BLW; surely you have seen these acronyms in more than one place In fact, you may even have the feeling that everyone is talking about Baby Led Weaning, a method for introducing solid foods to babies. But is he BLW a passing fad? Will it end up being forgotten and will parents continue to use the purees and porridges to start the complementary feeding of their children?
To resolve all these doubts, we have spoken with the childcare pediatrician Meybol Ramírez which has also explained some of the advantages of this method to carry out the transition to solids.
Is the BLW a fad? Dr. Meybol is very clear: it is not. Although it is true that more and more parents decide to use it with their babies, that is to say 'it is fashionable', we cannot speak of a fleeting technique that will end up passing 'without pain or glory'. And there are many experts in infant feeding who have been studying its benefits for many years.
In general, we could talk about three types of methods to offer complementary feeding to babies.
- Traditional food. It is one in which the parents or caregivers of the baby offer the different foods in puree or porridge.
- Baby Led Weaning. The baby self-regulates or self-directs his feeding, that is, we make the different foods available to him (which are offered in pieces so that he can grab) and the little one is in charge of putting them in his mouth and eating, without the direct intervention of the caregiver. In this way, it is the baby who chooses what to eat and how much to eat.
- Bliss method. The Bliss method is similar to the BLW in that it emphasizes the nutritional distribution of food offered to babies.
It may seem that the Baby Led Weaning is a fad because little by little it is becoming known among more parents. In addition, more and more experts are talking about this topic on social networks, to show their virtues, and even more and more are the testimonies of mothers and fathers who share their experience with the BLW virtually. It is because of this viral sense that it seems that this method is in fashion, however, has been studied for many decades.
In 1939, the pediatrician Clara Davis published the first study on Baby Led Weaning: 'The Self-Selection of Young Children's Diets' (the method was not yet called BLW, far from it). She ran a baby care home (most of the little ones were between 6 and 11 months old) to help families without resources and there she studied the way in which children were fed.
For his research, he sat babies in high chairs and left a wide variety of foods on their trays for them to put into their mouths. A nurse made sure nothing happened, but was not in charge of feeding the children or forcing them to eat.
As time went by, Clara Davis observed that the children fed themselves but that, in addition, they knew how to choose the foods their bodies needed (as many suffered from malnutrition when they arrived at the nursing home). This made him conclude that babies have that survival mechanism that guides them to obtain all the nutrients for their diet (and in the amount in which they need them).
After this study, many others came to reinforce the conclusions of the previous pediatrician. Although it will take until 2008 for Gill Rapley to give it the name of Baby Led Weaning (self-regulated complementary feeding or directed weaning).
This shows that since this method began to be used, until now, its benefits have been studied all over the world, thus demonstrating that it is not a passing fad although, indeed, it is fashionable.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (or mixed or artificial breastfeeding if this is the chosen method) up to 6 months, at which time complementary feeding should begin. It is important to note that these solid foods are only a supplement for food: the main source of food will remain at this time milk.
Therefore, Baby Led Weaning should not be started before 6 months. In addition, to get started, some other requirements must be taken into account (that the extrusion reflex has been lost, that he remains seated alone, that he has an interest in food ...). But once we start with the Baby Led Weaning, these are some of the benefits it will bring to our baby:
1. A feeding model that respects the needs of children
No one knows better than the child himself how hungry he is and when he is satiated. The Baby Led Weaning allows children to manage these sensations by leading them to eat what they need. This means that perceptual feeding is prioritized.
2. Encourage children to experiment and put their senses to work
At BLW children grasp food with their hands, allowing them to experience different tastes, smells and textures. This is a very important stimulus for your senses.
3. Children exercise facial muscles
With the Baby Led Weaning, children are forced to bite, tear, chew, move with their tongue ... All this makes their facial muscles exercise, which also benefits, even, the development of children's language.
4. Encourages breastfeeding longer
Different studies have concluded that children who do BLW continue to breastfeed for longer, with all the benefits for child and maternal health that this entails.
5. Healthy eating habits are established from the earliest childhood
The BLW proposes to offer children fruits and vegetables in their original format, so that the child is aware of what he is eating and gets used to it. In this way, we promote healthy eating habits that, with luck and effort, they will maintain in adult life.
6. Babies' motor skills are promoted
Beyond providing food for children, the BLW challenges children's fine motor skills, as well as hand-eye coordination. On a daily basis, children will have to put it into practice, which will lead them to improve their skills.
It is always recommended to cut food in an elongated shape to make it easier for children to grasp it. They should be thick enough (about the thickness of an adult's finger) and long enough to stick out of the baby's hand. When the children are already able to make the 'clamp', we can give them smaller food cut, for example, in dice.
7. Families save time
It may seem like an insignificant detail but at a time when it seems that 'we do not get to everything', this is an advantage that we must also take into account. The Baby Led Weaning allows us to spend less time in the kitchen making purees and porridges (which usually take a long time to cook and grind). It is true, however, that with the BLW we will have to spend some time cleaning, since the little ones tend to stain a lot.
8. Encourage parents to learn first aid
Despite studies assuring that BLW feeding is no more risky than traditional feeding, many parents fear choking will occur. For this reason, many are encouraged to take first aid courses, something that is very positive for the baby himself, but also for his day to day life. Who knows when, unfortunately, we will have to know how to use the Heimlich maneuver?
Experts point out the benefits of Baby Led Weaning for children but we must remember that each family must find the method that best suits their needs and preferences.
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