Baby-led weaning is a philosophy of feeding children that says that children should be the ones who choose what they put in their mouths, not their parents. Instead of making puréed fruits and vegetables and spooning them into your baby's mouth, you put food (cooked until soft and cut into small pieces) in front of your baby (when they’re of an age where they’re sitting up properly and holding their head up – usually at about six months) and let them feed themselves.
BLW is an independent process of eating, rather than passive feeding. At first, most of the food will end up on the floor (handy to have a dog around!), but slowly your baby will figure out how to get the food in his/her mouth. To give baby-led weaning a go you'll really only need a washable high chair and a high tolerance for mess!
The theory goes that babies crawl, walk and talk at the right time for them – why should eating be any different? When the baby is physically ready, food will be swallowed.
The benefits of baby led weaning can be:
It helps avoid the often battle ground nature of family mealtimes – frustrating on both sides.
Faster development of dexterity and hand to mouth (later, self-held spoon to mouth) skills.
Babies have a whole range of colours, shapes and textures to explore which all helps in developing their sensory and cognitive function
Interactive family meal times
Children tend to be less fussy eaters in the long term
BLW is not an ‘easy option’, so whilst you might save money on buying pureed baby food you’ll also be preparing suitable food for your baby from scratch and will have to relinquish control and let them explore the food for themselves without jumping in to assist.
Some people might fear that there is a higher risk of choking with BLW, but the counter argument is that as long as the baby is sitting up and has control of what's going in to his or her mouth the risk is no greater than it is being spoon-fed a purée. Of course, you'd never leave a baby alone to eat, but it's worth emphasising that food will only be moved to the back of the mouth and eventually swallowed when the baby is physically ready.
So, like with so many parenting choices, baby-led weaning works for some families and not for others. One option if you’re interested in giving it a go could be to try to combine the two methods and feed your baby a bit of puree at the start of the meal and then offer him/her the baby led weaning food at the same time or afterwards.