Baby-led Weaning

What is Baby-led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning, or BLW, is a way of introducing solid foods where you let babies feed themselves with food that the rest of the family would eat, rather than spoon-feeding the baby purées. Parents more commonly try BLW with their second children, because it makes mealtimes more of a family affair. Babies enjoy copying their older brothers and sisters as well, so it makes it easier if the baby gets to do the same things. BLW puts a lot of emphasis on the baby exploring different textures and flavours to try and encourage a varied, balanced diet. It is a particularly good method for babies who were breastfed because they develop strong muscles which then help them to chew.

What are the Benefits of Baby-led Weaning?

One of the main benefits of BLW is that it should encourage your baby to be able to cope with different textures and tastes early on, whereas babies who eat purées first often find it hard to adjust to lumpier food later on. There has not been much serious study into the benefits of BLW, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Parents who have tried it generally claim that their children will eat anything put in front of them. They also claim that it encourages independence and confidence, and helps to develop good hand-eye co-ordination. One study did have conclusive results that showed children who follow BLW are more likely to join in with family meals, and more likely to eat a wide range of foods.

What are the Drawbacks to Baby-led Weaning?

BLW is, by its nature, very messy. Babies do throw food around more often than they get it in their mouth, especially at first. This also means a lot of food gets wasted. The more serious side to this is that your baby may not be getting enough nutrition from meals. It is a good idea to continue giving your baby breast-milk or formula until they have really mastered eating solid food.

Some finger foods are difficult for babies to chew, such as well-cooked meat. They need the iron these foods provide, because they can’t continue to get it from milk. For this reason, organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health recommend a combination of finger foods and purées so that your baby gets the best of both worlds and all the nutrients they need.

What Foods are best for Baby-led Weaning?

The best foods are ones which can easily be cut into strips. Babies find it easiest to hold foods shaped like chips because they use their whole fist to hold things. Try your baby on most things your family consume, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread and toast, cheese, pasta, eggs and rice. Avoid foods which have a high salt or sugar content, and be careful with foods such as fish which may have bones. Completely avoid shellfish and whole nuts. Make sure with fruits that you remove any pips or stones before giving them to the baby.

How do you start Baby-led Weaning?

Before you start to wean your baby, you have to make sure they are physically developed enough. The baby must be able to sit up unsupported, and during mealtimes must have somewhere they can sit straight and well-supported. Sit the baby at the table and offer them some finger food they are able to grip. The idea is not to feed the baby, but let them do it themselves. The best time to try it is when the rest of the family are eating, and it is a good idea to get the baby involved in mealtimes as often as possible. Choose a time when the baby is not tired or restless so that they will be able to concentrate better. You should treat this time as a sort of playtime, so avoid putting pressure on the baby to hurry, and try not to distract him/her. Don’t try to make your baby eat more than he/she wants to, and offer water regularly in case they get thirsty while eating.


Many parents worry about their baby choking on solid food, but as long as the baby can sit upright this should not be a big risk. The fact that the baby is on control of when they swallow and what they are eating means that choking is a minimal risk. However, you must always supervise a baby during mealtimes. Do not place food in the baby’s mouth yourself, as this may increase the risk of choking.

When Should you not use Baby-led Weaning?

If there is a record of an allergy, digestive troubles or food intolerances in your family, it could be risky to try BLW. It is also a bad idea if your child has special requirements which affect his/her ability to chew, and if your baby was premature.

Weaning and Moving onto Solid Foods:

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