01/09/2009 11:26 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

What Is Baby-Led Weaning?

When my children were babies and starting to eat food, life was all about the purées. Either home-made or from a jar, the rule seemed to be that you always started baby on the mushy stuff, moving on to progressively lumpier fare. Hopefully by around a year or so, your baby would progress to joining in with family meals.

But there is a new approach to feeding your baby, called Baby-led Weaning (BLW), which encourages you to omit the purées and go stright to family food.

Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett are the co-authors of Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food. Here, they explain what BLW is, how to get started and why your baby will like it:

Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a common-sense and enjoyable approach to feeding your baby. It allows babies to feed themselves – there's no spoon feeding and no purées. The baby simply sits with the rest of the family at mealtimes and joins in when he is ready.

Babies love BLW – it helps develop their skills and confidence. It takes the stress out of mealtimes for parents too – battles and picky eating are less likely, and it's easier and cheaper, with no separate meals to prepare or equipment to buy.
• Most babies are ready to begin feeding themselves with their fingers from around six months – the recommended minimum age for starting solids.
• Your baby should sit upright to eat, not leaning back. Mealtimes are about learning and exploring at the beginning so choose times when your baby isn't tired or hungry.
• At first your baby will grab pieces of food and explore them with his hands. Then he'll taste it. Before long he'll start to bite and chew and a week or two later he'll start swallowing it.
Thick sticks of food will be easiest for your baby to hold at first. Most healthy family food is suitable, such as fruit, vegetables, cheese or large strips of meat (for sucking or chewing). Aim for variety – your baby will enjoy learning how to handle different textures. He'll move on to using spoons and forks gradually.
Never put anything in your baby's mouth for him, and don't try to persuade him to eat more than he wants. He probably won't eat much for the first few months – most of his goodness will still come from formula or breastmilk, so offer his usual milk feeds and let your baby decide when he wants to cut down.
Avoid salt, sugar and 'fast food' – they are bad for babies. Small fruits such as grapes, cherries and cherry tomatoes are best cut in half, with any stones removed. Honey and whole nuts shouldn't be given to babies.

For more information see: Baby-led Weaning – Helping your baby to love good food, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, published by Vermilion and available here from Amazon