Baby led weaning is a term that often leaves people confused: what exactly are you weaning the baby from? Breastfeeding? A bottle?
And it’s none of the above. In this post, I will discuss what baby led weaning means, how we introduced it to baby girl, and our thoughts on it so far.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Prior to creating our baby registry, a friend of mine sent over a baby food maker. I knew I wanted to go the more organic route of making foods for the baby and since she received an extra baby food maker it was a no-brainer.
Fast forward to after the baby was born, I was really into sensory play and wanted to know how to incorporate more of it into our playtime. I stumbled across the term “baby led weaning”. Curious, I decided to read more on the subject.
Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a term used to describe a method in which the child learns how to self-fed themselves solids without the puree or the spoon. What the term does not refer to is weaning the baby from breastmilk and/or formula (note: breastmilk and/or formula should be baby’s primary source of nutrients for their first year of life).
Since I’m all about non-complicated parenting and allowing my child to explore the world through everyday living vs augmented reality, I knew this would be the route for me. After reading many websites and testimonials, I was sold.
How We Introduced Solid Foods Through Baby Led Weaning
A little after she turned six months, we introduced Scout to solid foods.
Now, I want to point out we didn’t start solids JUST BECAUSE she turned six months. You all know I am more intentional than that. For the overall health of my child, I wanted to make she would be able to digest the foods and that her gut health was in tact. To make sure she was ready, here is a checklist I used:
Does she sit up on her own? This is without assistance from any person or object, and I took it a step further to make sure she could get into sitting position on her own (that means she’s fully capable of sitting alone).
Is she at least six months or older? Though some pediatricians push introducing foods to baby’s around the four month mark, it’s an outdated practice. The American Academy of Pediatric (AAP) has changed their thoughts and views on this to list food introductory at six months or later. You can read it here.
Can she chew without pushing food out from her mouth? This one is a no brainer. The baby has to be able to chew and swallow in order for the food to go down their throat.
Can she pick up the food on her own? Since food isn’t large in size (especially for baby’s to consume) she needed to have the pincher grasp for self-feeding to occur.
Does she show interest? This was the last criterium I used because baby’s show interest in whatever the parents are doing. I could eat shit, literally, and the baby probably would reach for it. It’s instinct and not necessarily true “interest”. Also, though she seemed interested, it was a good amount of time that passed before she would actually eat. It wasn’t until 8.5 – 9 months that her interest peaked enough for us to give her food regularly.
You can read more about this checklist and more at my favorite mom site, KellyMom.com.
Once I could answer ‘yes’ to all those questions, it was on and poppin’.
Our First Foods
Since we were using baby led weaning as our solid food introductory method, it was imperative that the foods we chose were soft enough for her to eat.
All the foods I prepare for her are sans salt and pepper, but I do add other spices: garlic, cumin, basil – you name it, it’s in there. We also don’t give her foods with sugar. We don’t feed her process foods.
On Our Sh*t List
We started with the good and faithful banana and avocado. I even introduced kiwi much later. Guess what? She hated the banana. She loved the avocado, but she projectile vomited it across the room. The same happened with kiwi, plus it made her skin breakout.
I also noticed that tomatoes cause her to breakout.
So yea, no more of those anytime soon. We will revisit later in life.
What She Loves
I can say she will try just about anything at least once.
Right now, she loves carrots, apples, potatoes (sweet and white), grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, red peppers, green beans, squash, zucchini, mushrooms, beans (particularly chickpeas, but will try others), mango, spinach… I’m exhausted and didn’t name everything, but you all get the point. She will eat these items without a problem.
What’s good is that we can prepare soups, stir-fry, bowls, and other cooked dishes with her eating what we eat. It also forces us to try new and different recipes so her exposure is broad.
The awesome part about it is that we don’t have to mush it up for her. She really dislikes mushy foods. I know I would go nuts if all I could were purees so I feel her on that.
Drinking from a Cup
When we introduced foods to her, we also introduced a cup. I use a clear shot glass to give her water or breastmilk only. I help her with balancing it up to her mouth, but I also let her do it on her own. It gets messy, yes, but how else will she learn how to control it?
She loves to mimic her dad drinking from a cup and finishes with “Ahhh!” SO CUTE!
It Gets Very Messy
If you want to argue, you’ll tell me that BLW is a messy process. You’d be correct.
However, what food introduction isn’t messy? If you want a baby to learn how to eat on their own, they will have to make a mess. Sensory exploration is the name of the game. The mess is a part of the process.
When we first started, there were times she will sit at the table and just massage the food between her fingers, sometimes even into the table, and would barely get any into her mouth. These days, she picks up the food, examines it, and sticks it into her mouth. It’s a learning process that I enjoy watching.
Because we knew it would be messy, we purchased a full body bib from IKEA (pictured) and typically will have her in a diaper underneath. Once she’s done eating, we dump the contents of the bib into the trash, rinse the bib in the sink and hang it up to dry. Then we put her in the bath. Simple.
If we are out and about or holding her, we will sometimes have a cloth bib to catch the food (we have got to do better with this so we don’t ruin her clothes).
Baby Led Weaning for the Win!
Looking back, I don’t think we would have introduced foods any other way. This way has allowed for her to explore different textures, learn how to become independent through self-feeding, and allows for us to expose her to foods we love. She feels included and it makes it easy for us to have family time. What more could we ask for?
What are your thoughts on baby led weaning? Have you tried or will be willing to try it?
Check out some of these resources: