An experience sharing by Jess, Wong Hui Juan, a mother of two girls, nutritionist & IBCLC
I first know about baby led weaning (blw) in 2010 before my eldest was born in 2012.
I was first introduced to this concept after reading a book entitled “Baby-led Weaning, Helping your baby to love good food” written by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett, 2008.
Being a community nutritionist by profession, I am eager to learn more and explore how to implement Baby-led weaning.
When people think about introducing solid foods to a baby, they usually imagine an adult spoon-feeding teaspoonfuls of pureed carrot or apple.
On the other hand, baby-led weaning will be sitting with the rest of the family at the table during mealtimes.
The baby explore food using her hand for finger size pieces, feeding herself/ himself rather than being spoon-fed by adults.
Trying Baby Led Weaning With My First Born
With the baby-led weaning inception in mind, I was eager to try when my eldest starting solid foods.
I was cautious, just like other first-time mothers at first, and started out giving her avocado purees.
When she was about 6.5 months, I was brave enough to provide her with a small peeled steamed sweet potato and let her explore while sitting in her high chair.
I was so nervous when she gagged because sweet potato is starchy and she bit a big chunk of it.
Choking is uncommon in BLW but gagging is common as it is a safety mechanism to protect baby.
Food that has not been sufficiently crushed for easy swallow is returned to the front of the mouth for further chewing.
Babies at six months of age gag relatively easily compared to one-year old.
I gave a variety of finger foods.
For instance, cut vegetables (steamed carrot, broccoli), cut fruits (papaya, dragon fruits), drumstick etc for my daughter to explore.
Bare in mind, a baby learning how to eat can be messy.
My husband used to complain about food wastage as my daughter would sometime play with the food.
Baby Led Weaning With My Second Daughter
When my second daughter was born in 2016, I started her with traditional spoon-fed food.
I waited until she was around 7 to 8 months to start with BLW.
She is more matured with her hand to mouth coordination that time and I am more confidence with previous experience.
Although her journey to BLW is rather later compared to her eldest sister, she learns fast as she always observed us eating together in dining table during mealtimes.
She learned how to feed herself with chopstick at a rather young age before 1 year old.
Whenever we are eating out, the passed by strangers will stop and observe her with amazed expression.
Some even shared their experience saying they used to feed their children until 3-4 years old.
They had to chase the children during feeding as the children would run around and not sit properly at mealtimes.
Thoughts On Baby Led Weaning.
In summary, from personal experience, responsive feeding is the key message to be implement during starting solid for children.
Normal infant development supports a safe transition to solid foods and babies when allow to control her own pace.
On-going adequate milk intake before and during baby led weaning is necessary.
We aim to have our children trust their own satiety and hungry cues and to be able to enjoy family food just like the rest of the family after one-year-old.
Not all baby are suitable for baby-led weaning.
Babies whose development is delayed or those who have conditions such as diagnosed feeding difficulties that interfere with their ability to get food to their mouth or to chew and swallow, may not be able to rely on self-feeding.
Premature babies will be late developing self-feeding skills as compared to full-termed babies.
If nutrition is insufficient to support optimal growth and development, pureed foods may be needed to support their nutritional needs.
There is no right or wrong way to either feed baby with traditional spoon fed or baby-led weaning or a mix of these two ways.
There is only the most suitable way for each family.
Sitting together as family to enjoy mealtimes together is the way to go in order to inculcate healthy eating since young.
Hightlights & Tips:
Here are some of the key points and tips to implement baby-led weaning (Rapley and Murkett, 2008, 2010, Rapley, 2011):
- Baby-led weaning refers to the introduction of solid foods using a self-feeding approach
- Breastmilk (or formula) should continue to be the main source of nutrition up to one year
- From six months, babies need to practise the skills involved in self-feeding
- The food that the baby are invited to should be nutritious
- Cook meals from scratch wherever possible – avoid added salt and sugar, ready-meals, honey, shellfish, shark, marlin and undercooked eggs
- Ensure that the baby is sitting upright, supported if necessary, so that they can use their hands and arms freely
- Aim to offer a gradually increasing variety of colours, flavours and textures to make eating interesting and promote skill development and a balanced diet
- Continue to offer milk feeds on demand, in between the shared mealtimes, the baby will reduce these themselves as their intake of solid foods increases
- Self-feeding does not present any greater risk of choking than spoon-feeding if basic safety rules are followed
- This method has the potential to influence the infant’s dietary choices and relationship with food
- Avoid small hard foods such as nuts, and cut small round foods (such as grapes and cherry tomatoes) in half
- Cover the floor with something clean (such as a plastic sheet) so that dropped food can be handed back
- Make sure that no one other than the baby puts food into their mouth (beware helpful toddlers)
- Never leave the baby alone with food
- Prepare foods so that they can be picked up and held easily, with some sticking out of the baby’s fist – chunks of fruit, sticks of vegetables (cooked so that they are soft but not soggy), strips of meat, fingers of toast and sticks of cheese are all good first foods
- Include the baby whenever anyone else is eating
- Try to make sure that the baby is neither hungry nor sleepy at mealtimes, so that they can concentrate and enjoy this new ‘game’
- Offer water with meals (formula-fed babies are more likely to need this than breastfed babies, but all babies will enjoy the chance to try it – a shot-sized cup is useful)
Calling Malaysian Parents!
Ms. Jess, Wong Hui Juan, who is one of the research team members from the Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), is currently running a study called MY Feeding Project. This feeding study aims to determine the associations of parental feeding factors and child eating behaviours with body weight status (BMI-for-age) among Malaysian young children aged 6-months to 36-months. Your participation in this study is important to them, and it is completely voluntary.
Click the following link to know more about this project:
MY Feeding Project website link, https://nutrilact.wixsite.com/mfmfp
Facebook page, https://fb.me/MYFeedingProject
If you have any question, please contact the researchers.