Baby Led Weaning

Growing healthy babies with healthy appetites

Posts Tagged ‘BLW’

What is BLW, anyway? And what is it not..?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Right, this is coming totally off the top of my head, so forgive me. I will add, edit, fumble and apologise later if I’ve inadvertently stuffed something up…

Recently I’ve seen so many people fighting over what Baby Led Weaning actually means. Not on our own website, funnily enough, and not on our forum, both of which are havens of tolerance and gorgeousness dontchaknow, but Facebook seems to be aflame with accusations of ‘mummy martyrdom’ for not using spoons, purees, pouches and whatnot.

For what it’s worth, here’s my understanding of the two main types of weaning your lovely little milk-fed baby onto solid food, as lovingly practised by perfectly sensible parents the world over.


Baby Led Weaning
self-feeds bits of ‘cutted up’ food from 6 months, as per the World Health Organisation guidelines. Milk on tap. Everyone happy.

Traditional Weaning (for want of a better expression) –
Parent makes purees, puts them on a spoon and gently and un-pushily feeds the child. The age might be as low as 4 months, because children can eat from a spoon from that age, but very often it’s at around 6 months as per the World Health Organisation guidelines. At some point, possibly even immediately, the parent lets the child self-feed as well, so that they’re having both finger food and puree. Milk on tap. Everyone happy.


Now, despite the equally blissful end result, these two methods are not the same.
The key thing is that in the BLW method, the parent just has to take a step back and let the child get on with it. The baby learns to chew first, and to spit out, and THEN to swallow food.

With the more traditional approach the baby is using everything that they’ve learned from taking in liquids to swallow the puree, while also tackling this new, and in some instances rather thrilling, experience of chewing and swallowing as well.

Is this mixing of spoon-fed puree and finger foods a problem?
Probably not.

Is it Baby Led Weaning, as described by Gill Rapley in her best-selling weaning book?
No, it is not.

Is that a problem?
No sirree, but it does mean that talking about doing ‘a mix of BLW and (spoon-fed) puree’ makes not a jot of sense. Unless you, for example, also think that you can be ‘a mix of vegetarian and carnivore’? Buddy, chum, old pal… you’re an omnivore, be happy.
Take what you want to take from the vegetarians and the meat-heads (she says, extending this unlikely comparison through all sorts of pain barriers) but don’t call the veggies mean names because they want to do something different to you. **

Let’s be clear, though. If you are weaning your child in a more traditional fashion you are MOST WELCOME to hang out here. Finger food recipes are finger food recipes, after all, babies are babies, and very few of us are getting a solid eight hours these days. Who amongst us wouldn’t benefit from a relaxing chat about the exact way to chop up a steamed carrot..?

And if you join us on the forum, we’re discussing much, much weirder things as well… everything from make-up to mooncups, very often both at the same time… Peace out, folks.



**(This is where the comparison falls down horribly for me, I admit, as I regularly tease veggie pals about their laughably puny muscles. *prepares barbecue* *awaits flaming*)

Oh, and PS. If you want to explore all this in greater detail, here’s a link to a chat on this subject that we had on the forum a while back. Covers the pros and the cons, the ups and the downs… all that shizzle.

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Where Babies Led, Science Follows.

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

I remember back in the heady days of thinking about weaning my daughter no.1 I was utterly convinced by the six month line in the sand, in the way that only an idiot a first-timer can be. I had read it in a book, had I not?

My actual human child, however, had other ideas and a couple of weeks before this magic date she grabbed some soft fruit and started eating it. Immediately, I knew she was ready. Well, durrr. She was eating a peach, after all, what further proof did I need?

And so began the BLW journey/voyage/odyssey/thingybob that got us all here at this ludicrous hour on a Friday night.

Since then, my view on weaning has become more relaxed than ever, and it started off pretty flexy in the first place to be honest. A preemie second child who started noshing at 5 months corrected, also helped.

You can lead a child to food, but you cannot make them eat. It seems to me perfectly obvious that if they can do it, you should let them. (Unless they are strikingly precocious and trying to unwrap a packet of Jammy Dodgers at 16 weeks. Do intervene in that instance.) 

