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Baby-Led Weaning: 7 FAQs Every Parent Has

When it comes to weaning, we understand that it can be a little overwhelming for first-time parents. Surely, bub is looking to switch from breast/bottle to new foods, but you may be wondering whether going down the path of baby-led weaning – or BLW – is the best for your little one.

These frequently asked questions will provide you with the information you need.

1. What is baby-led weaning? 

Mom spoon-feeding her baby some purees

Historically, weaning your baby meant buying lots of different kinds of purees and spoon-feeding it to bub (often accompanied by aeroplane noises and maybe some adorable cackles along the way). But around a decade ago, in the late ‘noughties’, several books were released that discussed an alternative method of weaning. 

Parents now had a newfound way of weaning their little ones, termed baby-led weaning –  meaning your baby takes the lead. Instead of preparing the aforementioned purees in a spoon, a range of different finger foods is provided for bubs to feed themselves. In fact, spoon-feeding and purees were completely skipped, replaced by bite-sized solid foods such as bananas, broccoli, and toast sticks.

It was a rather dramatic shift from the norm and initially seen as a little too off-centre. But it didn’t take very long to gain popularity. It was the ideal approach for parents who wanted a more natural solution to what they were giving their babies during the weaning process, for example. And now, it’s arguably the most preferred weaning method across the world. 

2. What are the benefits of baby-led weaning?

A toddler eating fruits on a high chair

There are some fantastic reasons why BLW is a great option. Here are just a few of the stand-out benefits when your baby takes charge of weaning:

  • Develops independence: When the baby is in charge of what and how much he eats, he can develop independence not just at mealtimes but in other areas as well. 
  • Encourages self-regulation: As bub is the one who is feeding themselves, they’ll stop when they’ve had enough. Conversely, spoon-feeding might lead to overfeeding because you may not realise that your child actually has a full tummy! When this happens repeatedly, it can teach bubs to eat more than they need to, which can lead to an unfavourable relationship with food down the track.
  • Improves motor and oral skills: From picking up the different food items and navigating a piece accurately to their mouths to chewing, tongue movement, and swallowing, their fine motor and oral skills will improve while eating.
  • Introduces a variety of flavours and textures: By offering them a wide variety of foods, your child will experience flavours and textures of all kinds. This may help develop their palates and reduce the likelihood of them becoming picky eaters when they’re older.
  • Saves money: Forget having to buy expensive jars of mushy baby food or blending up different ingredients. Most of the time, you can use the same ingredients you’re eating – just cut them into finger-sized pieces, and voila!
  • Eat out much more easily: If you want to go to a restaurant for dinner, it’s so much easier with baby-led weaning as you can give them solid foods.

3. When should I begin BLW?

Toddler trying out a baby wooden spoon

The baby-led weaning process begins once bub passes a few different milestones. These are:

  • Being able to hold up their heads well and have strong neck control
  • Being able to sit upright on their own
  • Having at least doubled their weight since birth
  • Showing an interest in the foods you’re eating, which might include watching you eat and/or reaching out to grab something from your plate
  • Having grown out of the tongue-thrust reflex stage (meaning, instead of spitting food straight out, they can move it around in their mouth)

Generally, babies will tick off each of the above by around six months of age. However, every baby is different; some might get there early while others may take a few months longer. It’s important to remain patient and let them grow at their own pace. You might start offering different finger foods when they hit the six-month mark, but they may show no interest for a few months!

4. How do I start the baby-led weaning process?

Baby in a highchair eating foods with silicone suction plate

After your baby has passed each of the necessary milestones listed in the previous section, you can begin the process of baby-led weaning:

Tools

To do this, you’ll need to ensure you have the right gear. Baby-led weaning can get a little (or a lot) messy, as you might imagine, but luckily there are a few products – apart from the handy highchair – that can minimise the amount of mess made at meal times: 

Bibs

Also, you might want to increase the number of bibs in your current arsenal before starting the BLW process, as this will reduce the amount of laundry you need to do. However, if you have a Snapkis Oh-So-Soft Silicone Bib at hand, baby-led weaning can be made less messy. Its crumb catcher can easily collect any crumbs or broken pieces instead of them breaking off further when it hits the highchair table. Plus, it easily rolls up, so storing is hassle-free. And the fact that these are made of soft and lightweight BPA-free silicone, cleaning is effortless, and you can ensure your child’s safety too. 

