Inside: Find out how to get started with baby-led weaning. This method of “weaning” allows baby to feed themselves right from the very beginning!
Related: Don’t miss these easy self-feeding food ideas for baby-led weaning.
Is your baby ready to start solids? Are you wondering how to use the baby-led weaning method?
Mama, you’re in the right place. (P.S. This is also a judgement-free zone)
So here’s the long and short of it: baby-led weaning pretty much boils down to this —> 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.
Why Baby Led Weaning?
By using this method and allowing baby to self-feed, they may be more interested in trying new foods since they are in control of their feeding.
When I take my girls to the grocery store and both of them are pretty much lunging from the cart toward the fresh fruits and veggies, you kinda 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. There’s a reason self-feeding has become so popular over the last few years. More parents are realizing that you can skip spoon-feeding altogether!
Read on to find out how you can get started with baby-led weaning.
Easy Baby-Led Weaning Recipes
How to Get Started with Baby-Led Weaning
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 start by using the BLW method. Meaning: you don’t start by spoon-feeding cereal (which is the traditional approach) 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 – Meaning that you should never “replace” a nursing session for solid food. Breastmilk (or formula) comes first. Food comes second, until at least 1 year of age.
- 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 additional questions or want more info, I’m sharing my best tips, recipes, meal ideas, brand recommendations and more, here.
*Many moms have emailed and commented wondering what to do if they’ve already started with purees or baby cereal. Please remember that this is mom-to-mom advice from me to you. I am not a pediatrician. My best advice is this: THERE IS NO BLW POLICE! Anyone who makes you feel badly about the method by which you feed your child is no mom-friend of yours. That being said, if you started baby cereal prior to 6 months of age, you’ll need to wait until baby is at least 6 months and able to sit up unassisted before trying out any form of self-feeding.
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, our girl 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 my first daughter was 7 months old we would all sit down for meals and she would merrily feed herself while my husband and I also (merrily) fed ourselves.
- No time spent making baby food. MIC DROP.
- Did I mention baby eats what you eat? Yes and yes.
Getting Started: First 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/generally nervous person. With my second baby I introduced new 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 or handheld, stick-shape food.
- Don’t feel like you need to go big or go home. Baby’s first BLW experience does not need to be a chicken drumstick (as some sites suggest). Don’t get crazy, just give them something simple and let them explore.
- Choose foods that are in season. Both of my kids were ready for solids in the late fall so some of their first foods were apples, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash (which they didn’t enjoy steamed, but loved roasted). Some ideas for spring and summer: smashed berries, melon sticks, steamed/roasted asparagus, or roasted 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.
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.
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 Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. I only recommend products that I love and use myself!
My son is 5 1/2 months old. I started him on organic oat cereal (fed with spoon) two weeks ago. Is the whole idea of baby led weaning out the door now that I have him eating off of a spoon?
Hey Gin, good question! I think you’ve started early enough that you’d still be able to do baby-led weaning successfully. Most sites recommend waiting until 6 months to start using the BLW method anyways. I think it would be much more difficult if you had been spoonfeeding until, let’s say, 7 months, and then decided to switch methods. I’d say give it a try with some soft foods like avocado or banana. Let me know how it goes – good luck! 🙂
I can’t say for sure when we started solids with my first, probably around 4 months, before that my dd was ebf on demand. She never liked cereal. I pureed food and did store food until 6 months and had no problem with blw, if I remember correctly we did both finger food and spoon ffeeding until probably 8 months. My dd has no problem eating now with a spoon and fork at 20 months
That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing, Emily!
Can you do both at the same time?
Hey, Stefanie. I guess technically you can do whatever you want! The idea with BLW is to let them feed themselves from the start without being spoonfed. But I would definitely say just to do whatever you’re comfortable with. Every baby is different so you could test out different methods and see what works best! Hope this helps 🙂
Our Little Nest says
Just wanted to say that I LOVE your style of writing… I was giggling to myself the whole time as I read this post. 🙂 You’re just awesome.
Thank you so much and thanks for commenting! That truly means so much to me! 🙂
Hi Marla, I am loving all your articles! BUT i just read. Once you start with spoon you can’t go to BLW??? ? is that right? My baby start eating fruits at 4 months (my body stopped producing milk, and I didn’t wanted him to be feed only with powders…) do you really think now that he is 6 months old, is too late to try BLW??
Hey Sofia, so glad to hear you’re enjoying the site! Sorry for the confusion, you can definitely go from spoon-feeding to self-feeding at 6 months – However, if you began with spoon-feeding, it’s not technically following the baby-led weaning method (because the premise behind BLW is baby learning to eat by feeding themselves between 6-8 months). But that doesn’t mean your 6 month old can’t try BLW-type foods! You have to do what works for you and makes you comfortable! I hope that helps!
Hi! Our little guy is 5 months and has Trisomy 21( Down syndrome) and is having open heart surgery in 3 days. Our Occupational therapist has experience with BLW. She said it’s okay to start him on spoon feeding and then go to BLW. She says it won’t lead to confusion. Now I plan on waiting until 8-10 months to start either. Because with surgery he will be behind sitting up unassisted. What are your thoughts about waiting til then?
Hey Bridget! In general the window for starting baby-led weaning is actually 6-8 months. So you wouldn’t be starting too far behind! I’m not a professional, but in my opinion/experience with BLW, I would definitely wait until he can sit up on his own before having him self-feed. Hope this is helpful and I hope everything goes well with his surgery.
Hello! Great article! I’m curious what you use the mesh feeders for.
Hey, Heather! I used them for small, mushy fruits such as raspberries and blackberries. I find these work well if you are nervous about giving baby whole berries. It also helped my baby with teething when I used frozen fruit inside of the mesh feeders!
Awesome!! Thanks so much for the advice
Great article! I am starting BLW with our daughter. With a busy toddler, I don’t have any time to make purées. Just a question, what size do you cut the bananas and acacodos for a 6 mon old?
Thank you, Jane! I can totally understand that! When my girls were 6 months old, I actually just lightly mashed the banana or avocado on the high chair tray and let them play and eat it. After that I moved on to cutting the banana in half, cross-wise, and either cutting the avocado in chunks or thick slices.