For the uninitiated, baby-led weaning is a slightly fancy term for weaning on finger foods instead of mashed foods.
The golden rule is to never put anything in your child’s mouth. They are allowed to handle all food by themselves, and will learn to chew and later swallow food as opposed to spoon-fed babies who learn to swallow before they can chew.
Babies will continue to be breast-fed on demand, and will drop milk feeds as they manage to eat and digest more solid food.
Advocates of BLW argue it helps manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination, which is possible, as the child does up to 3×20 min of focussed training each day, with the most salient reward there is, i.e. food.
They also claim that training the chewing muscles and tongue from early on promotes language development. Errrm.. Not too sure about that one.
It does allow the child to reject any food they don’t like, but the theory states that because the child always controls what goes in and learns to tell foods apart by colour and texture from the beginning, they are less worried about new food.
This last bit is probably made up by adults imagining what it would be like to have spoonfuls of mystery food shoved at you several times a day, which would be pretty horrible. But who knows, babies who are used to it and know no different might not find it equally disturbing.
I’ve already watched my UK friends wean on cheese and toast with no spoonfeeding, so I didn’t really need a book to know that babies really don’t need purees if they are fully milk fed to 6 months.
The turning point for me was seeing my friend’s nine-month old eat, nay, lunge for and devour! a chicken drumstick all by herself.
I went for it in part because I love food and I think looks depressing to eat mash all day, partly because I want us to eat together and not spoonfeed simultaneously, and also in no small part for the entertainment value.
So even if not essential for me personally, the book gives handy practical tips, and if you can ignore the annoying «my child did this» quotes from other mums, it contains a lot of good and I think empirically funded information. It is convincingly well-written, but still accessible for the lay parent.
Only one peer-reviewed study I know of so far has explored BLW, but it found that it works very well for normally developed babies.
It certainly puts the fun in weaning, and Bolle enjoys eating what we eat.
Of course every parent does what’s right for them, and some kids prefer a spoon, but if you can stand the inevitable mess, I’d say this is definitely a recommended read.
And if you are ready to jump on the bandwagon and BLW, the original BLW forum has a lot of good info and very friendly participants.