What Is BLW And What Are The Benefits?
Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) is a methodology of feeding your baby appropriately sized-finger foods and skipping the traditional puree spoon-feeding. BLW lets your baby have the control to decide what and how much to eat.
BLW’s benefits are backed with scientific evidence: (1)(2)
- Promotes independence because your baby learns self-feeding.
- It helps improve your baby’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills like chewing and swallowing.
- Lesser clean-up since you don’t need to prepare purees, and your baby joins family meals.
For a more detailed explanation of the benefits, we have written an article on everything you need to know about BLW.
What’s The Recommended Age For Your Baby to Start Solids?
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) advises that your baby start exploring solid foods by six months of age. However, many health professionals give the signal to offer solids for the first time at four months old if your baby already shows signs of readiness, such as sitting without support. (3)
We discussed the top signs of readiness below.
Top Signs of Readiness
Each baby is unique and develops in their own time.
Here are some common signs of readiness: (4)
Can your baby properly sit up in a high chair?
Can your baby hold their head up without support?
Can your baby control their tongue and not push food out of their mouth?
To know more about introducing solid foods, we have a piece on baby’s first foods.
Common Signs Usually Mistaken As Readiness
These are common behaviors and shouldn’t be considered as signs of readiness: (5)
- Asking for more milk feedings or increase in appetite
- Chewing their fists
- Waking up at night frequently
Can You Start Off With Traditional Spoon-Feeding & Switch To BLW?
If you have a premature baby or your baby needs more time learning to eat solids, or you started with purees, it’s never too late to start baby-led weaning.
Gill Rapley, the generally acknowledged pioneer of BLW, believes that switching from puree spoon-feeding to BLW is okay.
She said: (6)
“Yes! I firmly believe that it’s never too late to switch to BLW.
While a baby who has been started on purees and spoon-feeding can’t truly be defined as having been fully BLW’d (see Why definitions matter, below), that doesn’t mean that he and his parents can’t be said to be currently following a BLW approach.
It’s no different from a mother who starts off formula feeding and then switches to breastfeeding – her baby won’t have been ‘exclusively breastfed,’ but they are nevertheless a breastfeeding couple now.
Everyone is entitled to change their approach when they learn something new, or when they discover that what they’ve chosen isn’t working for them.”
However, Rapley adds that one of the drawbacks of starting BLW late because you already started on purees spoon-feeding is that your baby can’t be considered ‘fully BLW’d.’”
This definition matters because of the following points: (6)
- Those who want to try might get misinformed on properly implementing BLW. They might think it’s okay to partially implement it and then get disappointed when they don’t get the results they expected to see in BLW.
- It’s important to define what “true BLW” is because it affects research and studies on the lifelong benefits of BLW.
Developmental Milestones At 7 Months
Here are some common milestones your 7-month old baby might be displaying: (7)
- Learns to roll, crawl, or scoot over
- Can sit unassisted
- Can stand on their legs with support
- Starts to grab objects using the raking grasp, the skill to use all of their fingers simultaneously to move objects.
- Begins to understand “no”
- Lesser gag reflex, or the movement that pushes food out of the mouth
- Teeth may start developing
Here’s a sample feeding guide, keep in mind that amounts will vary depending on your baby’s weight: (8)
- Consume 30 to 32 ounces of breastmilk or formula three to five times per day.
- Offer three to five tablespoons of iron-rich foods like grains or oats mixed with formula per day.
- Offer two to three tablespoons of low-sugar fruits like kiwi or raspberries twice per day.
- Eat two to three tablespoons of veggies such as sweet potato or lentils twice per day.
- For snacks, your baby can have a piece of bread or toast with nutritious toppings such as nut butter, plain full-fat unsweetened yogurt, or Greek yogurt.
- Breastmilk or formula is still good for your baby until their first year of life.
