How to Start Baby Led Weaning
Before I gave birth to my daughter all I knew about feeding babies was that it’s messy and involved soft pureed foods. Well, it turns out I was half right. No matter what and how you feed your baby it will be messy! But, feeding them only traditional pureed baby food is not the only option. As I looked into when and how to start feeding my daughter, I came across Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and began to read more about it. For those that are completely unfamiliar with BLW, a simple definition is that baby eats whatever you eat. This is over simplified because there are some caveats as to how you serve and cut foods as well as foods that remain choking hazards for years like popcorn and nuts. The benefits of BLW had me hooked from the beginning but I was nervous about some of the negative experiences I read about. What I ended up doing was a modified BLW, and we took small steps with some of the more difficult foods. So, if you’re interested in BLW but nervous about gagging and choking keep reading. Here’s my advice on the why of baby led weaning and how to start baby led weaning.
Why Baby Led Weaning?
You deserve to eat a warm meal. The jokes about moms never eating a warm meal are endless. BLW is changing that norm. If baby is eating what you are eating then you can prepare it all at the same time, and with BLW they feed themselves while you eat together. I know it’s a mind blowing idea that you can sit and enjoy your food, but this is what had me hooked for sure. Not to mention it made eating out much easier.
Simplify meal time. You are not a short order cook. Your kitchen is not a restaurant. Set the expectation early that everyone eats the same thing with a few exceptions. And only offer one or two new foods along with familar favorites. That way there is always something for them to eat that you know they’ll like. As long as my daughter tries everything on her plate I have a few things that I offer if she doesn’t like new foods. Easy veggies I offer are bell pepper strips and canned carrots. Extra proteins can be cottage cheese or plain yogurt. I try to make sure my daughter has a fruit, vegetable, protein, and grain for each meal. When I had a salad I gave my daughter has a different vegetable. Canned green beans and carrots, or frozen steam in bag veggies make this quick and easy. Remember you’re trying to limit how many foods you are cooking and not making custom meals every time. By simplifying meal time you are also saving time, money, and stress. It’s cost effective to cook everyone the same foods. It’s time saving to cook more of something rather than two different things.
Know what you’re feeding your baby. I didn’t want my baby eating a bunch of processed food, but I didn’t have the desire or time to make my own baby food. BLW was my solution. I was feeding my baby the same whole and healthy foods I was trying to eat. And then there are scary articles like this about the dangerous things that can end up in processed baby food. No, we don’t eat perfectly healthy all the time, and yes my baby ate puffs and a few other snack items. But, I largely limited this and didn’t introduce the concept of dessert until she was over 1 year.
How to overcome your fears with Baby Led Weaning
First, let me tell you it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I did a modified Baby Led Weaning. And yes, being worried your baby will gag or choke is perfectly normal. We started with more soft whole foods and I mushed up things to make them a bit easier at first. But as I got more confident it was easier to follow true BLW. We did have a few serious gagging incidents that set me back, but I knew BLW was the best choice for my daughter. What kept me going was knowledge and being well educated on BLW. I also joined a very well run Facebook group for support and first hand experience from other moms.
Know the difference between gagging and choking. This is critical because if you don’t know the difference you can make a bad situation worse or under react when you need to act! It can be hard but watch the videos in the Facebook group that show the difference between gagging and choking. It will help you be ready if a situation arises. Also have anyone who will be helping feed your child watch the videos and be educated as well.
Take a baby first aide class. And make sure anyone else that will be feeding your child does as well. Everyone involved with feeding needs to be fully equipped to handle a choking episode. Here are a few good ones:
Infant CPR & Choking for Babies 0-12 Months with Tiny Hood, “Founded by two moms who struggled with their own new parenthood, Tinyhood excels in providing flexible options for online infant care courses.”
Child and Baby First Aid/CPR/AED Online, “This (Red Cross) online course will prepare you to recognize and care for emergencies.”
How to start: Beginning at 6 months
There is way more than I can cover here, but I wanted to share a few important tips on where to start.
The two most important resources I used to learn and live Baby Led Weaning . . .
