Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

Baby-led weaning (often also referred to as BLW) is a method of gradually weaning a baby from a milk diet onto solid foods. It allows a baby to control his solid food intake by self-feeding from the very beginning of the weaning process.

Infants are offered a range of foods to provide a balanced diet from around 6 months. They often begin by picking up and licking the food, before progressing to eating. Babies typically begin self feeding around 6 months, although some will reach for food as early as 5 months and some will wait until 7 or 8. The intention of this process is that it is tailored to suit each particular baby and their personal development. The 6 month guideline provided by the World Health Organisation is based on research indicating the internal digestive system matures over the period 4-6 months. It seems reasonable to posit that the gut matures in tandem with the baby's external faculties to self feed.[1]

Weaning is when a baby transitions from breast milk to other sources of nourishment. When to wean is a personal decision. Moms may be influenced by a return to work, her health or the baby's, or simply a feeling that the time is right.

Weaning a baby is a gradual process that calls for patience and understanding from both you and your child.[2]

When to Wean

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends feeding babies only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. After that, the AAP recommends that a combination of solid foods and breast milk be given until a baby is at least 1 year old.[3]

Ideally, your baby will nurse until he outgrows the need. This is called natural, or baby-led weaning. Every baby has different “needs” in different areas. For example, some babies need to be held almost constantly, while others squirm and wiggle if you try to hold them too long, and are perfectly content to sit in their playpen for an hour or so while they entertain themselves.[4]

Is baby-led weaning suitable for both breastfed and formula-fed babies?

Most parents who have tried baby led weaning have breastfed their children and see it as a natural extension of the breastfeeding process. Breastfeeding babies usually feed on-demand and breastfeeding is very much an active process, with babies needing to work hard, using their jaw and tongue to latch on properly and get at the milk effectively. Research has shown that breastfed babies seem able to regulate their calorie intake according to their needs (Gillman et al., 2001). It makes sense for babies who can regulate how much breastmilk they drink to also regulate their intake of solid food.

However, there does not appear to be any reason why a bottle-fed baby couldn't be weaned onto solids in this way. If your baby is formula-fed, you should offer him several drinks of water in between milk feeds and at mealtimes. Breastfed babies do not need to be given water because breastmilk is a drink as well as a food.[5]


[3] ibid

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