- Sleep could be around 12 to 16 hours per day. (9)
- Sleeping at night can be around nine hours or longer. (9)
- Morning naps can be around three to four hours twice per day. (9)
- Average weight gain of one pound every month. Baby boys are usually heavier by about ½ pounds than baby girls. (10)
- Average height growth should be about ½ inch every month. (10)
- Average head size growth should be around ¼ inch every month. (10)
What Can I Feed My 7-Month-Old Baby in BLW?
- By seven months, your baby needs more iron than a male adult. They need 11 mg of iron per day. Offer iron-rich foods like meat, spinach, and lentils. (11)
- It’s advisable to introduce your baby to a variety of foods for a well-balanced diet.
- Whenever possible, offer different foods that are non-GMO and/or organic.
- It may be best to offer foods in their whole form, like blueberries, about 80% of the time.
Here are some baby-led weaning foods that are suitable for all ages:
- Butternut squash
- Healthy fat like avocado, peanut butter, or nut butter
- Scrambled eggs
- Veggies like broccoli or spinach
- Sweet potatoes
For more information on the best baby foods, we have a BLW food guide per age.
How Do I Know If My 7-Month-Old Baby Is Getting Enough Nutrients In BLW?
- While each baby is different, looking at the developmental milestones can help you see if your baby is developing accordingly.
- Studies show no significant difference in nutrient intake between babies on BLW eating finger foods and spoon-fed babies eating pureed foods. (12)
How Often And How Much Should Your 7-Month-Old Baby Eat In Baby-Led Weaning?
We listed a sample feeding guide for your 7-months-old baby above.
How To Cut Foods For A 7-Month-Old Baby According To BLW
- You can cut small-sized pieces of food that can fit perfectly into your baby’s hand. This reduces the risk of choking since your baby can hold it firmly.
- Most seven to 9-month-old babies develop their pincer grasp, the ability to hold objects between their thumb and pointer finger. This allows them to start picking smaller pieces of food.
We have a more detailed piece on how to cut finger foods appropriately.
Food Safety For BLW At 7 Months
Allergies & Unsafe Foods
- Common allergenic foods are cow’s milk, peanuts or tree nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, or shellfish. (13)
- Always consult your baby’s pediatrician or dietitian when introducing allergenic foods such as bread or dairy products, especially if you have a family history of food allergies.
- Introduce new foods one at a time and wait for three to five days for any adverse reactions.
We have an article on BLW safety for more tips and advice.
Is My 7-Month-Old Baby Now Ready For Salt And Sugar?
Too much salt, sugar, and preservatives are still not recommended for babies under two years of age. Consuming too much sugar can put your baby at risk for the following health issues like obesity or diabetes later in life. (14)
The AAP recommends that babies under two years old consume less than 25 grams (about six teaspoons) of added sugar per day. For babies seven to twelve months old, the adequate salt intake is at 370 mg per day. (14)(15)
Will My 7-Month-Old Baby Still Be At Risk For Choking?
Yes, your little one is still at risk, so it’s best to be wary of the common choking hazards like hard or uncooked veggies such as carrots. (16)
Choking is a life-threatening incident, and it’s best to know the early signs such as difficulty in breathing. To reduce the risk of choking, cut foods into small pieces.
For more information on choking hazards and prevention tips, we have a comprehensive piece on BLW & choking.
Is My 7-Month-Old Baby Ready For Table Foods?
What Are “Table Foods”?
Table foods are foods that the rest of the family eats during mealtimes.
When Will My Baby Be Ready For Table Foods?
- Some experts recommend giving your baby table foods beginning at eight months. (17)
- However, in BLW, your baby can already start sharing meals with the rest of your family as soon as they start eating solids. What’s important is to keep your baby’s food clean, nutritious, and prepared accordingly.
Safety Tips When Introducing Table Foods To Your Baby
- Serve foods in small portions or about one-fourth to one-third of the adult’s serving portions. (18)
- When cooking table foods, take your baby’s food portion before adding the salt and other seasonings.