Bowls

Spill-proof bowls that can be suctioned to their highchair are invaluable when working through BLW – for obvious reasons! Consider Tommee Tippee Explora Feeding Bowls with Lids! Their silicone suction base and smart-edge technology can easily guide food back into the bowl, so you won’t have to worry about topples or spills.

Sippy cup

Aside from a bowl, you may also want to invest in a sippy cup that doesn’t spill all over the place when your little one inevitably knocks it off their high chair – that is, we believe, the game-changer. The Richell AQ Clear Straw Bottle Mug Set is one excellent option. Its almond-shaped spout opens easily when bub’s lips touch it, making it easier to transition from bottles or breastfeeding.

Sterilisers and teethers

And let’s not forget that at the end of the day, your baby is weaning, which means they’ll still be either breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. If it’s the latter, you might want to get a bottle steriliser to make sure everything is as germ-free as it can be during interim feeds. 

They may also have teeth coming through and causing them slight discomfort, in which case, a teether can offer them a bit of relief. 

Food

The first foods you offer bub should be nice and soft. Steamed vegetables, bananas, and avocado slices are perfect examples of the best kind of consistency to aim for. Choosing just one food each meal time is advised too when you’re starting out so that you don’t overwhelm them at the beginning. Eventually, you’ll be able to give them different options at a time.

For some guidance, you may begin baby-led weaning with these foods:

  • Steamed apple wedges
  • Melon slices
  • Baked sweet potato wedges
  • Sliced avocado (ripe and soft)
  • Halved blueberries
  • Thinly sliced tomato
  • Shredded poached chicken
  • Quartered hard-boiled eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheddar cheese

And in action

Put the plate with the finger-sized food slices in front of them while they’re in their highchair and sit with them to keep a very close eye on them while they’re eating. As soon as they’ve had enough, they’ll let you know in one way or another. For example, they may stop munching on the food or turn irritable in the highchair. Once you spot similar signs, you (view question 6), and you can then take the plate away. 

And remember, all babies are different. So even if bub has reached all of the milestones, they might not be interested just yet. If this happens, leave it and try again a few days/weeks later. Same result? Repeat the process until they’re happy to give things a go.

5. Do babies need teeth to wean?

You absolutely do not have to wait for your baby to grow out their teeth to start weaning on solid foods. Instead of chewing with their teeth to break up the foods you give, they mash the pieces up using their gums. 

But because they don’t have teeth, this is why it’s important to give them softer foods that are easy for them to break apart with their gums.

6. How can I tell when bub has eaten enough?

It should become quite obvious when your baby has eaten enough. They may show you by pushing the plate away from them, becoming irritable while sitting in their highchair, turning their head away, or just not opening their mouths anymore. 

Remember, similar to other parts of their development, BLW is something that can take time for them to adapt to. They may not eat a lot and become restless quite quickly at the table, which is perfectly normal as they continue on this new learning curve.

7. Should I stop breast/bottle-feeding when we start with baby-led weaning?

It is important to continue breastfeeding your baby while you begin baby-led weaning. This ensures your little one receives all the wonderful nutrition found in your breastmilk for development. Providing both solid foods as well as what they’re used to can make the transition from milk to solid foods much easier for them.

Find everything your baby needs at Mothercare

We understand how busy the life of a parent can be, which is why at Mothercare Malaysia, you’re bound to find exactly the right products for bub – whatever they may be – in one convenient place. From our huge collection of baby & toddler foods and food preparation to trainer cups and so much more, we’ve got precisely what you need. 

Busy taking care of bub at home or unsure which products are most suitable for your baby’s needs? WhatsApp your nearest store and speak with one of our Digital Nursery Advisors. They can provide further information about specific items, offer advice and even help you place an order!

We even offer a parenting club membership programme with attractive privileges for you and your bub. So take advantage of this amazing offer and browse our full range online today. You can, of course, alternatively visit your local store to shop our fantastic range of baby’s and kid’s products in person.

  • Digital Nursery Advisor
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  • VIP Parenting Club