For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning

October 28, 2014

I have had SO MANY questions from moms, moms-to-be, and just curious readers about our experiences with Baby Led Weaning. So, I thought I’d share a little bit about how we approached it, how it worked, what it is, etc. As always, I want to make the disclaimer that I’m not expert on this or anything and there are a ton of resources out there… these are just merely our experiences!

Also, if you did something聽other聽than BLW to introduce solids to your baby, that’s great! This is just one way to do it and is not the RIGHT or WRONG way to introduce solids. I am 100% team “Feed Your Baby” – so however you choose to feed your baby, that is AWESOME. Just feed your baby. 馃檪聽For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (1)

What is Baby Led Weaning?

Baby led weaning (BLW from here on out), is also known as Baby Led Solids (BLS). The terms are interchangeable. Weaning, in this context, does not refer to weaning off of breastmilk or formula. It simply refers to the introduction of solid foods into a baby’s diet. The term “weaning” is actually a British term – which means adding “complimentary foods” to the baby’s breastmilk or formula diet… which is why we confuse it for “weaning” or getting off of breastmilk or formula.

It also means that the baby is introduced to solid foods on his / her own time… and the foods that are given to the baby are, well, solid. No purees. No rice cereal. Food is given in “bite size” portions to the baby and the baby physically feeds himself / herself.聽There’s no spoon feeding the baby or anything like that… it’s literally all up the the baby how much he/she eats.

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (2)

What age to start Baby Led Weaning?

There are many different schools of thought on when to introduce solid foods to your baby. The most recent research all points to the WHOLE notion that “Food Before One is Just For Fun” – and that a baby’s nutrition should come MOSTLY from breastmilk or formula before the age of one. Also, solid foods do not need to be introduced prior to SIX MONTHS of age, because this is the age at which a baby’s digestive system is mature enough to properly handle and digest solid foods.

A few other clues that your baby is ready for solid foods are:

  • Baby can sit up unassisted
  • Baby is reaching for food and actually showing an interest in the foods (not just reaching for anything in front of him/her randomly)
  • Baby is crawling or preparing to crawl
  • Baby is six months of age or older

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (3)

At What age did we start Lilly on BLW?

We waited until Lilly was about six and a half months old before we introduced solid foods. Mostly because she didn’t show really any interest in solid foods prior to that point, and I was nursing her on demand, so I didn’t see much of a point before that time.

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (4)

What foods did you start with?

The first food we introduced Lilly to was avocado. We just cut it up, put it on her tray in front of her and let her go to town. She didn’t know what to do with it at first and it DEFINITELY took many tries, but once she figured out what it was, she LOVED it.

We just started slow from there… introducing easy things to cut up like bananas, blueberries, pasta, cheeses, etc. Anything soft that she could gnaw on and chew with her gums and two bottoms teeth.

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (5)

Things to consider / be aware of / be cautious with with BLW:

  • It is SUPER important that you don’t FORCE ANY FOOD AT ALL in the baby’s mouth. DO NOT put any food in the baby’s mouth. SERIOUSLY. I REPEAT. DO NOT PUT FOOD IN THE BABY’S MOUTH. BLW is all about the baby self-feeding. The baby WILL figure out how to pick up the food and put it in his / her mouth.
  • Putting food in the baby’s mouth yourself increases the risk of choking (I will address this concern in the next paragraph)
  • Realize that 75% of the food you feed your baby at first is not going to end up in the baby’s mouth. These beginning stages are all about practice… and it’s not going to all be perfect at first. Allow the baby to experience the flavors, textures, etc. of the foods. That is an important part of BLW!

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (6)

But Won’t the baby choke?

This is BY FAR the biggest concern for parents who are considering BLW.

BLW actually leads to LESS choking incidents that any other form of feeding… BECAUSE the baby is allowed to go at his / her own pace and nothing is being “forced” down the baby’s mouth. Your baby’s gag reflex is actually extremely far forward in their mouth… way further forward than our own.

SO, you have to know that your baby is VERY likely to gag on his / her food… but in the early stages of introducing solids, this is a GOOD THING. Yes, it can totally freak you out and be scary to see… but as long as you watch your baby while he / she eats… that’s what is most important. You will know if your baby is choking versus just gagging.

If your baby starts to gag, just let him / her do their thing. They will push the food forward in their mouth, gnaw it some more, then swallow it.

Gagging teaches the baby HOW to eat.

Seriously. I know this sounds weird and scary and bizarre, but I promise you, gagging is a GOOD THING. A very good thing. Baby has GOT to learn how to chew and manage foods… and gagging helps to do this!

As long as you are giving your baby foods in manageable, bite sized pieces… you’re golden! Baby will learn how to chew and gnaw the foods and swallow them in a way that works for them. It’s really amazing to see them learn.

When Lilly first started, she would gag on certain foods, but would always work it out. It was amazing to watch her learn how to manage different foods with different textures, etc. She really was learning so quickly. The more comfortable she got with certain foods, the more I would introduce other foods to her.

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (7)

What Kinds of Foods to Feed Baby on BLW:

I started with the easy, mashable ones… but once she got comfortable, I got adventurous.

By about nine or ten months of age, Lilly pretty much ate anything. Quesadillas, tacos, pasta, breads, sandwiches (cut up), veggies (she hates veggies), fruits, etc. Basically, anything YOU can eat, the baby can eat.

Foods to AVOID on BLW:

The only foods you should AVOID giving your baby BEFORE the age of one are:

  • Honey
  • Nuts / peanuts
  • Lots of sodium / salt (their little livers can’t process too much sodium)
  • Lots of sugar
  • Chips / or anything “hard” that they can’t gnaw or chew

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (8)

Now Lilly eats…

Pretty much ANYTHING. She’s gotten really adventurous. Her likes / dislikes have changed as her moods / stages / teeth have changed. She has A LOT of teeth (like, almost ALL of her baby teeth are in)… so chewing is much easier for her now.

Her FAVORITE foods are:

  • Chipotle! (that’s mah girl!!) – she gets a little kid’s taco kit
  • Chick-fil-a grilled nuggets
  • Blueberries
  • Cheese
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Spicy food (that’s mah girl!)
  • Puffs
  • Crackers
  • Raisins
  • Avocado
  • Okra

I really give her everything that we eat… and we learn what she likes and what she doesn’t like. Anything I make for dinner, I just make her a smaller plate!

Baby Led Weaning Is Good For:

  • It’s GREAT for teaching your baby hand-eye coordination. Lilly’s hand eye coordination is amazing. She learned to pick things up super early and I really believe BLW had a lot to do with it
  • It teaches your baby how to eat food… literally.
  • Confidence… once they figure out how to eat, they really become confident in themselves and their abilities to try new things!

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (9)

Baby Led Weaning Resources

Another thing to be aware of…

Baby led weaning is MESSY. Lilly is a MESSY eater and I have to pretty much hose her down after she eats… but hey, that’s half the fun.

For the Mamas | My Experience with Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Solids (10)

Overall I’d Say…

We LOVED doing BLW. It’s SO MUCH EASIER than having to spoon feed a baby… you can eat while the baby eats, etc. I am so glad we did it this way!

Now, what questions do you have? Did you do BLW? What was your experience?