Hey y’all! Jess here!
Before I begin, every baby is different, and every family is different. I urge you to take all the information but also do your own research and consult your pediatrician to find what will be the best fit for your family.
What does it even mean?
If you’ve never heard of baby led weaning before, you are probably thinking what in the heck is that? Don’t worry! I’ve got your back!
I’m going to lay it all out for y’all. I was absolutely overwhelmed when we first started thinking about solids because there is just soooooo much information out there but it is really easy once you start!
First thing is first.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
This is a method to start your sweet babies on solids. Unlike purees, this method is based off the idea that babies can feed themselves around six months.
With baby led weaning, or BLW, purees are completely skipped over and babies go straight to finger foods. More information on this can be found at here.
Please feel free to get your hands on “Baby Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods” as it will have tons of information on everything BLW.
With this method, baby is an active member of family meals as they are allowed to explore tastes and textures of different foods. Essentially, your sweet munchkin eats what you eat.
Babies have been eating this way since the beginning of time. Blended “baby food” is a relatively new way of thinking that started in the 1920’s and quickly gained momentum.
Now that you have SOME idea of what this method looks like, I imagine many of you are thinking “how in the world does she expect my sweet baby to eat all that gigantic food? Nope, not happening. They don’t even have teeth!”
You are in luck. Babies gums are incredibly strong and they do not NEED teeth to be able to eat and explore foods.
Now that I have blown your mind with toothless babies being able to eat foods, let me explain to you WHEN you can start this method as there are very specific requirements to begin BLW.
Here are all the signs:
I must specify that solids are considered ANY AND ALL FOODS with BLW. I know some of you may be concerned that your sweet babies are not getting the adequate nutrition. But SURPRISE!
Your breastmilk or formula have all the nutrition your baby needs until the age of one. See for more information.
I cannot stress enough how important this next part is.
Say it with me: FOOD BEFORE ONE IS JUST FOR FUN.
Huh? Yes, I know. Many of us have been taught that babies need lots of solids and that they need to eat to get enough nutrition. Your breastmilk or formula are enough!
When doing BLW, babies don’t NEED to ingest the foods you give them. Your babies are learning so much about textures and flavors by playing with the food so do not stress about intake!
Please be aware that this will be messy. I gave my daughter hummus once and she made a hummus hair mask with it.
She loved it and I didn’t even mind the clean up knowing how much fun she had and how much she had learned. To be fair, my doggo did most of the clean up so that helped a ton!
Pro tip: Use a biggie bib to help with the mess! THEY ARE AMAZING at catching all the stuff your baby will inevitably drop.
How do I do it?
Now, I know many of you are confused by how to even begin feeding your babies with baby led weaning?
You should cut foods in finger length when babies are starting so that they can grasp them and bring them to their mouths. Circular foods can be cut in slices or quarters. The images below give a good idea as to the best way to cut foods!
There are no “first foods” with BLW so you just take your foods, cut them appropriately, and give to your baby.
THE ABOVE IMAGE IS PROPERTY OF KAYLEY FROM FRIENDLY FIRST FOODS.
There is a TON of information on how to cut specific foods and this could honestly be a whole post on its own so instead, I will direct you to my favorite resource.
Please be aware that pouches are not allowed with BLW as they deprive babies of the sensory information they would receive from the actual food. Also, there is no spoon feeding with BLW as it can lead to over feeding and also does not allow babies to experience the food on their own. THEY CAN DO IT!
While BLW emphasized that baby should eat what you eat, it is important that you keep in mind babies salt intake when cooking.
Babies under the age of one should be limited to 1 gram or 400 milligrams per day. A babies kidneys are not developed enough to handle large quantities of sodium.
Choking hazards are foods that are round and hard. Always think about size (is it too big?), shape (is it round and could it potentially get stuck?), and consistency (is it too hard?) before offering ANYTHING to your baby.
Some of the foods to keep an extra eye on are: hot dogs, sausage, grapes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and many more. Below I have included a graphic as to the best way to cut these so your baby can enjoy them.
Last but not least, let me add a quick disclaimer.
Babies choke. This can happen whether you do traditional weaning or BLW.
You MUST always keep an eye on your babies when they are consuming ANY food. However, there is a difference between gagging and choking.
Gagging is what we often believe to be choking but it is very different and we should not interfere as we can actually lead to choking.
The best and easiest way to think of this is “LOUD AND RED, LET THEM GO. SILENT AND BLUE, THEY NEED HELP FROM YOU!” This and other information of this sort can be found in the facebook page linked above.
From the beginning, I knew I didn’t want to do purees or pouches. I looked into this method and decided with the help of my pediatrician that it was perfect for our family!
The first time I gave my baby food, she was 6 months and 2 days. I gave my sweet girl chicken, potatoes, and avocado. SHE LOVED IT.
(This is essentially how my baby felt after her first meal)
My baby had been obsessed with food for months but I was set on waiting and it was so worth it. She has since eaten all kinds of foods!
We have made it a point to expose her to many different kinds of foods and flavors– Italian, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Cuban, and so on! I get so excited every time I know she is about to try something completely different.
Grocery store visits are extra exciting as I walk through aisles finding fruits and veggies she hasn’t eaten.
Also, I have found our family eats much healthier now that I am hyper aware of everything we are eating. We didn’t eat poorly before but we eat super healthy now as we limit things like salt.
My daughters favorite foods are: green beans, steak, lemons, strawberries, broth (mostly Japanese- she is very fancy haha), raw onions, red bell peppers, bacon, jicama, and mushrooms.
As you can see, she has had a wide variety of foods! These are just her absolute favorites (like she gets mad if she doesn’t get them immediately after she sees them) but all food is her favorite if I am being honest.
My daughter is an awesome eater and I am so glad to know that she is learning how to swallow (like you do with traditional weaning) as well as chew.
With this method, my sweet baby is figuring out her own limits and it is sooo fun to watch! There is nothing wrong with traditional weaning, it is a personal choice made by each family!!