I admittedly came across ‘Baby Led Weaning’ (BLW) by accident when a girlfriend in the UK texted a photo captioned ‘thank you Baby Led Weaning’ of her 7-month-old gnawing away at lamb chop. I had never even heard of BLW so I curiously began researching it (books, forums, blogs). The more I chatted to others who had done BLW and heard what great eaters they had, the more the philosophy of skipping spoon-feeding and allowing babies to explore table foods from the start, began to resonate with me. My husband and I both felt strongly about fostering a positive relationship with food from the beginning for our son and liked that BLW encouraged self-regulation of feelings of fullness early on (a skill important even as an adult). We didn’t mind waiting till he was 6 months either (as opposed to starting at 4 months as guidelines allow in Australia) as we were keen on letting his digestive system and motor skills mature further.
There’s little out there in Australia on BLW (compared to countries like the UK) so I want to share my experience with Baby Led Weaning with other mums contemplating this route. There’s nothing wrong with traditionally weaning babies; we made the decision after consideration and felt the benefits outweighed the cons so here’s our experience, 3 months into baby led weaning:
THE BASICS OF BLW
From 6 months, babies share the same food and eat at the same time with the family; my son always watched us on our laps or in our chair and was offered an opportunity to join in.
There’s no need to spoon feed the baby any baby foods or purees. They can start handling the same foods we eat (adjusted for salt) and can take food in to their mouths when ready. It wasn’t until around 8 months that we saw a noticeable increase in his appetite for solid foods.
Milk is still the main source of nutrition before one. On days our son wasn’t interested in food, we didn’t stress; milk was provided on demand and we encouraged the practice. Anything consumed was a bonus!
Start by offering food in pieces that are easy to pick up; Over time he developmentally improved his hand eye coordination, could categorise different foods and was more efficient at eating, even though he was toothless.
THE BENEFITS OF BLW
For us personally, we found BLW supported relaxed family meal times. I preferring cooking one meal to be shared as a family and especially with our family heritage, eating has always such a social activity we wanted our son watch and have fun. We wanted to avoid battles of meal times and force feeding him. With BLW, there’s no pressure to eat everything provided; we just provide a variety of healthy options and let him lead the way. He was growing well, had no family history of allergies and medically fit to start BLW. Some days he only wanted fruit and yoghurt and that was ok too! Trusting him was key.
Come on, there has to be downsides …
YES, but it’s unavoidable! Baby Led Weaning is extremely MESSY. From day dot, food was pushed off the tray within seconds, dangled from a height and smeared all over his clothes as he navigated it to his mouth. Within a week, the novelty wore off. Starting straight into self-feeding, it got messier as the days went by and I didn’t particularly enjoy double the laundry, cleaning, mopping and washing. It really tested my tolerance for BLW but I was determined to live out the benefits.
How to deal with MESS
We invested in the Tidy Tot Bib and Tray set a few weeks into solids and haven’t looked back. Some mums describe it as the food catcher of her dreams (yes really!) and was the first item we stocked in our store at AST + CO. Our brand is about celebrating milestones (starting solids) in a practical and stylish way. We found it super easy to use, practical and we saved so much on extra laundry, cleaning and mopping the floor. It’s perfect for mums who want to encourage fussy eaters to explore food and can’t stand mess. Here's some further info about how it can help with the mess:
Suitable for 6 months – 2 years - the bib and tray is designed to be wider than a baby’s arm span to catch food before it hits the ground and reduce food wastage/cleaning.
Designed in the UK by mum of three and winner of multi awards, the tray (made of food grade silicone) folds out and sits on top of your high chair or booster seat.
The waterproof and machine washable bib smock coverall attaches directly to the tray so there are no gaps between baby and highchair.
The tray folds up into a dinner plate size so it’s easy to transport and store (we pop ours on a 3M hook behind the laundry door).
Portable and ergonomic: No more bending over to pick up food off the ground.
The unique Tidy Tot is available in Australia from exclusive stockist AST + CO.
Letting our son explore food without interruption and curating a relaxed mealtime routine was one of the best things about BLW we’ve experienced to date. The tidy tot is now a part of our family during meal times and we love watching him grow and eat more as he approaches 1!