I’m sharing everything you need to know to get started with baby led weaning!
A few months back I wrote a post on my must-have items for baby led weaning. Since then, I’ve had a few requests to share how you even get started with baby led weaning. So today, I’m sharing everything you need to know to get started! As always, please feel free to comment below with questions or reach out to me on social media (Instagram is best, just send me a direct message!), I’m happy to share my experiences and tips.
What is baby led weaning?
Baby led weaning is simply letting your baby feed themselves food that the family is already eating. This has been a common practice for centuries but the official term was coined by Gill Rapley within the past few years. What do you think people did before baby food? Well, most families just started with food “from the table”. If you want to know more about the history of feeding babies, I highly recommend reading Gill Rapley’s book. It gives a ton of information on why commercial baby food came into fashion a few decades ago.
Essentially with baby led weaning, baby gets finger sized pieces of food from the table. You feed baby whatever the family is eating for dinner. The only things that are off-limits are small items that are high-risk for choking such as popcorn, nuts, whole grapes (you can quarter grapes and offer them), and honey is also off-limits until baby is at least one year old. The whole point of baby led weaning is to involve baby in family mealtime, so it’s best that they join in and eat with the family. Also, “weaning” is not really an accurate portrayal of what baby led weaning is. Breastmilk or formula should be baby’s primary source of nutrition until they are one year old, the goal of BLW is NOT to wean your baby but to start to introduce them to solid foods.
How do I know if baby is ready to start baby led weaning?
There are a few signs of readiness for baby to begin solids (even purees):
- Your baby is at least 6 months old. It is not recommended to start solids before 6 months (even purees) because baby’s digestive system is still immature before 6 months.
- Your baby can sit without support.
- Your baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (pushing solid foods out of the front of the mouth). Here is a (very poor quality) video of me checking to see if Isaac had lost this reflex. As you can see, he was no longer pushing my finger out of his mouth, so he was ready!
What items do I need to get started?
I posted all about this here. But I would add a few things that I’ve found to be helpful just within the past month or so.
I LOVE these spoons. They are super easy for baby to use to feed themselves (things like applesauce, mashed potatoes, chili, etc.). There’s no wrong way for baby to hold them so they help them get the hang of feeding themselves with a spoon. If you are going to give baby something on a spoon, you need to pre-load it then just sit it on their plate or tray. Try not to spoon feed or hand baby the spoon as this doesn’t promote self-feeding.
I also love using these plastic shot glasses to help Isaac learn to drink out of a cup. It really works! The tiny glasses fit perfectly in their little hands. I just fill it up with a tiny bit of water each time and set it on his tray or I will hand it to him.
We also love the phil&teds® Lobster Clip-On High Chair. It just clips on to any table! We use this when we go out to eat and when we travel. The tray is removable so you can literally just dump all the mess in the trash. It also comes with a handy little bag to carry it in. Here’s the Amazon link if you’re a Prime junkie like me (it is currently on sale on Amazon!).
What are the best “first foods”?
There are no “first foods” with baby led weaning. You simply offer whatever you’re eating in finger sized pieces.
What about choking?
Baby led weaning does not pose more of a choking risk than traditional weaning methods (purees). Just make sure you have foods appropriately cut into finger sizes. Grapes should be QUARTERED lengthwise not halved. Popcorn and nuts are a big NO. Bananas can be cut in half with some of the skin left on the half so baby can grip it easier (think push pop style).
Now, baby WILL gag with BLW. Gagging is different from choking. Gagging is when they are audibly choking/coughing and making noise, face red, and they may even vomit. This doesn’t happen often and usually only during the initial phase when baby is getting used to eating solids. This is all a part of them learning to eat solids! It will freak you out, but it’s normal. If baby is NOT making noise or turns purple, THIS is choking and you should absolutely administer the Heimlich immediately and call 911. I recommend taking a baby safety class to learn how to properly administer the Heimlich as well as CPR. This is a good skill to have regardless of how you introduce solids. Here is a great video that gives a demonstration on the Heimlich for baby.
How often should baby get breastmilk or formula feedings with BLW?
It’s recommended that baby continue to get breastmilk or formula as their main source of nutrition for the first year. Make sure baby gets a milk feed at least 30-60 minutes before sitting down for solids! Never replace solids with milk. Solids are just a complimentary source of nutrition for the first year.
How many meals should baby have per day?
This is really up to you but I started out with one meal per day (dinner) at home. Once we got more comfortable around one month into BLW, we started giving him breakfast before work and he also gets lunch and/or a snack at his great grandparents house during the day. By the time baby is one year old, they should be having around three meals a day and a few snacks in between meals. This is just a rough guideline!
What about family or friends who don’t understand BLW?
Your family is probably not going to understand BLW as most older adults are used to traditional weaning methods. All you can do is try to educate them as much as possible and explain the amazing benefits. They are either on board or not, and it really doesn’t matter because it’s your child! We can all have our own opinions.
Well, what are the amazing benefits of BLW?
1. It’s fun.
Baby has fun exploring new foods and textures. Not to mention, it’s so dang cute watching babies eat real food. I mean there’s nothing cuter.
2. It’s easy.
Everyone looks forward to meal time because it’s not a struggle to push baby to eat something they don’t want. They can pick and choose what they want to eat as well as how much they want to eat. Parents can relax and enjoy their meals without having to prepare separate purees.
3. It helps baby learn.
Babies learn through play and experimentation. That’s a big part of BLW. Babies learn about new tastes and textures by playing with and eating their food with their hands. BLW also helps baby develop fine motor skills and perfect the pincer grasp as they work to pick food up and get it to their mouths.
4. It compliments breastfeeding.
BLW is much like breastfeeding in that baby can decide for themselves when and how much they want to eat. It is a natural addition to breastfeeding and helps support breastfeeding! With BLW, milk feeds are only reduced VERY gradually as baby grows older so it doesn’t pose a risk to breastmilk supply and normally BLW babies breastfeed longer with no problems.
5. It encourages baby to try new flavors and textures which can lead to a less picky eater in the future.
Baby is exposed to a wide range of flavors and textures with BLW as opposed to the same old mashed up food with traditional weaning. This helps encourage less pickiness with food as they get older.
6. It’s healthier in the long run.
Allowing babies to feed themselves has been shown to prevent them from overeating as they are learning to self-regulate. Long term, this can help prevent obesity.
7. It’s cheaper.
It cuts out the cost of having to buy expensive steamers, food processors, and baby food.
What are the disadvantages?
BLW can be extremely messy. Baby will make a huge mess. Just be sure to have a good bib, roll baby’s sleeves up, take their shirt off, and have a high chair that can be easily cleaned. Always have a change of clothes with you if you’re going out for dinner. Disposable place mats also help with the mess when traveling. Having a dog also helps keep your floors clean!
I think that covers everything! Please let me know if you have any questions. Also, I highly recommend joining a baby led weaning Facebook group. I’ve learned so much from these ladies and I can always go there if I have questions. They’re all so wonderful and sweet! Here are my two favorites:
Have a great day!
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