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Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

Baby eating brocolli, baby Led Weaning (BLW) style

Unlike the conventional method of spoon-feeding pureed food, Baby Led Weaning (BLW) encourages babies to feed themselves.

If you have a baby that is reaching its 6-month milestone, you may have been researching how to introduce solids and come across ‘Baby Led Weaning’ (‘BLW’). Unlike the conventional method of spoon-feeding pureed food, BLW encourages babies to feed themselves. Babies are usually offered ‘finger’ foods that they pick up to bring to their mouths, where they will then chew or gnaw on as they begin to explore foods.

What is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

  • Baby Led Weaning is a style that encourages babies to feed themselves. Parents/caregivers offer finger-shaped pieces of food from 6 months old when their baby starts to wean onto solid foods without going through the traditional three stages of purées.
  • Babies can join the family at mealtimes and self-feed appropriate finger foods, usually those from the family meal.
  • Babies can choose what, how much, and how quickly they eat. This means the baby has more control over their meal, rather than the adult determining this via spoon-feeding.
  • Babies are able to explore new tastes and textures, which they naturally do by touching, holding and putting things into their mouths.
  • Babies continue to have milk (breastmilk or formula) just as often, and the solids complement their milk intake. Babies are trusted to innately know when to increase solid feedings and decrease milk intake. This happens naturally as their digestion develops and they get more used to eating foods.

Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning.

Research studies are only just starting to analyse the impacts of baby-led weaning, but we already know there are many benefits.

  • Babies can share family food and join in at family mealtimes. This is easier for parents and saves time preparing food, which means you can eat simultaneously while your baby enjoys their food.
  • It helps to remove the pressure of eating a certain amount or a specific food because the baby controls their food intake. This helps encourage them to continue listening to their own in-built sense of satiety (fullness). This is important as they get older to help prevent overeating. It can also help to avoid food fussiness as babies are exposed to more flavours and textures.
  • It doesn’t increase choking risk. Concerns around increased choking risk are common among parents. A comparative study in 2018 [1] found that there was no difference in the risk of infants choking whether they did BLW or were spoon-fed. The results also showed that the highest risk of choking was in those infants given finger foods the least often.
  • It’s still possible to get enough iron and energy. Concerns about potential low iron and energy intake are also common with BLW. To avoid this, offer your baby plenty of iron-rich foods* with vitamin C-rich foods (to increase absorption of iron). *Note that breastmilk doesn’t contain enough iron, and baby’s own iron stores diminish by six months of age, so they need more iron via food.
  • BLW offers flexibility. One of the downsides to BLW is that the original version by Gill Rapley was quite strict with various rules. There are now modified versions that you can follow. They still emphasise the baby leading, but with more flexibility – like combining finger foods with some spoon-feeding too.

When to start Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

It is important to wait until your baby is 6 months old. This is so that their digestive system has developed enough to process solids. It also ensures it is safer for your baby as their gag-reflex has matured. It will also mean that their hand-eye coordination is more advanced and they can get food to their mouths more easily. This helps to reduce frustration.

Other indicators that your baby is ready to start BLW include:

  • Sitting up well without support;
  • Having good neck strength to keep their head up when eating;
  • Losing their tongue-thrust reflex, where younger babies push food forwards and out of their mouths;
  • Developing fine motor skills to enable self-feeding, for example picking up foods to bring to their mouth;
  • Being willing to chew (even if they don’t have any teeth);
  • Showing interest in food, for example trying to grab food from your plate.

Where do you start baby led weaning?

Having some BLW-friendly equipment when you start the baby-led weaning is a good idea. For example, a highchair that is easy to clean, a long-sleeved coverall bib to protect clothes, and a suction bowl that the baby cannot tip over or throw across the room are helpful. 

Some ideal first foods to introduce include avocado, broccoli, green beans, other soft-cooked vegetables, banana, sweet potato, egg yolk, meat, poultry and fish, and very ripe fruit. Cut these foods into finger-shaped pieces that are easier for your baby to grab hold of. Focus more on vegetables than fruits to help get your baby used to more savoury flavours.

Fruits and vegetables cut into finger food shapes for 6-month-old baby.

Including meat is a great way to get protein, iron, vitamins and minerals, but it can be a bit worrying as a parent because it can be chewy. Babies can suck on lengths of cooked meat and still get many of the nutritional benefits. Alternatively, slow-cooked meats, mini burgers, meatballs and shredded meat are good ways to serve meat.

Most of all, have fun with the journey and your baby’s enjoyment!


[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29205569


About the author

Lucy Beynon - Nutritional Therapist Adv Dip Nut Med mNNA

Lucy is a Nutritional Therapist with three daughters aged 7, 5 and 3. Not only does she have a professional interest in early childhood nutrition, but she’s lived and breathed it, too. Feeding small people nourishing food, day in, day out, brings its challenges, but Lucy really appreciates the value that getting it right, right from the start, brings!!

For help with baby led weaning, you can connect with Lucy via her website or Instagram
Share the love and make someone else's weaning journey more fun and less stressful.

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