This study seems to me eminently sensible on the subject. It looked at when 602 babies reached for food, found that 56% had done so before 6 months but 6% still hadn’t done so by 8 months (with the rest inbetween) and concluded that BLW is ‘is probably feasible for a majority of infants, but could lead to nutritional problems for infants who are relatively developmentally delayed’.

So look, if they’re not eating, and you are stressing, for god’s sake try them with a loaded spoon. Further more if they won’t self-feed at all and you are tearing your hair out, just feed ’em, if they like it. Honestly. Don’t over-think this stuff. It’s just food.There is no BLW heresy.

As the mother of two daughters there is a chance, God willing, that I will one day be a grandmother and let’s face it by then all my hard-won Noughties knowledge will have been thrown out of the window. My kids will probably feed their kids blue pills at four weeks old, because that will be the most up-to-date thinking.

And I will just have to suck that up and smile through what teeth I have left .

In the meantime, all we can do is ignore the weird media/academia politics, examine the evidence and be grateful that for BLWers, the decision as to when to wean is taken out of our hands by the chubby fists of our babies.

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'Breast not Best'? The Stuff I Know About.

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Well here goes, this is the stuff I know about with regards to this extraordinary news story about ‘breastfeeding not being bestfeeding‘. Snooooooort. I work in the media and have a gazillion friends in academia, and viewed from this perspective this story is rather fascinating.

1. Newspapers are having a tough time at the moment. Like, super-tough. It’s all these big-mouthed bloggers spouting off for free, they’re killing the industry, the bastards. ;-D

Soooo, you have a print media that is making people redundant left, right and centre and is utterly desperate for a headline.

2. With all of these lay-offs, there is unfortunately a good chance that yer old-fashioned highly-qualified Science Correspondent is gone, replaced by a pleasant enough daftie who has the numbers of a few favourite boffins in their mobile phone, does most of their journalistic work by ringaround and gets most of their stories from press releases.

3. Universities are having a tough time at the moment. Like, super-tough. It’s all these budget cuts, they’re killing our institutes.

Sooooo, you have academics whose jobs (mortgages, families and yes, goddammit, their passion for their chosen field) utterly rely on getting funding from somewhere, anywhere… this is awkward because it lays them open to claims that their conclusions are polluted by their backers. But what to do?

4. Also, ethically pristine or otherwise, they know that the bigger stink they cause more press attention they get, the better placed their employer, the university, is to attract further monies. The uni Press Officer knows this too.


Does anyone think that point 1 might have influenced newspapers to make a story about some academics saying ‘hmm you know maybe we should look into this 6 month thing again?’ into a BREAST NOT BEST feeding frenzy? Or that factor 2 might render the journalists incapable of producing copy that Ben Goldacre couldn’t tear apart with his two pinkie fingers?

More to the point, does anyone think that factors 1 and 2,  3 and 4 might have influenced the writers of this small, speculative review about the best age to introduce solids into a babies diet to instead title it:  “Six months of exclusive breast feeding: how good is the evidence?” What with breastfeeding being the loaded gun to the head of most of your newspaper-reading classes nowadays?

Certainly one of the people who wrote the paper said on BBC Radio today “We’re not naive, we knew this would set the cat among the pigeons.” Ya think? That’ll be music to the UCL press officer’s ears. And yet the final paras of their BMJ piece only say what we already know.

“At one extreme, it has been suggested that there is insufficient scientific evidence for any lower age for weaning and that “infants should be weaned on demand, which is what most infants and their parents actually do in practice.” It can be argued that, from a biological perspective, the point when breast milk ceases to be an adequate sole source of nutrition would not be expected to be fixed, but to vary according to the infant’s size, activity, growth rate, and sex, and the quality and volume of the breast milk supply. Signalling of hunger by the infant is probably an evolved mechanism that individualises timing of weaning for a mother-infant pair.” Sounds like BLW to me.

It goes on. “However, others would adopt a more cautious approach, based on data suggesting that the introduction of solid foods before 3 to 4 months may be associated with increased fatness and wheeze later in childhood, with an increased risk of allergy, and with higher rates of coeliac disease and type 1 diabetes in infants at risk.

