Baby led weaning might seem like a new fad lately, but it’s actually been around for awhile (even if it didn’t always have a fancy name).
Chances are good, if you tell a relative you’re thinking of trying baby led weaning, you’re going to get one of two responses:
- “Oh yeah! I did that with my kids, but I didn’t know it was called that.”
- “You’re doing what?!” *gasp!*
I happen to be in the camp of thinking that baby led weaning is pretty darn incredible and if you’re here, I’m betting to guess that you want to learn more about what baby led weaning is and figure out how to do it with your baby.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Let’s start with the very base of baby led weaning. Think of it exactly as it sounds:
Your baby is going to “lead” the entire weaning (or feeding) process.
And I mean – LEAD – the whole darn thing.
Oh, and your baby is going to be eating “adult” foods, right away. No smushy baby food. Just shoveling in delicious whole, healthy foods right away – and it’s going to be awesome. So hear me out.
You’re never pureeing food, freezing baby food, buying baby food, bringing baby food along – you get the idea. Your baby is eating REAL food. The same food that’s on your plate!
And babies can do it really well believe it or not – even without teeth.
Let me repeat that again – your baby never eats baby food. And it’s amazing.
New Mom Tip: Baby Led Weaning = BLW
Watching our baby eat is was one of our very favorite things. We often had to stop ourselves from staring so he’d actually eat, rather than laugh at us looking at him!
Update: we’re gearing up to begin round 2 of baby led weaning with baby #2!
Baby Led Weaning Basics
Learning Baby Led Weaning Knowledge/Where to Start
A great baby led weaning book is the key to knowing what you’re doing. You want to comfortable with baby led weaning and know the best way to give your little one solids.
This Baby-Led Weaning book is my absolute favorite and the one we used to learn all we needed to know to be sold on starting solids this way.
The book provides a great overview of baby led weaning and I highly recommend it to anyone considering starting solids this way. The book includes all the steps to starting baby led weaning, parents’ experiences, a great Q&A section, and much more!
More than 3 months into baby led weaning, I still found myself reaching for this book as an easy, quick resource when my baby would do something silly with eating or refuse a certain type of food (hello, easing my mommy worries!).
When to Start
Many babies are ready for baby led weaning at about 6 months, when they can sit on their own and are showing some interest in eating.
Here’s the six steps to knowing whether your baby is ready to start baby led weaning:
- Sits up well without support
- Lost the tongue thrust reflex
- Able to grasp foods (even with just his/her palm)
- At least 6 months old
- Interested in meal time
Baby Led Weaning Foods
When starting baby led weaning, it’s best to serve fruits and vegetables that are large enough for your little one to be able to pick up.
I typically cut foods approximately the size of my finger so our baby has part of the food he can hold on to, as a “handle”, and the other part he can put in his mouth.
Great starter foods for baby led weaning are those that are easy for your baby to grasp.
Usually these include: avocado, banana, sweet potato, and broccoli.
Foods to Avoid for Baby
While baby led weaning can be so much fun, there are a few rules and foods you should avoid.
Be sure that you avoid honey, until after your little one is 1 or older to avoid the potential of infant botulism. According to the Mayo Clinic, even the smallest taste could be harmful to your baby, and there’s no reason to risk it.
Other baby led weaning foods that you should avoid include sugary foods/treats and salt.
So in short – please don’t let grandpa sneak your 6 month old cookies, deal? Deal. 😉
*If your family has a history of food allergies or you have specific concerns, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting baby led weaning.
Why We Love Baby Led Weaning
Now here’s some of the big reasons we love baby led weaning and you should too!
Baby Led Weaning Pros:
- Save time! No pureeing food, freezing baby food, or bringing baby food along when you leave the house. Also, if you’ve ever spoon fed your baby, it can take a while! With BLW, you can give your baby her food and then eat yours right along with her.
- Save money! Goodbye baby food jars and purees! As long as you have a healthy diet, your baby can eat the same thing as you.
- Fine motor skills – especially, the pincer grasp. With each meal, your baby becomes better and better at picking up his food. We noticed at about 7 months that our baby was starting to use the pincer grasp, a skill typically developed at 9 months!
- There’s no transitioning from baby food textures and tastes to the real deal – your baby already knows and loves real food.
- Your baby can eat restaurant food. You heard that right – find some healthy meal items and you’re good to go (tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potato fries).
- You’ll be healthier too! You’ll start to read labels a little closer. Be sure to avoid salt and sugary foods when you cook a family meal. If you need to, you can always add salt to your own plate after the meal is made.
- Family suppers. Eating meals together as a family is proven to have a great impact on families, now your little one gets to join in on the fun and learn the routine!
Cons to Baby Led Weaning:
- It makes a mess. To me, this seemed like a very small price to pay for the benefits. Your baby will definitely be making a mess of themselves, their
high chair, and the floor – at least for a little while. Check out my post here for ways to make clean up easier!
Baby Led Weaning Safety
For safety reasons, always make sure your baby is seated while eating, that your baby is developmentally ready, and that you are in the room with your little one.
Choking is often a big worry when people think of a baby eating solid food. It’s important to keep in mind the difference between choking and gagging.
The truth is that a baby’s gag reflex is closer to the front of his mouth when he is younger, so he may gag often when first starting baby led weaning.
Let your little one work the food out on his own if he is gagging, by intervening and placing your fingers in his mouth you can increase his chance of actually choking.
Your little one is figuring out how to chew and swallow and you should do your best not to interfere.
However, if you believe your baby is choking, make sure you intervene immediately. CPR Kids TV provides a great free video here on first aid for a choking baby or child.
Bonus Item: Grab the Baby Led Weaning Quick Guide today! It’s super affordable and will help you with the first 3 months of meals – from choosing foods, to prepping and cutting, and even keeping track of your baby’s first foods. It’s a must see and a great supplement to the other baby led weaning food resources
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