Guidelines for implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid foods – updated, June 2008
Implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid foods requires an understanding of why this approach can be considered both logical and safe. The first section below explains the rationale and underlying principles which support this method of introducing solids and the last section, DOs and DON’Ts , provides a quick reference list of the key points. Following these guidelines will maximise the chance that both the baby and his parents will enjoy the transition to solid feeding, and will help to ensure the baby’s wellbeing.
Most babies will be ready to start experimenting with solid foods from around six months of age. Parents of babies who were born preterm (i.e. before 37 weeks of pregnancy), or who have any medical condition which might affect their ability to handle food safely or to digest a range of foods, are advised to discuss with their health advisers when they should start to offer their baby solid foods, and before deciding to use BLW as the only method.
The baby is referred to as ‘he’ throughout these guidelines.
Rationale for a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid foods
1. Breastfeeding as the basis for self-feeding Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life. Breastfeeding is the ideal preparation for self-feeding with solid foods. Breastfeeding babies feed at their own pace – indeed, it is impossible to force them to do anything else! They also balance their own intake of food and fluid by choosing how long each feed should last. And, because breastmilk changes in flavour according to the mother’s diet, breastfeeding prepares the baby for other tastes.
Normal, healthy breastfed babies appear to be quite capable, with the right sort of support from their parents, of managing their own introduction to solid foods. However, although it is the self-feeding which characterises breastfeeding that underpins the theory of baby-led weaning (BLW), many parents whose babies were bottle-fed have found that this method works equally well for them. The only significant difference is the need to ensure that the baby is offered drinks other than milk.
2. Understanding the baby’s motivation This approach to the introduction of solids offers a baby the opportunity to discover what other foods have to offer as part of finding out about the world around him. It