“Recently, after a detailed review commissioned by the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority’s panel on dietetic products, nutrition, and allergies concluded that for infants across the EU, complementary foods may be introduced safely between four to six months, and six months of exclusive breast feeding may not always provide sufficient nutrition for optimal growth and development.” (That last line is a bit woolly, don’t you think? Surely what someone needs to do is look at whether the kids who are reaching out for food earlier than 6 months are the same ones who need a bit more than breast milk? If so, no problemo.)

Regarding the media coverage, it’s All Very Silly. The allergy stuff is hooey, as the report says that only 1% of Brits BF exclusively anyway, the bitter tastes stuff is hooey as BM changes flavour while formula doesn’t and anyway WE KNOW it’s rot because we feed our children spinach (at least until they get a bit older and decide it’s the devil incarnate in vegetable form, as they are perfectly entitled to do. But then I am nearly forty and not particularly fussed for bitter food either.)

All these academics are talking about is the time to introduce other foods, whatever the newspapers and the press officers are saying, and if they reckon that it’s something that someone might need to take another peek at, who am I to quibble?

And if things do change, it might have some bearing on Baby Led Weaning, which would be great, thanks. For my thoughts on this (lord, what an ego) do please press that hyperlink. <points>

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Aaaand we’re back in the room… did you all break breastfeeding while I was away?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Well happy days, I’ve been out at a funeral eating curled-up gammon sandwiches and unusually firm chicken goujons with my now TWO-year-old daughter – the other one, a certain Babybear of these pages, is now FIVE <faints> – and meanwhile I see the world has gone to hell in a handcart. Breastfeeding, it seems, is rubbish. Honestly, I leave for one day… (might have been nearer two years actually, but that’s what having a couple of kids does to you).

So ya know, an international news story with weaning at the core… what better day than to launch the newer, purtier BLW blog? Let’s do it. Expect further communication on this matter. I bet you cannot WAIT.

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Baby Led Weaning FAQ

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Hello all, Aitch here. Again.
This is an excellent FAQ on baby led weaning which was submitted and I think compiled by Patricia Exley for the Yahoo message group. I have asked on there how to get in touch with her to ask her permission to reprint it, but no-one answered so I left it alone. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I am idly typing in baby led weaning to Google (to see how high up we are, don'tcha know) and there it is, posted as some sort of file sharing thingie. So I take it that means it's okay for me to post it here as well, which is great, because it is full of wonderful insights.


This FAQ
covers some of the more frequently asked questions on the Baby-Led Weaning
Yahoo group.  The group is made up of
(mostly) mothers who are trying this method of feeding with their babies, and
who give each other mutual support.  This
FAQ is not intended to be or replace any weaning guidelines or medical



What do you
mean by baby-led weaning?


Within this group
we basically mean letting baby decide when to wean on to solid food (and
ultimately off the breast).  This
approach generally involves letting baby self-feed, avoiding spoon-feeding mush
and purees, and presenting baby with as much “real” family food as
possible.  Throughout this process,
breastmilk is offered as often as baby wants, as this continues to be the main
source of nutrition for quite some time.



When is my
baby ready to start solids?


From about 6
months, and certainly not before 4 months (World Health Organization and UK
Department of Health guidelines).

(second choice formula milk) should be a baby's only food until six months. It
seems that too-early exposure to foods other than breastmilk increases the risk
of developing a whole range of illnesses in childhood and adulthood.

Baby should be
able to sit up, to avoid choking on food.

Don't put food
into the baby's mouth – let him/her do this for themselves.  Most babies are ready to do this at about 6

Solids at this
stage are for exploring taste and texture.

Offer some water
with solids.



Should I worry
about weight gain?


provides most of the calories and nutrition until about one year old.  Solid food (e.g. Baby rice and vegetables) is
not as nutrient-dense as breastmilk. 
Many babies seem incapable of digesting food until much later than 6
months, as evidenced by chunks of food passing out undigested into their

The weight curves
used by health professionals are drawn up for bottle-fed babies.  Breast-fed babies tend to gain weight more
slowly once they get to about 6 months.



