Baby-led weaning (BLW) could prove useful in some cases. However, it is a new method and insufficient research has been done on the subject as of yet. It is thus too early to recommend it as the sole way to introduce solid foods.
The BLW approach is based on offering babies whole foods (whole fruits and vegetables, large pieces of meat, etc.) rather than pureed foods as soon as they are ready; at about 6 months of age. The idea is to allow babies to manipulate their food and to let them control the amount of food eaten as well as the speed at which they eat it.
Health Canada recommends the following:
The introduction of solid foods should include a variety of textures:
- chopped or cut up into small pieces
- food that babies can grab with their fingers (ripe fruits and vegetables such as avocados or bananas, or well-cooked meats and poultry, for example)
Incorporating foods with different textures to the babies’ diet promotes the development of their motor skills. It seems this is a safe practice that does not increase the risk of the baby choking. Nonetheless, precautions should be taken, such as offering appropriately sized pieces of food to the baby, and avoiding small and round foods like nuts and grapes. Also, the baby should be supervised throughout each meal.
Since the BLW method encourages babies to determine themselves how much food is enough, they are better able to recognize their own bodies’ satiety signals. Some studies show that BLW-fed babies have a lower risk of becoming overweight. However, other studies demonstrate an increased incidence of insufficient weight gain in these infants.
Parents will welcome the fact that BLW allows the baby to consume almost the same foods as the rest of the family. An important downside: the family’s diet may not be adequate for the baby, being too salty or sugary, or inadequate in iron, for example. Parents are encouraged to keep processed foods to a minimum and to choose a variety of appropriate foods, as they would with any feeding approach.
Because this approach requires a baby to be able to pick up and chew food, it may not be suitable for premature babies who may have significant developmental delays or sub-optimal growth.
BLW is an interesting approach that is becoming increasingly popular. Given the current lack of supporting evidence, we cannot uniquely recommend it as a means of introducing solid foods.
It is recommended that the introduction of solid foods come with a variety of textures offered to the baby. Experimenting with the physical handling of food promotes motor skills development. Having said that, it is important to be aware that doubts persist concerning the efficiency of this method in offering an adequate, balanced diet for infants.