Intro to Baby Led Weaning

When Charlotte was born, the last thing on my mind was how we would make the transition to solid food. I knew I wanted to make a lot of her food myself, but my thoughts ended there. So when a good friend of mine asked if we were going to do purees or baby led weaning, I was perplexed…. to start with, I had never even heard of “baby led weaning.” Thankfully, Charlotte was only a couple months old at this point, so I had plenty of time to read up on my options.

What is “Baby Led Weaning?” I started my research by reading some blog posts and reaching out to friends on Facebook to get a sense if anyone had experience with this way of introducing solids. I also borrowed the Baby Led Weaning book from a friend and my husband and I both spent time with it. After we both read up this method, we were convinced we wanted to try it with our little lady. I highly encourage getting the book (and the cookbook by the same authors), but here are some other tips and resources to get your started!  I will do most posts in the future as we continue our journey.

Key takeaways:

  • You will often see baby led weaning referred to as BLW for short
  • The name “baby led weaning” itself is somewhat confusing… it uses the European meaning of weaning: weaning TO solids versus the American version: weaning FROM breastmilk.
  • The main premise behind BLW is that for every other developmental milestone for our babies, they go on their own time. Rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. all happen when they are ready. Therefore, unless there is a medical reason preventing it, shouldn’t we also let our babies decide when they are ready to eat solids rather than spoon feed?
  • The milestones to meet before starting BLW:  6 months of age (their gut is more developed), can sit up by themselves unassisted (helps prevent choking) and shows an interest in food (talk with your pediatrician about this all!)
  • When a baby meets these milestones, you feed them breastmilk/formula and then 30 minutes to an hour later you can offer a meal. You want baby to not be overly hungry or tired so they can focus on figuring out the food.  We started with just dinner for the first month!
  • You give baby soft foods, the size of your finger to start, and let them explore, gnaw, and taste to figure it all out. Strict BLW has you feeding you baby exactly what you are eating (with a few exceptions, see below) but I know many successful BLWers who started with just softer foods (sweet potatoes, broccoli, bananas, pears, avocados, zucchini) before introducing more challenging foods.
  • Food before one is just for fun: Essentially, babies get all the nutrients they need from breastmilk (or formula) so any solid food before one is just to explore and learn.  It is important to start before one though so that by the time they need to consume solid food, they have the skills to safely handle (chew and swallow) food!

Pros:

  • Baby can explore food and eat on their own personal timeframes
  • It is simply AMAZING to watch your baby “figure out” food on his/her own
  • Baby is included in mealtime from the beginning
  • Baby has a healthy relationship with food from the beginning as they get to choose what goes into her mouth
  • Baby should hopefully have a more expanded palate

Cons:

  • Gagging!!! This was almost a deal killer for us. Essentially, a baby’s gag reflex is at the very front of their mouth (as an amazing safety mechanism). So as your baby learns to chew and put appropriate amounts of food in their mouth, they can gag. It is not choking, but it is darn scary at first until you learn to trust your baby. To combat this 1) make sure you take an Infant CPR class and 2) watch videos and read up on the difference between choking and gagging. Knowledge is power!! Encourage anyone else that may be around during mealtime to do the same.
  • The Mess – I don’t know that it is any more messy than purees, but it can be messy 🙂
  • It is fairly new in the states (it has been around for a long time in Europe) so you may have a lot of “commentary” from family and friends about why you are choosing not to do rice cereal/purees or why you are waiting until 6 months to start solids.  Thankfully our family has been SUPER supportive, especially after seeing how cool it is to watch her eat, but we have had definitely received opinions from others in our life.

Gear to Get You Started:

  • The books: Baby Led Weaning and Baby Led Weaning Cookbooks
  • Bibs: We have these bibs from Ikea and love them.  They cover everything.
  • Easy to Clean Highchair: We have this highchair and love that it will grow with Charlotte.  That being said, most BLW mamas in groups that I am in use the Ikea highchair!
  • Placemat: Depending on the high chair you use, these mats are great for separating food and containing the mess.
  • Sippy Cup: You can start offering an ounce or two of water to your baby with their meals, this might help with constipation! We have this and this that we offer her.
  • Dog to clean up the mess 🙂

Food Restrictions:

  • Babies under one cannot have honey. There is a risk of botulism to babies under one year.
  • Limit salt intake: Babies cannot have much sodium, if any, so limit processed foods and don’t cook with salt in your meals (we salt at the table if necessary)
  • Meat/Eggs need to be fully cooked
  • No whole nuts
  • Cut choking hazards properly: Grapes, Grape Tomatoes, Hot Dogs

Resources:

  • The books: Baby Led Weaning and Baby Led Weaning Cookbooks
  • Facebook Groups: There are some great Facebook groups of mamas who are also going through BLW. You can pose questions, get ideas, and offer support to other moms.
  • Explore the hashtag #babyledweaning on Instagram to get inspiration

Reach out to me with any questions and follow along with our journey on my Instagram –> @brewcitymama

xoxo,

BrewCityMama

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