It is no secret that weaning babies can give parents sleepless nights. However, nothing compares to the joy of watching your little one trying to munch on finger food and watch their eyes light up as they taste their new favourite food for the first time.
You may have come across various methods of weaning, and as a parent who is ready to wean your baby off of breast milk or formula feed, choosing from the various techniques can be overwhelming. Most parents now prefer BLW as the ideal weaning method and for good reason.
What is Baby-led weaning?
The one thing that comes instinctively to babies is exploration. BLW focuses on this natural urge to let your baby experiment with food and decide their own pace while allowing you to steer clear of spoon-feeding purees and mashed food. Parents must be prepared for a lot of back and forth even after the weaning has begun and some babies may continue to need breastfeeding at night, but gradually BLW encourages babies to become independent and less fussy eaters.
BLW helps develop and improve hand-eye coordination and allows your baby to become a participant at the family meal times.
The weaning process is one of the earliest ways to help instil confidence in the baby. Babies will use all their senses to study and respond to foods. They observe the food, learn to use their little fingers and hands to tackle food, feel the texture and then feed themselves. Taking control of the food, being able to accept certain foods and reject others, and deciding how much to eat provides a great boost to the little human’s self- esteem.
When to begin BLW? 4-6 months
There are many benefits to BLW, but it is important to know when to begin.
While babies may seem ready for simple solids around 4 months, and may even try to grab food off your plate, it is advised that one does not begin weaning until 6 months.
Until the baby is 6 months old, introducing solids in the diet involves a choking risk as the baby is not yet equipped to do the jaw work or mulching that solid foods require.
The baby’s digestive system and kidneys too are not equipped to handle solids even in small portions. Not only is breast milk the most effective way to soothe an uneasy baby, it enhances immunity and provides all of the nutrition required till the lining of the baby’s gut has developed and the kidneys are able to process the waste from solid food.
While there is no substitute for breast milk, formula milk works well. It is rich in iron and helps maintain the baby’s iron levels till solids are introduced. Whether you are weaning your baby from breast milk or formula milk, the process is gradual, and there is more than one way of going about it.
NHS provides a reliable guide to weaning and when to begin.
Is your baby ready?
There is no set plan or fixed schedule for BLW. While some babies may show food interest as early as 4 months, some show reluctance to weaning even at 8 months. If your baby is over 6 months old and can sit up on their own, their hand-eye coordination allows them to pick up a chunk of food and put it in their mouth, and if you have observed an eagerness to join the family at the dining table, then it might mean that your baby is ready for BLW.
If not, there is no reason to rush into things. Every baby finds its own pace and you will know when yours is ready to be weaned. Meanwhile, you may take the time to chart out your BLW journey and equip yourself for the process.
Preparing for BLW
Weaning is a potentially trying time for everyone involved, it is likely that emotions will run high, both for you and your baby. Do not worry, the tension is short-lived and easily navigated if you brace yourself.
It is important to research and learn. Parents need to educate themselves about the weaning process. Reading about the experiences of other parents will help. Rachael and Paul’s journey, for example, will give you interesting ideas and make for an engaging read.
There are also many guidelines available that help you through the process with tips and advice from the Health Department. One example is the Contented Baby website.
You could use resources like this mini BLW guidebook for easy tips and recipes.
At this stage, it is also vital to prepare others around you. All persons in close contact with the baby must be encouraged to follow the same approach to weaning for the process to be smooth and effective. It may seem challenging to have babysitters and grandparents on the same page as you, but it will lead to a successful process.
To make the transition smoother there are many products now available in the market. Some of the products you might consider purchasing to assist you in your BLW journey are:
- An Easy to Clean High Chair- Easy to wipe and really sturdy, the IKEA Antilop High Chair is the most popular choice. To go with this, our EASYMAT plate is a full-size suction plate, designed specifically for the weaning baby. It comes with a placemat and matching spoon. It sticks to the table surface and is less likely to be sent flying around. Its attractive colour options help engage the child’s attention at mealtimes. It is among the best products to start off the independent diner.
- Cheeky Wipes – These organic reusable wipes are soft on baby skin and come in handy after that messy meal.
- EasyTots selection of Suction Plates, bowls and cutlery- EasyMat Mini and Easy Mat Perfect Fit. EasyTots provides the best in range selection of Suction Plates, bowls and cutlery to make weaning easy. The brightly coloured products draw attention to the food and increase the baby’s concentration during mealtimes.
- Bibetta – This established brand of bibs for weaning provides an interesting, colourful range of dribble bibs, pelican bibs, and bibs with raglan sleeves.
- Splash Mat- A large water repellent and stain resistant mat to spread around the meal space; this will catch the spilled food and protect your floor from stains.
BLW is a messy time. Embrace the mess! Eating is a new, big skill for your baby, be patient of the development process and celebrate the little milestones.