7 Baby-Led Weaning Myths vs. Reality
Baby-led weaning has been a big part of our weaning journey with both of our kids. It worked for us in different ways, but we found out very quickly that it's not a 'one-size-fits-all approach.' When we went through weaning the first time there were so many things we read and were told (and let's be honest, panicked slightly over). ‘It's messy!’; ‘purées are so last decade’; ‘your baby will eat perfectly if you do baby-led weaning’, ‘you only cook one meal for the whole family!’, ‘eat at the same time as your baby’… so much of it we see now are just myths. My 4 year old eats well most of the time but still has her moments, it can be a bit messy but believe me that they don’t have spaghetti on their heads like the pics you see, purees are not evil! You can choose to do both. ☺ I certainly took the pressure off second time around with my youngest.
We thought it might help for us to share our 7 BLW Myths distilled with the benefit of hindsight and going through weaning 2nd time round:
Baby-led weaning myth 1: ‘Self-feeding is too messy’
We’ve all seen photos of babies covered in spaghetti. Just google BLW and the pics are enough to put anyone off.
We quickly realised that BLW doesn’t have to be horribly messy; not like the pictures you see. But you will find yourself constantly picking up food from the floor and putting it back onto the highchair. Our advice? Kit yourself out!
Invest in a splash mat so you can clear up those leftovers more easily and keep your floor clean. You can wipe it down after each meal. A long sleeve bib - almost like a painting apron – is essential. Finally, got a dog? Keep them away from mealtimes for the time being or you’ll end up with a podgy pup.
And if you want a giggle then set up a timelapse recording for mealtimes. We can guarantee your little ones will think it’s hilarious to watch when they’re older.
Baby-led weaning myth 2: ‘You can’t mix baby-led weaning with purées’
We remember feeling as if we were regressing if we “went back” to purées. The joy of hindsight means we know that we should have stuck to what suited us and our babies.
Some babies prefer purées, others prefer self-feeding, and it’s totally fine to do both. Perhaps mornings are easier when you can spoon-feed your baby some porridge. Maybe lunchtimes and dinnertimes are better for self-feeding because you’re in a better place to cope with all that picking up.
Baby-led weaning myth 3: ‘Baby-led weaning babies make perfect eaters’
BLW has many advantages and we believe that it encourages a healthy relationship with food to allow little ones to touch, feel, smell and taste their food. However, adopting a BLW approach won’t necessarily make your kids into the perfect eaters. All our kids have good phases; where they love their veg and eat pretty much anything we put in front of them. But they also have bad phases, where all they want are chips, hummus or peanut butter toast. There are days when I think my daughter will turn into a peanut butter toast!
Baby-led weaning myth 4: ‘They won’t eat enough’
When you first start BLW, your baby may get very little food in their mouth. We had that too. It’s helpful to remember the mantra of “food is fun until they’re one”. That’s because babies under 12 months get most of their energy and nutrients from milk
There were times when we worried about how much our babies ate as we couldn't see what was going in, just what was left behind!
Keep up with your health visitor checks for weight and growth for reassurance that everything’s on the right track. As long as they're growing as they should, have confidence that there is nothing to worry about.
Baby-led weaning myth 5: ‘Self-feeding means your baby eats what you eat’
As much as this makes sense in theory, the reality is often quite different.
Firstly, kids under 3 have very specific salt and sugar requirements. So actually, they can’t always eat exactly what you eat. They can still be adventurous and try all the things that you're eating but before any salt or sugar additions.
Secondly, you and your other half might have specific requirements which you can’t realistically expect a baby to follow. Our husbands have gone for low carb, zero dairy diets recently and that’s never going to work for a little one. Plus, if you’re anything like us, we had a work wardrobe we wanted to get back into. Rather than buy an entirely new wardrobe we were watching what we ate a bit more, in a way that we wouldn’t for the little ones.
Honestly, there were days when we had three different meals - one for the baby, one for the husband and one for us. Call us high maintenance but this was sometimes our reality.
Baby-led weaning myth 6: ‘Gagging vs. Choking’
There’s a difference between ‘choking’ and ‘gagging’. They can be easily confused. Gagging is normal and helps them get used to whole foods. Choking is not normal and happens rarely.
Reassuringly, a study by the University of Swansea found that baby-led weaning does not increase your baby’s risk of choking
But it’s natural to worry a little, so arm yourself with expert guidance. Baby-led weaning experts, Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett recommend you avoid giving your baby “hazardous foods” such as nuts and bony fish. They also say, “It’s a good idea to cut small round fruits such as grapes and cherry tomatoes in half” and to take care with “casseroles and salads that may contain small, hard pieces of food”.
Don’t panic if your baby gags, that’s a natural reflex to prevent choking. Here’s a great guide to help you recognise the difference between gagging and choking
We found that reminding ourselves about first-aid basics and the specifics of baby first aid made us feel better about dealing with any potential problems. The British Red Cross is an excellent resource and we’d really recommend you brush up on your first aid too.
Baby-led weaning myth 7: ‘We eat at the same time as the babies’
Although the theory of eating with the kids is appealing, the reality – at least during the week - is often quite different.
With all our babies, we found it was only breakfast where we could sit down as a family before the day began.
At lunchtime, we liked to wait until they napped or had some quiet time while they were at nursery so we could enjoy our lunch in peace. Picking up food every time they throw it on the floor does get quite repetitive after all. And dinner at 5pm felt a bit early for us. We liked to (and still do) enjoy dinner with our other half once the little monkeys are asleep. That was our time. So although mealtimes as a family is important to us, and we make time during the weekends, it wasn’t always easy during the week.
As much as we love baby-led weaning, the second time around we were much easier on ourselves. We realised that no theory is set in stone and it was up to us to understand what worked best for us, our family and our babies.
What are your best tips on weaning with the benefit of hindsight?