My baby
doesn't seem to be eating much.


Many of the
babies in this group only took to eating solids with any real seriousness when
they were around 12 months old.



Should I be
concerned about choking?


Many of the
babies have had slight 'gagging' reactions in the early days, but this seems to
have been a normal part of the learning process and is quite distinct from
choking.  Gagging seems to show that the
baby has the ability to move food back to the front of his mouth when he
doesn't want to swallow it.  It's
important that baby is sitting upright when he's eating.  This way anything that baby cannot swallow
will fall forwards (out of the mouth) rather than backwards (into the throat).



Should I be
worried about iron?


Babies are also
born with a store of iron that begins to diminish at 6 months and this could
start to affect them at around 9m so iron is the one thing they do actually
need to have extra to breastmilk after 8-9 months old.

Iron can be found
in lots of food, such as red meat, green vegetables, lentils, etc.  And they will still be getting iron from
breastmilk – which is far more readily absorbed than any iron in solid food.




Ideas for first foods:


The best things
seem to be things that are easiest to keep hold of while the baby is exploring
it, for example broccoli with a decent stem on to act as a handle.


Fruit and


  • Cut up into chip-shaped pieces (a
    crinkle chip cutter may be useful).
  • Cook (e.g. boil or steam) vegetables
    until soft.
  • Ripe, soft fruit such as pear,
    banana, mango, melon and avocado seem ideal to try, but may be too
    slippery for babies to manage until they are a bit older.  Other fruit such as apples may break
    into sharp pieces if uncooked, but turn to mush when cooked.  When cooking vegetables such as carrots
    or broccoli, they need to be soft enough to eat, but not so soft that they
    crumble in the baby's grasp.
  • Roasted vegetables (whatever is in
    season – e.g. potato wedges, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, beetroot).


Meat and Fish


Make sure lumps
of meat are big enough for baby to grasp and chew – baby will spit out the
membranes, but swallow the juice.


Finger food


  • Pear, Apple, Banana
  • Cucumber, Carrot sticks
  • Breadsticks, Rice Cakes, Oatcakes,
    Toast fingers.
  • Cheddar cheese, pear, cucumber, bread
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Dried fruit (e.g. apricots)
  • Peas, raisins – once the pincer grip
    is perfected!


The important
thing to do is double your quantity, half to mush up and throw on floor, half
to eat!


Foods to avoid


  • Wheat – if allergies in the family.
  • Dairy – if allergies in the family.
  • Eggs – if allergies in the family.
  • Citrus – if allergies in the family.
  • Strawberries and Kiwi – if allergies
    in the family.
  • Nuts – until 1 year, and then no
    whole nuts until the danger of choking is past.
  • Honey – until 1 year.
  • Added salt and sugar.
  • Apples and grapes – may be a choking
    hazard until baby is proficient at eating.




Dry cereals.

Strips of toast

Porridge (if you
can stand the mess!)




Cheese omlette,
cut into strips.

Cheese on toast

Cucumber, celery,
avocado and tomatoes.


Dinner ideas:


Pasta with grated
cheese or sauce.



Fish cakes or
fish fingers.




Sequence of adding solid foods for the allergic infant)


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Why Not Try It?

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

I think my main top tip is ‘Try It Out’ – you really don’t know if your baby will like a food unless you try them. Today, for example, baby Boomer loved some crayfish tails with pretty spicy sauce. Grandmaw was quite surprised especially as she drank quite a lot of water after her spicy crayfish salad.


Other surprising things Boomer has tried and liked are ;


Lovely juicy organic mint and lamb burger (eaten outdoors at a food fair)  – admittedly I held this while she sucked at a bit but she was peeved when I removed it.


Very, very, very mature cheese – this stuff was strong, the kind of stuff that even the smell makes you wince


Bit of Naan dipped in curry sauce – admittedly quite a creamy sauce , and before you shriek in horror it was only a tiny bit so she could join in with the social side of Mummy and Daddy’s Friday night take away binge.


Please don't judge me harshly , these represent only a small section of our diet, there is plenty of fruit and veg in a normal day – honest.

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