Penny is 4 months old now and very very interested in eating. But, we will wait. We learned about readiness signs and virgin gut with Ellie and waited until 5.5 months. I've learned more and plan to delay solids until at least 6 months, possibly longer before starting BLW with Penny. While she is very interested, mimics us and reaches for food we are eating, she is not yet sitting unassisted and not consistently able to bring items to her mouth, it is still far too early.
BLW stands for Baby led weaning (the concept was made popular in the UK where "weaning" means "starting food" where here in the USA we use "weaning" to mean "off of something". Some people use the term "baby led solids". This is not to be confused with Child Led a Weaning which is a term used for allowing a child to wean off of nursing at their own pace at their own time.
Baby Led Solids is the solids feeding philosophy that believes that a child doesn't need solids until she is capable of feeding herself foods rather than spoon feeding. This means for most families that they wait to offer solids until baby is at least 6 months old.
Some BLW families give baby just whatever the family is eating, others are more selective about what is offered to baby. Some follow the "new food every few days to watch for reactions" rule. Others only watch for and/or delay certain allergens.
For us we gave fruit or veg or meat from our meals. We delayed grains until near the 12 month mark and very minimal until after 2 years old. Ellie had some trouble with dairy in my diet when she was exclusively breastfeeding so we waited to try cow dairy until about 18 months.
The menu will vary from family to family and is customizable. Many families skip cereals.
The biggest difference with BLW is that the food is placed in front of baby and baby brings it to her mouth rather than it being spoon fed. Foods aren't mashed or pureed. Foods are soft cooked (if needed), cut int steak-fries size or very soft foods into pea sized. Baby is in control of how fast/slow how much or how little they eat and when they're finished. Normally spoon-eaten foods (apple sauce yogurt etc) are either licked off of baby's fingers or baby can dip/lick the spoon or are offered with preloaded spoons set on the high hair tray.
Some babies will eat a lot others will not. The key is the child leads the process. Most parents agree than solids are just for fun, practice and exploration until about 1 year old and not to worry about quantity as long as baby is primarily breast or formula fed as that supplies all of their nutrients.
If you're more curious about BLW there's a book, Facebook page and blogs you can read.
This is my opinion of BLW compared to spoon feeding purees.
I think, babyled teaches them, allows them to listen to their bodies much more than if theyre spoon fed, Right from the beginning. They won't be eating too much, which can set them up for healthy eating habits for life. Also, babies fed cereal might get a taste for simple carbs and not for a variety of foods. Baby led introduces babies to a wide variety of foods, which can encourage a love for a range of nutrients in healthy foods and prevent picky eaters. IN my opinion it's not just the "to chew or not to chew?" question. It's the beginning of their relationship with food. The exploration and play encourages physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially positive development. Pinching peas, grasping slippery peaches, using two hands for watermelon wedges, chewing on warm steak, losing grip on green beans, smearing refried beans all around. These things are awesome for development and there isn't a spoon-fed equivalent to the exploration and play.
Also, the BLS baby learns how to handle food in her mouth while the gag reflex is stronger. A spoon fed baby doesn't learn how to chew before they swallow until after the gag reflex moves back and relaxes, increasing the likeliness of choking.
At meal times, the BLS baby is actively participating in the family connection, as is the parent who is able to eat, talk and enjoy his/her meal with the family. Often spoonfed babies are fed separately and not learning the social aspect of meals and emotional experience of family meal times from the get-go.
We were very happy with the process and result of doing BLW with Ellie and look forward to starting with Penny, but not until we are certain she is ready.