Check out the interview with Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, authors of a book about BLW that has just arrived in America.
The baby led-weaning method (known as BLW) became popular in America ,and in several other countries. The idea is for the baby to lead the process of introducing food , choosing what to eat and taking food alone to the mouth. That is to say: nothing of papinhas or of “looks airplane”. Food, raw or cooked, should be offered to the baby, who is seated at the table or in the highchair. And he himself takes care of the rest.
The novelty is that one of the most complete works on this metology has just won a Portuguese version. The book Baby Led Weaning BLW , which was originally published in the UK in 2008, recapitulates the origins of BLW, breaks the process and explains the step-by-step interested in adopting it. In addition, testimonials from parents, who share their personal experiences with BLW, help illustrate the benefits and difficulties in practice.
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The book was written in partnership by Gill Rapley’s health consultant, a leading scholar on the subject, and journalist Tracey Murkett. Gill, who is a social nurse, has been accompanying families for more than 20 years, helping many who have had problems with feeding their babies. Tracey volunteers breastfeeding mothers and experienced the BLW in practice, with her daughter. Check out the interview that the two gave to CRESCER :
GROW : Gill, when you started studying the BLW method more than 20 years ago, did you expect it to suddenly become so popular and cause so much discussion?
GILL RAPLEY: I expected it to become popular because it is the most natural feedingmethod that exists. I’m excited and also a bit surprised by the repercussion. But I also know that it was a long way before the BLW became known. Parents, in general, have been more open than professionals to study the subject. The doctors, at first, were not interested, presented some resistance because they thought it was something new. With the parents, it was the opposite. Many of them already made the BLW at home, even if they did not know the name, and did not tell the doctors for fear of being recriminated.
TRACEY MURKETT: In the UK, there are many pediatricians who still think ‘poor babies who need to eat alone’. They still feel they need to control the amount of food they eat and choose the child.
GROWING : But many parents are really worried that their children are poorly fed. How to know that the child is really satisfied?
TM: The BLW consists of providing good quality healthy food and, in parallel, making sure the baby is nursing as much as he wants. So it’s an introduction to food: there’s still milk as a complement. Babies will not start eating too much. They need to make a transition until they get used to the food. In this process, one must trust that they have a natural appetite regulation, that is, they are able to choose how much and what they need to eat. If a baby is sick, for example, he may choose to eat more fruits or more protein. So you have to offer them options. It is necessary to give the opportunity to eat, with variety, so that they do not get bored. But most of all, you have to trust your babies.
GR: Why do we think babies do not eat enough? It is not natural. We have a very strong hunger instinct. And with BLW, we do not want to stop breastfeeding. The food must be an extra, the baby still has the milk. And then, as he gets used to food, he will not suckle any more.
GR: Families that adhere to the method realize how much babies learn. Both from the point of view of acquisition skills, and the improvement of motor coordination (they make the pincer movement with the big toe and the index finger to pick up the food, for example), as well as independence, to acquire familiarity with food. In addition, it is more practical: instead of having to give the food in the mouth of the child and then eat, the baby sits at the table and socializes with the parents . It is a more natural way of eating.
TM: The baby learns to regulate its own appetite, can touch the food, smell it … Some research suggests that babies who pass through the BLW will make healthier choices in the future. In addition, they are children who develop a good relationship with food. Mealtime does not become a battle, but a time of family life.
GROW : You say that parents should rely on their child’s ability to feed. But how do you know your kids are ready to start BLW?
TM: The best sign is that the baby can already sit and when he is on his lap, he tries to grab the food that is on his plate. It may even seem like they just want to play when, at first, they pick up the food without necessarily taking it to their mouths. But they are learning about colors, textures, shapes. Everything is very gradual in BLW. The role of parents is to provide healthy food, the rest is with the baby.
GR: That’s a curious question. Of course you have to know when to start something new. But maybe we just know if the baby is ready for this when he starts trying. Only your child knows when he will be ready to walk. Or to speak. The baby shows that it is ready to do. But for this you need opportunity. Your baby will not learn to walk unless you put him on the floor. Likewise, if he has food available, he will eat when he is ready. Give your child the chance to touch, feel, smell, smell … On average, as of 6 months, they are ready for the BLW, but they need opportunities.
C: Many parents believe that blending BLW with the supply of snacks, for example, bring positive results. What do you think of this?
TM: I think the problem of blending is that you miss a lot of BLW benefits. And it’s weird because in a minute, you trust your baby, and the next, no, come back with the baby.
GROW : What advice would you give to parents who are going to start the journey of presenting solid food to their children? What should they avoid?
TM: Food processed, industrialized, foods that are not healthy. Too much salt, too much sugar, trans fat … all those things no baby should eat.
GR: I’d say avoid persuading your baby to eat. Parents should not worry about whether the child is eating enough or not, because he knows what he needs, can regulate his own appetite. When the baby is being breastfed, in the breast or with formula, we think that it is the mother who is feeding it, but it is not true. The breast or bottle becomes available, it is the baby who feeds, it is he who suckles. The BLW follows this same principle.
GR: Having a good relationship with food is not eating too much, nor eating too much. What I realize is that the way we treat the food is distorted. Processed foods have ingredients that make us want to eat more and more. In addition, we inherit from our parents misconceptions, we are taught to treat food as a reward. We learned to eat vegetables just so we could get ice cream for dessert. This causes many adults to eat for the wrong reasons. They overeat to reward themselves. This is not having a good relationship with food.
TM: Exact. And BLW does not feed that emotional relationship with food. The BLW has no pressure or restriction. It’s simply about letting the baby show what he needs. I do not think parents have to decide how much food or what their children are going to eat. The baby can simply choose what he needs. The fact is that we are not accustomed to this, to dealing with this freedom. So when children who have been through the BLW eat a candy, many parents are surprised to see them eating only a small piece of chocolate or a spoonful of cake. They do not need to eat a bar of chocolate or a whole piece to feel satiated, because they have learned to perceive the quantities that satisfy them. In addition, there are no restrictions or rewards at BLW. Nothing is special or forbidden. And that is how the relationship with food should be: good and natural.