it makes you feel better take a First aid course for parents, it’s always useful to know what to do in emergency situations.
Top tips for BLW:
- Place the food on the high chair tray to have a good “colour contrast” base, usually they are white.
- Cut the food in big chucks easy for the baby to grasp.
- Use a large variety of food with different colors, tastes and consistency.
- You should be able to squash with your finger what you are giving to the baby so use soft fruits (mango, ripe pears, avocado…) or boil whatever’s hard ( carrots, potatoes..)
- Don’t make it difficult for yourself: give the baby what you are eating, just season your own portion after cooking as salt is not good for babies.
- Make it a sensory experience: use lots of spices, try new things maybe even you have never tried before.
- Don’t use plate or bowls, the experience is supposed to be: wow I have mango in my mouth not wow the bowl is flying across the room.
- Don’t put too much quantity or too many different foods, it’s just going to confuse and overwhelm your baby.
- First snacks ideas: boiled carrots, banana, mango chunks, rice cakes, cheese slices, boiled eggs (cut in quarters), broccoli florets….
- Never put food into a child’s mouth, 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. Some parents have found that making exaggerated chewing faces and noises reminds the child to get back on track.
- Have a camera ready to capture those first gummy, carroty smiles because as daunting as it may seem, weaning is a very short time in your child’s life, so relax and enjoy your baby making this amazing experience.
- Make dinner a family meal: there is nothing sadder than eating alone, let the baby participate to the family meal.