- Baby Led Weaning the Essential Guide by Gill Rapley
- Facebook group: Baby Led Weaning for Beginners & Beyond (BLWBB)
After I did a lot of reading, educated myself, took a First Aid course, and bought all the gear I would need (or thought I would need) – it was time for the first meal! Well it was almost time for the first meal, we had to wait to make sure all the signs of readiness were there. Before you can serve baby their first meal you’ll need to wait until the can sit up unassisted for 1 minute, can grab items and get them to their mouth, and they show interest in food. Ok, now we were finally ready. I was so excited and so nervous. How would she react, would she gag, would she eat anything? But here’s what I wish I knew. . . most babies don’t eat much at first and that’s ok since breastmilk is still their main source of nutrition. And babies really vary on how they react, or what they eat at first. And all babies will gag, even those that eat store bought pureed baby food; they are just learning!
As I said, we did a slightly modified BLW because I was mega nervous. I introduced naturally soft foods like sweet potato, avocado, and banana. We quickly added hard boiled eggs, canned black beans, and canned carrots. Then we just kept trying new foods. She actually ate her first piece of pizza when she was only 8 months. She loved it and did great! It was moments like that where I gained more confidence in trying more “challenging” foods. For vegetables we started with canned as they were softer. She really liked canned green beans and carrots. I always bought the ones that had no added salt. The two things I really watched for were added salt and sugar. I’m not as strict a few years down the road now, but in that first year or so of eating I didn’t put any salt on her veggies and only fed her plain whole milk Greek yogurt. She didn’t know the difference and really enjoyed them.
What I bought to get started
We love this book! It is also a great representation of BLW and a perfect first book to introduce your little one to food.
These spoons were much easier for my daughter to use in the beginning. They made it simple for her to scoop yogurt with minimal frustration.
We still use these bowls and love that they help the bowl stay put when scooping.
We are still using this mat. We’ve had many spills and it is fairly good at catching the liquid before it seeps through to your carpet or rug. We also take it when we go to eat at other people’s homes so we don’t have to worry about food being dropped or spilled. It also is easily washed which is always a win!
These bibs are the best!! No really, I promise you will never need another bib. After some mistakes in the bib department to begin with we found these and have been using them ever since. They are easy to clean, don’t stain like fabric bibs, and catch a lot dropped food. There are lots of designs with this type of bib, so pick your favorite.
We loved this high chair because we don’t have a lot of room at our kitchen table, so when meal time was over we could collapse it and tuck it out of the way in just a few seconds. The tray comes off for easy cleaning, as does the seat covers. I would just throw them in the wash and they came out good as new. For every high chair though, the straps will forever be a challenge. I cleaned them with a soapy sponge when they were absolutely gross then let the chair dry out in the sun.
The debate on which first cup to use for your little one is great, and I’ve learned they all have pros and cons. I decided on this set of Munchkin weighted straw cups and snack cups. The handles were easy for my daughter to hold and the weighted straw made sure she got all the water in the cup. The snack cups were good for puffs when we were out and about. I never did use the weighted straw cup for milk due to concerns about mold growth, but even with water the bacteria from drinking means frequent cleaning is necessary. I would usually clean one cup every other day. These cups come with a tiny little straw brush that you can push the hot soapy water through the straw and then rinse. Even with consistent cleaning the straw deteriorated after about 6 months and needed replacing. But by then my daughter was ready for a new style of cup that was more advanced.
The last thing you may want to consider is plates but to be honest we always just put most her food on her tray. Really up until about 2 and a half years old she didn’t like plates. But your little one may be different. We did get this plate and found it helpful on occasion.
The Next Level, starting at 9 months
It was great to move to the next level of BLW and introduce new skills as well as new foods. She started being able to get more yogurt to her mouth with her spoon, and starting eating more items with a fork. Some favorite foods were bell pepper strips and peanut butter toast. I also discovered as I gave my daughter meat proteins she wasn’t a fan which I learned was the case for a lot of kids. To this day she favors salty meats like sausage and hot dogs, but needs some coaxing for chicken or pork. Full fat cottage cheese is a great way to add a little protein when needed. Here’s some of the items I purchased for the next phase of BLW:
We are still using these and take them whenever we aren’t eating at home too!
These cups were great when I started giving my daughter whole milk at 12 months. There’s no straw to clean, but make sure you scrub around the lid’s groves because gunk hides there. I love how these help my daughter learn to drink out of an open cup without it actually being an open cup. There is some protection from spillage when she drops it but be warned if it hits the lip of the silicone at the wrong angle liquid will come out.
What and how to feed your baby is a big decision. For us BLW was the best choice and I really feel it benefited by daughter. BLW saved me time, stress, and money by making meal time simpler. If you decide to try Baby Led Weaning remember it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! And if you are a BLW family share your tips and encouragement for other moms in the comments.
THIS MOMMY TRIED IT AND YOU CAN TOO!