Is your baby ready to start solids? If so, consider baby led weaning. It's safe, fun, and your baby gets to experience real food right away!

The Comprehensive Guide To Baby Led Weaning


I’m feeling slightly sentimental since The Baby’s first birthday. Yup. He’s not a baby anymore….

So rather than cry about it (I’ve done enough of that this month!), I figured I’d reminisce. Because…well, he’s my last baby! *sniff*

I have had a lot of moms ask me about starting solids, and many are surprised to find that we chose to use something called baby led weaning. 

In the spirit of transparency, I did make purees for Smalls at first…but I found that he really wanted to feed himself, so we took a break and I discovered baby led weaning. It was an amazing experience-and so much better than our experience with purees.

Now, I’m not a nurse, nor am I a doctor. However, I have successfully kept both of my children alive though their first foods experiences. 

But they were also very, very different. According to the experts, babies should be exclusively breast (or formula) fed for the first 6 months.

This is not a suggestion, y’all. There’s actual science to back this up. Up until about month 6, your baby has what is called an “open gut”…which means that your baby’s digestive system allows all kinds of things into the bloodstream…good and bad. This also means that you need to be aware of what your baby is consuming, and limit it to breastmilk or formula. Especially since there’s some research to indicate that early introduction of solids can lead to a predisposition to food allergies. Not good. Okay. Getting off my soapbox now. 

Is your baby ready to start solids? If so, consider baby led weaning. It's safe, fun, and your baby gets to experience real food right away!

 

Let’s Talk About Baby Led Weaning

 

When you think of baby food, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it all those jars and pouches that you see lining the “baby food” grocery aisle? Or maybe it involves steaming everything to death and then blending until it’s at a “breastmilk” consistency.

For us, baby food look just like, well, food. That’s right. My kids (who do eat pouches and purees occasionally once they’ve got the hang of things-much safer for in the car than apple slices in my opinion!). Moving on.

So.

When can you start baby led weaning with your baby?

In my experience (and research also supports this), babies will be ready to attempt to eat some solids sometime between months 6 and 8, though there are some babies who truly are not ready for solids until much later, which is okay, too. BLW first foods

Smalls wasn’t ready for solids until 8 months, which The Baby started at 6 months because he had been trying to grab food off my plate for months at that point. In order to determine if your baby is able to safely eat solid foods, please make sure that your baby can

  • Sit well unassisted (this means no support, y’all).
  • Chew (yes, I’m stating the obvious).
  • Keep food in their mouth without thrusting it out (the tongue thrust reflex).
  • Use their pincer grasp to pick things up.
  • Reach for food at meal times (or he may try to feed himself…).

If your baby meets all of these milestones, and is over 6 months, then you may want to consider baby led weaning. You can download a list of good first food choices here.

 

Baby Led Weaning is NOT The Same As Feeding Your Baby

boon flair high chair

The whole point is to let your baby feed themselves:

  1. Make sure that you have an appropriate high chair (we absolutely love, love, love our Boon Flair. I got it when Smalls was a baby, and we are STILL using it. It’s super easy to clean, cute, and very adjustable.) where your baby is upright and has a tray that is secure.
  2. Place your baby’s food chunks on the tray.
  3. Let your baby feed himself.

One of the most surprising things for me was the fact that it sounded like Smalls was choking (remember, choking is SILENT). He wasn’t. So here’s what I learned from that adventure: your baby is going to make some gagging sounds. It’s just part of it. They’re learning a new skill, and it feels weird to have FOOD in their mouth. It’s not liquid.

Even though it sounds scary, it’s really okay. Resist the urge to pay your baby on their back or swipe their mouth. A strong cough (that gagging sound?) is actually your baby’s body naturally trying to push the blockage out of the way.

If your baby is choking, that’s a whole different story. Please be safe and use your brain. 

The signs of choking are:

  • Bluish skin color
  • Difficulty breathing – ribs and chest pull inward
  • Loss of consciousness if blockage is not cleared
  • Inability to cry or make much sound
  • Weak, ineffective coughing
  • Soft or high-pitched sounds while inhaling

source

With that out of the way…when you start solids with your baby, have fun! It’s about introducing lots of nutritious foods. Your baby doesn’t need solids until after they turn one. You’ve probably even heard the phrase “food for fun until you’re one.”

No?

Just me?

Okay.

Now, with Smalls, it really was just about exploration. He absolutely hated peas, beans, and watermelon. The Baby is more adventurous, and will actually steal veggies (and bacon) off my plate.

baby led weaningOnce your baby has mastered larger chunks of food (and has a few more teeth), you can start feeding them a wider variety of things. My boys absolutely went gaga for scrambled eggs and bacon (still do!), egg muffins, chicken, beef, ham, berries, frozen blueberries, pancakes and muffins (homemade of course).

By a year, both of the boys were eating the same meals as myself and Ish. It just makes things so much easier. I hate being a short order cook. 

Now, like I said before, you need to use some common sense:

Don’t feed your baby raw foods that could cause potential choking hazards (think carrots)-it’s really not hard to steam or sauté them. Don’t feed your baby honey (because, botulism) or peanuts (choking hazard). Berries, grapes, tomatoes, basically anything spherical isn’t recommended either because they may present a choking hazard. You don’t need to season the fruits and veggies you give your baby-their little palate is very sensitive.

When I gave The Baby berries before he got a good handle on properly chewing his food, I used a silicone feeder so that he could still feed himself and enjoy them, though you don’t need any special equipment to practice baby led weaning.

Maybe some pans for roasting and cooking hard veggies. But nothing you don’t already have in the house.

 

Why Baby Led?

 

Well, the whole point of weaning is to have your baby transition from breast or bottle to “regular” food, right? This is where things really become baby led. As your baby learns to eat more foods, you may find that they begin refusing milk, which is okay…that’s what you want.

Smalls didn’t wean until 24 months, but he only wanted to nurse at night. The Baby is down to only 4 feedings a day at a year old. He eats more than me at mealtimes and loves every second of it. 

Every baby will self-wean at their own pace, so try not to stress about it.

Oh-one more thing-I freaked out the first time that Smalls went on a “hunger strike”. I called the emergency nurse hotline, the ER, and his pediatrician. New mom move. And it’s okay. But you know what? It’s totally normal. He refused to eat most of the food I put in front of him…all of which had been his favorite.

What the nurse who (kindly) called me back on a Saturday explained was that because he was feeding himself, he could choose what he wanted and needed. So he may be eating muffins by the bucket load one day, and refuse them the next. She reminded me the importance of consistently offering a variety of foods, which I still do.

So. Enough about me. Let’s talk about you:

Did you try baby led weaning? Are you going to?

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