One dietitian mom’s journey with baby-led weaning
When children are ready to begin eating solid food, there are two approaches: baby-led weaning (BLW) and conventional weaning. I gave considerable thought into what method I would follow for my firstborn and chose BLW even though it is not the mainstream, conventional, or American Academy of Pediatrics approved feeding method.
BLW made sense to me, seemed more natural, and allowed my daughter to have an extremely wide variety of foods while listening to her body’s hunger and fullness. As a professional who spends most of my time trying to help adults get back to listening to their body’s cues, I was completely drawn to establishing this from the start in my daughter’s life.
BLW has been extremely successful for her (and us). It has been a very low stress process, my daughter maintains a healthy weight, she’s an excellent eater, and is responsible for listening to her own body, even at three years old. Even with my own personal success with BLW, is it something I could recommend in good conscience to a client? What is the evidence? If this technique is so great, why isn’t BLW the mainstream feeding method?
There is a difference between what we as RDs do personally and what we’re willing to recommend to clients and patients. We may be willing to try something that seems like a good idea and has preliminary evidence to support it but need stronger evidence before recommending it, as a professional. This professional caution is certainly a good thing. So what research is available regarding BLW?
Reviewing the research
There is an increasing amount of solid evidence in support of BLW. We now have evidence indicating that BLW can support appropriate iron, energy, zinc, and vitamin B12 intake. Additionally, it does not increase risk of choking when education is provided to parents.
We do not have any evidence to support the idea that BLW decreases risk of childhood obesity, but we do have evidence to show that BLW babies consume a higher variety of foods and textures than conventionally weaned babies. In short, research indicates that BLW is comparable to conventional weaning.
Role of the dietitian
Parents need healthcare workers to talk to them about BLW and give them sound, evidence-based tools for success. Who better to give this information and engage in this conversation than RDs, the food and nutrition experts?
Just like every other area of medical nutrition therapy, individualization of nutrition treatment and goals is key. BLW will not be best for everyone. Take the time to consider BLW outside of just your personal use and be ready to guide patients and clients through navigating their infant feeding options.
Courtney Lee, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT, CFCS consults locally with Dietitians On Demand and also has a virtual private practice, Kitchen Nutrition, LLC. Courtney enjoys equipping dietitians and dietetic interns with the tools they need for professional success so they don’t have to learn the hard way. Courtney enjoys baking, running, and hosting friends and family in her home.
Find her on Instagram @yourkitchennutrition.
If you have more questions about baby-led weaning, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions. Did you know you can book a 1:1 virtual nutrition counseling appointments with one of our experts today? Get started now!