Baby Led Weaning: First Foods For Baby
I first discovered baby led weaning when I was on baby number 2. In actual fact I didn’t even know what baby led weaning was (BLW), I just stumbled upon it by accident.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning is basically following the lead of the child instead of baby going from milk on to puree.
There is a common misconception where people think that baby led weaning is all about getting your child off milk (breast or formula) and onto pureed foods.
This is not necessarily the case.
In actual fact baby led weaning allows the child to use “safe foods” to feed themselves instead of progressing the child onto a breakfast cereal.
When I had my first born, I did almost everything according to the book.
I breastfed him to begin with then we moved on to rice cereal because that is what I was told works.
I began giving my son rice cereal around 6 months of age mixed with breast milk then eventually we moved onto other breakfast cereals and then puree’s.
It was a lot of hard work initially. I’ve never been a fan of baby jar food so I would always make my own from scratch.
It would sometimes take me hours to make different food combinations and freeze them.
I would plan out the different meals and try not to add too much flavor because that’s what all the books said.
It got even more complicated when I then had to change from smooth puree to slightly lumpy and so on.
The more confident that I got as a mother I started doing research.
Many of the articles that I read spoke about the baby being able to taste the foods that the mother was eating through her breast milk.
Well if that was the case then either one of two things had to happen.
Either I had to start eating bland foods or I could just let my baby sample the foods that I was already eating.
I opted for the last option.
How Do You Know When Your Baby Is Ready For Their First Solid Food?
You should not try to introduce solid food to a baby until they are ready.
It takes time for a babies digestive system to develop so you don’t rush and cause further problems down the line.
Experts usually say that babies are ready somewhere around 6 months of age but there is no definitive answer on this.
Some babies will seem ready at 6 months and some may not until 9 months.
Neither is right nor wrong. Just go with your mom gut and make a decision.
Don’t let anyone guilt you into doing something that doesn’t feel right.
You may not feel comfortable judging when your child is ready right now but as you grow in motherhood you will pick up the signs.
Here are a few tell-tell signs to look out for to know if baby is ready for their first foods:
- Your baby may start to stare at you as you eat
- They may try to reach out and grab food from your plate
- Baby will no long be pushing their tongue out of their mouths (tongue thrust reflex)
- Baby will have developed the pincer grasp. This is where babies learn to grab things using their thumb and forefinger.
- Your baby should be able to sit up well without any support.
What Are The Benefits Of Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning is a lot easier to manage. You no longer have to mash and puree everything first.
You just give your baby food that is similar to what you already eat.
Later on we will talk about the types of foods you can start with for best results.
It literally is a do as you see on the tin type of training.
You don’t necessarily have to sit down at a set time to feed your baby you just look out for hunger signs and give your baby little bits of food.
You might find initially that your baby wants to snack a lot. That is perfectly fine and normal.
You have to remember especially if your baby is breastfed that they have been feeding on and off all day long at different times of the day and with different lengths of time.
This is what they are used to so don’t expect that pattern to suddenly change, it will take time.
Eventually, as time goes on they will naturally fall into a routine alongside the rest of the family.
Another important thing to remember is that just because you are doing baby led weaning does not mean that you have to stop breastfeeding or giving your baby formula altogether.
Remember when I said that I started doing baby led weaning by accident?
Well, these are the very reasons why and how it happened.
I could no longer keep up doing the puree’s because when my first born turned 7 months I fell pregnant again.
I was too tired and could not manage.
When my daughter was old enough (second born) I would just let her pick food from my plate to eat and she was fine with that.
I would always make sure that I watched her to make sure she couldn’t choke and only let her have very soft foods.
She had no problems at all.
I thought I was being too lazy to puree and mash food for her but it turns out it’s actually called baby led weaning haha!
Baby lead weaning is great because it works only when your child is ready and teaches them some great skills along the way.
Your baby has to be able to find their mouth in order to eat the food.
They drop the food, they have to be able to pick it up again. It’s great for hand to mouth coordination skills.
Your baby will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Very similar to how they drink milk.
Your baby will also learn about the different tastes and textures of food.
Giving your child pureed food doesn’t allow them to experience this until much later on.
How Do You Start Baby Led Weaning?
It’s fairly easy to begin once you know your baby is ready. You can simply sit down with your baby at the table and give them some appropriate finger foods to eat.
The food can be chopped up into small pieces to fit straight into the mouth or you can chop them up in a way that is easy to hold and bite down on.
I usually start BLW with snacks then later on move onto full meals. I just find this works better for my children.
This actually works great when everyone else is eating. Although if your child is anything like my children they won’t care too much if everyone else is eating or not and just to be happy to put food into their own mouths.
If you decide to let your baby have a snack you can accompany the snack with some drinking water.
What Are The Best Baby Led Weaning Starter Foods To Begin With?
I always think its best to start with fruit or vegetables, preferably more vegetables than fruit as fruit can be a little on the sweet side and cause bad eating habits.
If you are offering vegetables then you may have to partly boil some of them so they are not too hard.
My children loved carrots but carrots are quite hard to chew when you have very few teeth.
I would sometimes boil the carrots for a few minutes to slightly soften them before giving them to the children.
Some great starter foods to begin with would be:
Foods To avoid until later:
- Grapes (unless cut into very small pieces)
- Egg whites
Will My Baby Be Getting Enough Nutrition and Food To Eat?
Yes they will. As I said before you don’t have to immediately stop giving milk.
You can continue with breast milk or formula until you feel comfortable enough to stop and give your child a full diet of food.
Final Tips For BLW
- Don’t wait for your baby to be starving hungry before you feed them. If they are too hungry they will not want to eat food and will only take milk.
I have made this mistake on several occasions.
- Don’t expect your baby to eat how YOU expect them too. Some of my children have wanted to walk around and eat, some prefered to sit by the table. Each child is different.
I’m not really fussed which way my children to do it as long as they are happy when they are eating and build good eating habits.
If you encourage your children to eat good vegetables now it will set them up for the future.
My firstborn loves vegetables because I would always give him them as snacks. My 3rd born not so much because I didn’t do a great job at keeping up the pace.
- It will be messy. Your child will drop food on the floor, pick it up put it in their mouths then drop it again. There will be mess but you have to remember that it’s all part of the learning process.
Great Baby Lead Weaning Products
- When we started baby led weaning I found this sticky bowl to be absolutely amazing because it sticks to the table so baby can’t throw the whole bowl on the floor.
- Another great resource I found was the Nuby mesh feeder. These are super handy and enable your baby to be able to eat snacks that they could otherwise choke on.
Do you have any more great tips for baby led weaning? I’d love to hear them.