To read Part 2 of this post, click here.
Baby-Led Weaning, it’s not just for hippies anymore! No, but really. I mean it. This post will kick off a mini-series all about the super trendy, yet super relatable concept that is BLW.
Side note: What is with our society? We just love our hyphenated labels: gluten-free, free-range, bed-sharing, co-sleeping, night-weaning. Ugh. I’m exhausted already. Well here’s the long and short of it: baby-led weaning is pretty much a fancy British term for a baby learning to eat by feeding themselves rather than you feeding them. MIND. BLOWN.
Sometimes I really hate myself because I had to learn about this from the internet rather than this simply being an intuitive feeling. But there will be plenty of time for self-loathing later. Anyways, baby-led weaning is more than just a trendy hyphenated term, it’s a life-changing experience for your baby and your family (a bit dramatic, Marla?). But really. When we go to the grocery store and Harper pretty much lunges from the cart toward the strawberries, you feel like you’ve done something right. Now I’m not saying that if you don’t use this method that your baby will grow up to be a picky eater or will never become president. As always, I’m just sharing what’s worked for us.
Getting Started: The Basics
- Your baby must be 6 + months, able to hold up their head on their own, sit upright in a highchair on their own, developmentally healthy, and ready for solid foods (at you or your pediatrician’s discretion).
- You must start by using the BLW method. Meaning: you can’t start by spoon-feeding cereal and then work your way up to baby feeding themselves. You START with baby feeding themselves.
- Start by offering one type of food, once a day. Remember that breastmilk or formula is the most important source of nutrition for your baby at this point and that solids are just a fun learning experience.
- Trust your baby to know how to eat. Put the food in front of them and let them explore, touch, smush, play. Doesn’t matter if they don’t even take a bite the first few tries. Just know that they’ll figure it out and resist trying to feed them the food. It just defeats the whole purpose.
- If you have concerns, I suggest reading Gill Rapley’s book. She pretty much modernized the concept of BLW. You go Gill Rapley. If you have concerns about allergies, then definitely discuss that with your pediatrician.
Getting Started: The Benefits
- When babies are spoon-fed purees they learn to swallow first and then chew later. With BLW, baby learns to chew and then swallow. Seems like a natural progression, right?
- Instead of you deciding when your baby is hungry and when they’ve had enough, they decide. 6 months after starting this method, Harper controls when she eats and how much. Since I’ve never force-fed her (here comes the airplane, just one more bite) she knows when she’s hungry and when she’s done. She enjoys interacting with her food and feeding herself. Mealtime is the most exciting time of her day. Girl just loves to eat.
- By using this method, you could be setting your baby up with healthy eating habits for life. A baby who is in control of their eating habits (think: breastfeeding on demand) can develop a healthy relationship with food which means it’s less likely that they’ll overeat or refuse new foods later on.
- While there are clearly long-term benefits, how about the right here and now? People always talk about sleeping when the baby sleeps. Well how about eating when the baby eats? When Harper was 7 months old we would all sit down for meals and she would merrily feed herself while Eric and I also (merrily) fed ourselves.
- No time spent making baby food. MIC DROP.
Getting Started: The Foods
- What to try first: Who doesn’t love avocados? They make an excellent first food. They’re packed with nutrition and flavor, and perfect for little fingers to smush. And plus, avocados! We’re one step closer to guac.
- We started with one food at a time for 4 days and then tried a new food. This was a combo of me being a first time mom/Jewish/generally nervous person. With a second baby I’d probably do things differently and introduce more foods without waiting.
- Besides smashed avocado and banana, your baby should be able to hold the food in their little hand. On some BLW sites this is referred to as fist-sized.
- Choose foods that are in season. Harper was ready for solids in the late fall so some of her first foods were apples, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash (which she didn’t enjoy steamed, but loved roasted). Some ideas for spring and summer: strawberries, melon, steamed/roasted asparagus, or zucchini sticks. Of course there are a ton of other seasonal fruits and veggies that lend themselves to BLW, but we’ll discuss those in the next post.
- Don’t feel like you need to go big or go home. Baby’s first BLW experience doesn’t need to be a chicken drumstick (as some sites suggest). Don’t get crazy, just give them something simple and let them explore.
For some BLW breakfast ideas, click here.
(this chart is from Tyler Florence’s baby cookbook which I’ll be reviewing on the blog soon!)
General Disclaimer: Just know that when it comes to baby-led weaning some people just don’t get it. I mean, can you blame them? The image of a baby being spoon-fed in a highchair is pretty much ubiquitous. So the idea of a baby feeding themselves right off the bat? I guess society as a whole just isn’t ready for that yet. But keep at it. We can make fetch happen.
After your baby has mastered holding food in their little fist, it’ll be time to move on to finger foods and food combos, which we’ll talk about next week. Don’t you just love talking about food? Me, too!
Don’t Forget to Pin It For Later!
Actual Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Although that would have certainly paid the bills better than teaching. But seriously, I am just a real mom sharing real experiences. If you have questions or concerns, always check with your baby’s pediatrician.
Note: this post contains affiliate links for your convenience.
Do you have a BLW success story to share? What was your experience? I’d love to hear about it.