Inside: your most common questions about baby-led weaning, answered! Wondering when to start solids? What first foods to try? You’re not alone. Today we are tackling these topics and more in our extensive Q & A.
Almost three years ago, right before my first child was about to be 6 months old, I was scrolling through Pinterest reading everything I could find about starting solids. I happened to come across the term “baby-led weaning“, and to be completely honest, I had never heard of it before.
I clicked to read more and what I read that night changed my entire perspective on baby feeding. I had always envisioned myself spoon-feeding my babies. I had never before considered the possibility that they could feed themselves.
At the time, I never could have imagined that this topic would become so popular and draw so many moms to this site in search of answers. I frequently receive emails and comments from real moms just like me and you who have questions about how to use the baby-led weaning method.
It was all of these questions that made me realize, while there is a lot of information out there on the internet, not all information is created equal. Even with Pinterest, Facebook groups, and the rabbit hole that is Google, it can be downright overwhelming to find the exact tips and advice you’re looking for.
It should be noted that I am not a pediatrician or any sort of medical professional. Just the mom of two little girls, 3 and 1. This Q & A session is based on my experiences with both kids. Also, just for fun, I used baby photos of both girls – I know, they look a lot alike – see if you can spot who’s who!
But before we get to the questions and their answers, I’d like to offer you some peace of mind…
Regardless of what method you’ve started using or where you are in your parenting journey, it’s important to remember this: spoon-fed or self-fed, breastfed or bottle-fed, co-sleeping or cry-it-out, etc. —> ‘if it works, it’s right‘ (thank you to my sister-in-law for that incredible piece of wisdom when I was a new mom).
If you’re here because you’re looking for answers about using the baby-led weaning method, then you’re in the right place. This is a judgement-free zone. We are in this mom-thing together. Dark undereye circles, unite!
And now for a truth bomb…
My second child was 6 months old and we were starting Baby-Led Weaning Round 2. As I knelt down under the kitchen table scrubbing yogurt off of the breakfast bench, I thought to myself, no one prepares you for how unbelievably messy baby-led weaning is.
For whatever reason, It didn’t hit me the first time around. Perhaps because I didn’t have a toddler to clean up after as well. This may seem like something so trivial, but cleaning up after your baby feeds themselves 2-3 times a day is no joke. Especially if your baby, like mine, likes to put their hands in their hair while they eat (or suddenly realizes they’re tired and decides to rub their eyes).
It’s true, the mess can be downright overwhelming. When you’re not in control of putting the food in your baby’s mouth, it mostly ends up, well, everywhere.
That being said, I still believe it’s totally worth it.
More Baby-Led Weaning Resources
Most Commonly Asked Questions About Baby-Led Weaning
The inspiration for this Q & A-style post came from a question I received from a reader. In her email, she asked:
“Is it true that I have to eat every time my baby eats so she can ‘learn’ BLW?”
The answer is, yes and no.
Here’s why: Babies mimic our behavior. Everything from our facial expressions to our demeanor. So when you eat in front of your baby, you are actually teaching her what to do with food.
You may notice how your baby opens her mouth or puts her lips together when she watches you eat. Not only is that a sign that she wants to eat as well, she’s also learning how to chew, by watching you chew!
Now of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to sit down and eat every single time your baby eats, but in the beginning stages of baby-led weaning, it’s never a bad idea to sit down and eat alongside your baby.
After we were a month or two in with each kid, often I would strap them into the booster seat, give them some food, and empty the dishwasher or prep dinner (always where I could see them eating the whole time).
Just a tip from one mom to another: if your baby is in the middle of eating and your toddler has to pee (or you have to pee) or something happens where you need to leave the kitchen, just take whatever food is in their hand and remove the high chair tray or ezpz from the table. They may be upset for a minute, but once you give them their food back, they’ll forget all about it.
Your Baby-Led Weaning Questions –> And their Answers!
Q: At what age can I start BLW?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies start solids anywhere between 6 and 8 months. Baby-Led Weaning is no different. A baby needs to be at least 6 months of age, able to sit up on their own (without assistance), and developmentally ready for solids.
Q: Does my baby need to have teeth?
A: Good news! Your baby does not need teeth in order to do BLW. Babies gums are very strong and they are able to actually “chew” food with their gums. Of course, you still need to be smart about what foods you give them, but you don’t need to wait until they have teeth in order start BLW.
Q: Can I just feed my baby exactly what we’re eating?
