Saturday, 11 December 2010

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) - or OMG Look at the F**king Mess!

What is Baby Led Weaning?

None of my friends or family would ever use the words 'house proud' and 'Anna' in the same sentence. But even I have blanched in the face of the utter carnage that is Baby Led Weaning (or BLW as it's commonly known).

The principle is sound - skip the purees and go straight to finger food beacuse we're advised to wean babies later now (around six months instead of four) and self-feeding enables them to listen to their own appetite and choose what they want to eat.

With BLW, baby learns to chew before s/he swallows (with traditional spoon feeding it's the other way round), and experiments with a wider range of tastes and textures because BLW experts advise you let baby select their own meal from four or five different finger foods in front of them.

Baby Led Weaning is a method that supports babies in learning to love their food and develop a broader palate than if you choose to wean by what Gill Rapley's Baby Led Weaning book calls 'force feeding' (spoon feeding to us less militant folk).

BLW babies can usually eat the same thing as the rest of the family (without the sugar or salt) from about 7-8 months. So, it's a more sociable way of eating for baby and it's far easier for Mum who doesn't have to rack her brains for interesting puree combinations (sweet potato and blueberries anyone?).

Here are some of the benefits of Baby Led Weaning.

Why is Baby Led Weaning so Messy?

The friend who gave me The BLW book did make a vague reference to the mess. But, I brushed it off as I am no stranger to mess. Hell, this is the woman who has a fridge magnet proudly proclaiming 'A Clean House is a Sign of a Wasted Life'.

With Baby Led Weaning, you let your Precious Angel self-feed. I use the term 'self-feed' loosely. It's actually more akin to a food fight. Really, they're just playing with the food at first. Mushing it onto themselves (Alicia tucked some avocado behind her ear recently though I think she was aiming for her mouth), and spreading it liberally around the table and floor.

Tips for Easier Baby Led Weaning

Like any new experience though it gets easier with time. You develop better coping tactics. We've now abandoned the Tripp-Trapp style high chair (BTW, this highchair is less than half the price and is pretty much the same)and eating straight off the table thing.

It didn't work for us. Everything ended up on the floor within 30 seconds, and the five second rule doesn't really apply in a house where the floor gets mopped once every two months (I'm really not joking. I wish I were).

What works much better is sticking Little Liss in a Bumbo directly on the dining table, putting an array of finger foods onto the Bumbo tray. She was more interested in the bowl and mat than the food when we attempted that little combo).

The beauty of the Bumbo seat is that you can bung it in the (empty) bath and hose it all down with the shower afterwards. Sleeved bibs are another godsend.

Here's a link to some photos in Flickr of Alicia's Baby Led Weaning adventures (I'm having problems uploading photos in Blogger at the moment).

As you can see, I do occassionally give her purees too but I load up the spoon and put it onto the tray so she can self feed. Unlike some other BLW Mums, I don't think purees are the devil's work, especially when you have a hungry baby who won't really get much into her tummy in the first few weeks of Baby Led Weaning.

BLW Key Points

If you fancy giving BLW a try, here's a booklet on the key points. This BLW blog is a good resource too.

Don't get distressed if your baby coughs or gags on the food at first, just let it happen and watch them like a hawk for any signs of choking (although it's very unlikely they will choke).

Gagging generally doesn't upset them, and their gag reflex is a lot farther forward than ours. It's a natural reflex to help them expel food and doesn't mean they're choking(although when I first witnessed it I was convinced that she was).

If a baby chokes they usually don't make a sound beacuse the food is blocking their airway. To give yourself peace of mind, watch this vide on dealing with a choking baby Apparently, choking is more common when a traditionally weaned baby transitions to lumpy purees and food because they have learned to swallow and not chew. BLW babies do it the other way round - master chewing before swallowing.

Recommended First Foods

Although Gill Rapley recommends you try pretty much any food as long as it doesn't have sugar or salt in it (both very, very bad for babies - salt can even kill them), I'm playing it a bit safer and going with my favourite nutritionist's recommendations as outlined in Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy
. I'm also mainly sticking to organic foods as babies and pesticides don't mix very well (I prefer to eat organic myself too when availability and budget allow).

So, until she's nine months Little Liss will be making her way through:
*Vegetables except the nightshade varieties (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines)
*Fruits (not citrus)
*Pulses and beans
*Wholefood grains: rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat

If you aren't bringing up your baby as a veggie then you can also include fish (pref organic, wild or deep sea).

Patrick Holford recommends waiting until nine months to introduce the following:

*Meat & poultry
*Grains that can cause sensitivity ie oats, corn, barley and rye
*Live yoghurt and eggs
*Soya and nightshade vegetables

He also recommends you leave the following until 12 months: citrus fruits, wheat, dairy, nuts and seeds (but with peanuts wait as long as you can and then only organic varieties).

So, there you have it. BLW - makes sense (to me anyway), great fun (especially for baby) but a bit messy at first!


Amy said...

lol I'm BLW my son for the first time, i used purees for my ther 4 so its all new to me. He loves to get covered in cheese and is a constant toat crumb monster!!

Tasha Goddard said...

We loved BLW both times - it does help to have a dog to clear up after them, though. Love the photos!

Notes To Self Plus Two said...

i just started weaning - I am permanently sticky
great summary article x

Marianne said...

Sorry it's taken a month to check out yr post- been back at work and blogging has taken a back seat- great intro to blw! :)