12 Questions & Answers with the Authors of Baby-Led Weaning

  1. Q: What is baby-led weaning (BLW) and what are the benefits of this approach?

    A: Baby-led weaning is a commonsense and enjoyable approach to introducing solid foods. It’s based on babies’ natural development in their first year and allows babies to feed themselves—there’s no spoon-feeding and no purées. Babies participate in healthy family meals, eating with their fingers (and later with cutlery), choosing what to eat, how much, and how quickly. Babies love it and it encourages them to enjoy healthy food and family mealtimes.

  2. Q: What are the top five benefits of BLW?

    A: Baby-led weaning . . .

    1. allows the baby to start solid foods at the right time and pace for her developing body.
    2. develops babies’ hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and chewing skills.
    3. makes picky eating less likely by introducing many tastes, textures, and colors of food.
    4. establishes good eating habits that can last a lifetime, helping to avoid obesity and other food-related problems.
    5. includes babies in family meals and lessens the stress of mealtimes for parents.
  3. Q: What inspired you to develop the theory of baby-led weaning?

    A: Gill: During my 20 years as a public health nurse, I met many parents who were struggling to introduce their infants to solid foods. Whether babies were refusing to be spoon fed or were being “picky,” allowing them to begin self-feeding at six months seemed to solve the problem. Babies were happy to explore food at their own pace, and parents were far less stressed.

  4. Q: Why is baby-led weaning important?

    A: Many parents find mealtimes with babies and toddlers extremely stressful. They often resort to threats, bribery, games, or tricks, just to get children to eat healthy meals. Baby-led weaning makes introducing solid foods easier and more enjoyable for both parents and babies.

  5. Q: When should baby-led weaning start?

    A: Most babies don’t need anything other than milk before six months, which is the internationally recommended minimum age for solid foods. It is also the age when most babies are able to sit up, reach for and grab food, get it to their mouth, and chew it. It is these abilities that make baby-led weaning work and keep it safe. Very few babies can do all these things before six months.

  6. Q: Which meal should parents start with?

    A: There is no need to stick to specific meals or times of the day. Just give your baby the chance to join in with family mealtimes, or whenever anyone else is eating. Think of it as an opportunity for play and exploration, rather than for eating. Try to choose times when your baby isn’t hungry or tired, so that interest is maintained. Milk feeds should carry on being offered on demand, separately from the shared meals.

  7. Q: What foods are best to start with?

    A: Unless the baby has a specific medical condition, or there are allergies in the family, any foods are suitable—provided they can be presented in a size, shape, and texture that the baby can handle, don’t have added salt or sugar, and are not highly processed. Stick shapes are best at first, with meat well cooked and harder fruit and vegetables cooked so that they are soft but not soggy.

  8. Q: Is baby-led weaning only for breastfed babies? How does breastfeeding fit with baby-led weaning?

    A: Both formula-fed babies and breastfed babies can do baby-led weaning. Breastfeeding introduces babies to different flavors, preparing them for the different tastes of solid foods. Also, breastfeeding is essentially self-feeding, and all babies are born able to do it. Breastfeeding parents learn early on that they can trust their babies to eat as much as they need. For both breast-fed and formula-fed babies, baby-led weaning ensures that important milk feedings aren’t cut out too early—because they decide when they are ready to take less, naturally, and at their own pace.

  9. Q: Isn’t baby-led weaning very messy?

    A: It can be messy, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for this (for example, by covering the floor underneath the baby). However, many families find that the mess is short-lived, because the baby refines her skills very quickly. Reports suggest that, as toddlers, baby-led weaned babies are very tidy eaters.

  10. Q: Isn’t there a risk that the baby will choke?

    A: This risk is no more likely than with other methods of solid feeding, providing that the baby is sitting upright, that only the baby is allowed to put food into his or her mouth, and that an adult is present.

  11. Q: What research is there to support baby-led weaning?

    A: A newly published study in Maternal & Child Nutrition suggests that baby-led weaning is workable for most infants. This is in addition to an ever-growing body of anecdotal evidence from parents—many of whom have tried the traditional method as well—that baby-led weaning really works.

  12. Q: What top five tips would you give to parents who want to try BLW?

    A:

    1. Share safe, healthy mealtimes—no fast food and no nuts.
    2. Choose times when your baby is not hungry or sleepy.
    3. Make sure your baby is sitting upright to eat (not leaning back in a bouncy chair).
    4. Never put anything in your baby’s mouth for her—offer, don’t give.
    5. Let your baby learn, experiment, and enjoy in the beginning—don’t expect her to eat much for the first few months.