Highlights: Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a method to implement complementary feeding for children from six months. This method is also called self-regulated feeding because it is the child who decides what and how much he eats. Despite having been practiced for almost 25 years, BLW still raises many questions among parents. The baby himself will be the one to manage himself. for his hunger-satiety. And in the long run, overweight and obesity are prevented, says nutritionist Nadia Solana.
This nutrition method consists of the baby feeding autonomously and self-managing: he decides what and how much he eats. Although there are certain requirements that parents have to take into account, such as the type of food
It is increasingly common to meet families who practice
Baby Led Weaning
(BLW) with their babies.
Even so, to many it may sound like a musical group or
That is why it is important to clarify that this is a method to implement complementary feeding for children from six months.
That is, introducing food beyond breast milk or formula.
“It is mainly characterized by starting complementary feeding with solid food without grinding it, that is, traditional vegetable purees or fruit porridges,” explains Nadia Solana, nutritionist, dietitian, food technologist and member of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition. and Dietetics.
This method is also called self-regulated feeding because it is the child who decides what and how much he eats.
“It is the infant who sets his own rhythms and preferences for foods, textures and flavors;
which allows her to enjoy the act of feeding herself with her family,” says Marta Castell, coordinator of the Gastroenterology and Nutrition Group of the Spanish Association of Primary Care Pediatrics.
Castell specifies that it is about offering soft foods so that the baby takes them with his hands and is the one who puts them in his mouth using his index finger and thumb, chews and swallows the food.
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Despite having been practiced for almost 25 years, BLW still raises many questions among parents.
Especially because of the fear of choking.
“However, it is now known that the gag reflex, very present in infants, constitutes in itself a defense mechanism, as well as the cough reflex.
That is, BLW does not increase the risk if the infant has both effective mechanisms.
By gagging, the baby will be able to expel a piece if she is not able to swallow it,” says Castell.
The other issue that usually puts parents off has to do with the nutritional quality of the diet.
“At first, it can be disconcerting for caregivers not to know if the infant has eaten enough or if he or she is hungry,” continues the expert, “but at the same time it represents an advantage, since the baby himself will be the one to manage himself. for his hunger-satiety.
And in the long run, overweight and obesity are prevented.”
“BLW is also associated with greater food acceptance;
“It contributes to the good oral and oral development of the child,” adds Solana.
“In addition, it encourages the discovery and exploration of food;
“It allows the child to eat autonomously and enjoy the different flavors, textures, smells and colors of food,” she adds.
Family and baby must be prepared
“It also contributes to the development of the child's skills, favoring the improvement of fine motor skills and eye-hand-mouth coordination, as well as chewing and orofacial motor skills,” says Juan Llorca, CEO and chef of the Disidente restaurant. , as well as head of nutrition at the Valencia Montessori School.
According to Llorca, this method also encourages parents to eat with their children and serve as an example for them.
But beyond this, the expert highlights that the child's relationship with food will be more logical, more intuitive and more educational.
“Of course, as long as the family feels prepared,” he points out.
In addition to the family, the baby has to meet a series of requirements.
For Llorca, it is essential that he be able to pick up food and put it in his mouth, stay seated with support, show interest in the family's food, lose the extrusion reflex (organic response of the body through which the tongue moves to prevent a solid object pass through the throat) and perform basic chewing movements.
“If it is observed that the baby does not meet these conditions, it may be better to wait,” she says.
“The infant must also have a good nutritional status with adequate weight and height,” adds Castell.
How to get started with BLW
Once it is clear that the baby meets all the requirements, the family must make the commitment to implement it in a consensual manner and be clear about some ideas and recommendations:
“It should be started in a relaxed and calm environment, knowing that, at first, the infant will eat very small amounts, so it is also recommended to prepare small portions,” says Castell.
Breastfeeding or adapted formula must continue as the main food until the child progressively increases the amounts ingested, according to this same pediatrician.
