Baby Led Weaning (BLW) can be a little intimidating for most moms but it doesn’t have to be! In fact, it can be quite simple and even fun. This post will guide you through what BLW is, when to start, what to feed, and why it all matters.
What is Baby Led Weaning
Simply put- baby led weaning is allowing your baby to learn how to self feed through solid foods instead of being fed through purees. This approach allows babies to explore different tastes and textures and allows us moms to give a little independence.
When we start our babies on purees what we are really doing is encouraging swallowing with out developing the skill of chewing. BLW however encourages chewing first– and swallowing might come much later. This chewing, however, is very helpful for developing their mouth, tongue and gives them a chance to learn about how food works in real life.
When is a Good Time to Start Baby Lead Weaning
This is going to differ for each baby but generally 6 months is a good time to start because the babies intestines has been developed enough to process certain foods.
Signs a baby is ready for food
- lunging towards food while food is near them
- can sit up on their own
- no longer tongue trusting (instantly pushing food out of their mouth)
I know a lot of us, me included, are nervous at the thought of chocking but don’t let this hold you back! Babies actually have a much different gag reflex than us. Their reflex is located close to the front of their mouth and not in the back of their throat like most adults so when we see a baby gag a lot of times its them learning how to manipulate food. Of course keep an eye on your little one as they are navigating food but don’t rush over and stick your fingers in their mouth unless they are actually in danger.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
There are so many benefits of BLW but my favorite is less prepping and clean up! Purees take a lot of time to prepare and typically require me to pull out my blender, food processor, ice cube trays and funnels. BLW just requires you to cook whatever it is that is being fed and cutting it into a sizable chunk that your baby can grab onto.
Another perk is the fact that your baby can be included right into family meals– for instance, if you are cooking pork chops and carrots you can cut out the bone of the pork chop loosely leaning meat around it and give a halved cooked carrot and your baby can take turns gnawing on the two of them and getting a taste for the things you actually cook for your family.
If the thought of introducing meat to a baby worries you- head over to me The Truth About Baby Rice Cereal & Why You Should Avoid It post and you can read up about the developing baby gut and why meat is a great first food!
Babies are also learning hand eye coordination and developing their fine motor skills so giving your babies a large chunk of food to play with and raise to their mouth will also help them along in these developmental skills!
Great Baby Led Weaning First Foods
This might come as a shock to many of you- but my go to for first baby foods is meat! (Here is a great place to start learning). Some meat I would do with my little ones were on bones like chicken drumsticks with some meat left on the bone, or steak and pork chop bones. In the beginning you would give them a sizable chunk to gnaw on but eventually you could shed chicken and give them ground beef.
Liver is an incredible source of nutrients for babies and this sneaky recipe for liver meatballs is great for the whole family! I would maybe put less spices in if you were making it just for the baby.
Eggs are a great first food! With my girls I would just soft scramble the yolk because the whites could be an allergen but if egg allergies run in your family I would ask your pediatrician first.
Avocado is another great fat for the baby and very easy on their tummy. Their fine motor skills will definitely be tested seeing how avocado is notoriously slippery.
Steamed carrots, sweet potato and beets are good first veggies at around 6-8 months of age- but introduce them on different days just in case there is some kind of reaction and you need to pin down which food caused it. (extra tip- steam or boil in bone both for added nutrient value)
Bananas are a food I would introduce later on maybe 8-10 months after savory foods have been introduced. Personally I don’t start my babies off on fruits because sweet food is typically more attractive to them and I want them to develop flavors for savory foods first.
Beans are also great once they are around the 8 month mark! There is basically no preparation for this one and it helps develop fine motor skills!
A good thing to remember when your baby first starts eating food is that it takes them more than one time trying a food to decide if they like it. Experts suggest children sometimes are offered a food 10-15 times before they will eat it. So be patient and consistent!
As always please drop a comment below if you have any questions or baby led weaning tips!
Here are my Favorite Food Resources
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats