Baby Led Weaning
Recently, I have had several parents and friends ask me my opinion about Baby Led Weaning (BLW). Baby Led Weaning is defined on the BLW website as “letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning” meaning at the start of adding solids into their diet. The website shows a picture of an infant, around 6-7 months, self feeding a pork chop.
Having never seen an infant who has gone through the BLW process, I hesitate to give a strong opinion on it. I love the idea of children, at any age, eating real food. However, as a feeding therapist and someone who looks at feeding skills of children every day- what worries me about BLW is an infant’s risk of choking.
The site goes on to explain that “the key difference between BLW and traditional weaning is in the order that children learn to eat. With a puree, they learn to swallow first and then chew, which works fine until they meet a lump. With BLW, the babies learn to chew first and swallowing might come some time later.” I would slightly disagree with this statement. With puree textures, an infant is not just swallowing but learning to accept the puree bite, form a bolus with oral sensory-motor control and structural support which including the lips, tongue, palate and cheek and then transfer this posteriorly into the pharynx. An infant will learn to move from smooth to thicker purees and then onto chewables. This process is supported by physical stability and cognitive development and desire to feed.
Suzanne Evans Morris Ph.D, SLP has an article posted on her website Learning to Chew which discusses the traditional transition infants go through as they move through oral motor skill development. She states “wait until your baby is sitting independently and is approximately 8 months old before introducing thicker purees, soft lumpy foods and meltable solid finger foods. Babies need to have the physical and neurological maturity to succeed with chewing. Not all babies are ready for this at the same age level.”
So the jury is still out on baby led weaning for me- we will need to wait and see as more children experience the BLW process of moving though textured foods. Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP says in her ASHA blog on this subject that she “stresses the importance of reading baby’s cues and monitoring them closely for safe feeding while supporting them through the developmental process of learning to eat, no matter what age.”. Well said.