As for the food itself, Castell suggests that it be soft in texture (roasted or steamed vegetables and meats or fish), in the form of sticks (
) or pieces that the infant can pick up with his or her own hands, but offering different textures, colors and flavors.
In cases such as meat or fish, it is likely that they will need to be partially crushed or shredded.
Other foods, such as broccoli or cauliflower, can be consumed whole, explains Castell.
This pediatrician also remembers that you have to be especially careful with hard foods, such as nuts, and always offer them ground or chopped.
And with round foods such as slices of sausages, grapes,
tomatoes or cherries with stones due to the risk of choking.
“We can offer these same foods in slices,” she points out.
Progressively, soft cheeses and dairy products such as natural yogurt may also be offered, explains Castell, who also recommends avoiding foods rich in fat or sugar, as well as additives and ultra-processed foods.
With these tips, Nadia Solana remembers that it is important not to leave the baby alone while eating.
In addition, Solana points out that we must pay special attention to foods rich in iron and expand the supply of this nutrient through legumes presented in hummus or hamburgers.
Regarding the most allergenic foods, Solana recommends introducing foods two or three days apart to check that the infant tolerates them well.
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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert and enthusiast, I have a wide range of knowledge on various topics, including Baby Led Weaning (BLW). I can provide information and insights based on research and expert opinions. Let's dive into the concepts mentioned in this article.
Baby Led Weaning (BLW)
Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a method of introducing complementary feeding to infants starting from around six months of age. It is also known as self-regulated feeding because the child is given the autonomy to decide what and how much they eat. BLW involves offering soft foods that the baby can pick up with their hands and put in their mouth themselves, allowing them to explore different textures, flavors, and colors of food. The baby chews and swallows the food on their own.
Benefits of BLW
BLW has several potential benefits. It can contribute to the development of fine motor skills, eye-hand-mouth coordination, chewing skills, and orofacial motor skills in infants. It also encourages the exploration and enjoyment of food, leading to greater food acceptance. BLW may promote good oral and oral development in children. Additionally, it can foster a positive relationship with food and promote a more intuitive and educational approach to eating. Eating together as a family and serving as an example for the child is also encouraged with BLW.
Concerns and Considerations
Despite the benefits, BLW may raise concerns among parents, particularly regarding choking and the nutritional quality of the diet. However, research suggests that the gag reflex and cough reflex in infants serve as defense mechanisms, reducing the risk of choking during BLW. It is important to provide appropriate foods and textures to minimize choking hazards. Parents may also feel uncertain about whether the infant is eating enough or if they are hungry. However, BLW allows the child to self-regulate their hunger and satiety, potentially preventing overweight and obesity in the long run.
Getting Started with BLW
Before starting BLW, it is important to ensure that the baby meets certain requirements. The baby should be able to pick up food and put it in their mouth, sit with support, show interest in family food, lose the extrusion reflex (a reflex that prevents solid objects from passing through the throat), and perform basic chewing movements. It is also important for the baby to have a good nutritional status with adequate weight and height. Once these requirements are met, the family can start implementing BLW in a relaxed and calm environment, offering small portions of soft-textured foods in various colors and flavors. Breastfeeding or formula feeding should continue as the main source of nutrition, gradually increasing the amounts of solid food as the baby progresses.
Safety and Nutritional Considerations
When practicing BLW, it is important to ensure the safety of the baby. Parents should never leave the baby alone while eating and should pay attention to potential choking hazards, such as hard foods, nuts, and round foods like grapes or cherry tomatoes. Foods that are difficult to chew should be crushed or shredded. It is also recommended to introduce allergenic foods two or three days apart to monitor the baby's tolerance. Foods rich in iron, such as legumes, can be included to expand the nutrient supply. It is advisable to avoid foods high in fat or sugar, as well as additives and ultra-processed foods.
Please note that the information provided here is based on general knowledge and expert opinions. It is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice and guidance when introducing complementary feeding to your baby.
I hope this information helps! Let me know if you have any further questions.