A: I think this is a personal preference. For both of my kids, we didn’t feed them “exactly” what we were eating until about 7-8 months.
That first month we let them explore and self-feed with different textures of individual foods (mashed avocado, mashed banana, steamed/roasted fruits and veggies) before offering them food from the family table.
While I wholeheartedly believe in the BLW method I also worry just like any other mom – about allergies, choking, salt, sugar, etc. So my “fix” for this worry was to allow both babies to self-feed but with simpler foods.
Q: Are there any foods my baby shouldn’t eat?
A: YES! In fact, there are many foods a baby cannot eat. Remember that if you are feeding your baby “table food” they cannot have anything prepared with cow’s milk (such as mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, etc. – anything where you’re adding cow’s milk).
Additionally, babies under 1 cannot have honey. For a full list of what foods babies under 1 can and cannot eat, I advise you to ask your pediatrician and check informational websites such as BabyCenter.
Q: Does baby-led weaning mean that my baby has to eat with his hands, or can he use utensils?
A: We did a combo of both. I let both babies eat with their hands and also provided them with soft-tip spoons. I don’t see any reason why a baby should only eat with their hands. Learning to manipulate a spoon is excellent fine-motor practice.
Q: What if I started with purees already?
A: I actually get this question a lot. In fact, it’s probably the most often asked question on this site. So here’s the thing, baby-led weaning is all about the “baby-led” factor; that a baby learns how to eat by feeding themselves.
While the traditional progression of starting a baby on solids usually means beginning with purees and working up to finger foods, baby-led weaning starts exclusively with “stick shape” foods that are easy for baby to feed themselves and skips purees altogether.
However, if you’ve already started purees before 6 months, wait until at least 6 months old (and baby sitting up unassisted) and then try something simple like mashed avocado. I personally don’t think the whole idea is out the window and ultimately, the most important thing is that you do what makes you feel comfortable.
And it’s important to remember that there’s no BLW police! Anyone who tries to make you feel badly about your parenting choices can feel free to get off their high horse at any time.
Q: Can I do both (BLW and purees) at the same time?
A: You can do whatever you want! There are no hard and fast rules (except being at the right age and right stage of development).
If you’d like to let your baby self-feed but would also like to feed them purees, I say go for it. But pay close attention to your baby’s signals for when they are full or have become disinterested in eating. Never force-feed foods, but do reintroduce foods that baby didn’t like the first time.
If the baby-led factor is important to you, then start with self-feeding at meal times, and end with some spoon-fed purees.
Q: When can my baby move from “stick shape” to finger foods?
A: When your baby is able to pick up food between their thumb and forefinger, also known as a pincer grasp, then they can eat finger foods such as puffs, blueberries, beans, peas, etc. Until then, you can still feed them food such as blueberries, but I would recommend just squishing them with your finger first.
Q: How many meals a day should my baby eat?
A: I think this is also a personal preference and depends largely on your family’s routine. However, it’s important to remember that breastmilk or formula is the most important source of nutrition for babies and that learning to eat solids is just that “learning to eat.”
At first we started out with just breakfast (which is a good idea if you have a gassy baby!). The last thing you want is your baby up all night because they tried a new food that didn’t agree with them.
After doing just breakfast for the first few weeks, we moved on to lunch and dinner because both babies began to show interest in eating with the rest of the family at each mealtime.
Q: What if my baby doesn’t eat the food?
A: If your baby can’t seem to figure out “how” to eat the food, just give them some space. Babies naturally put everything in their mouths, they’ll get there eventually.
Favorite Baby-Led Weaning Recipes
Q: My baby was doing fine with foods like mashed avocado, but now is gagging on “stick shape” foods like steamed sweet potato sticks.
A: My best advice: there’s no rush! If your baby is having trouble with bigger pieces of food, try going back to mashed up foods, yogurt, or even try teeny-tiny diced up banana or avocado – I’m talking like really tiny pieces. They won’t be able to pick them up with a pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger), but they’ll probably be able to grab up the pieces in their little fist.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to baby-led weaning – this is of course just my opinion and based on my own experiences with what I know worked for both of my kids.
Q: My baby seems to gag on any food I give her, mashed or stick shape!
A: A little bit of gagging is very normal. Even babies who are spoon-fed super-smooth purees will gag. It’s a natural reflex. It means your baby is trying to figure out how to manipulate the food in their mouth. That being said, there is a distinct difference between gagging and choking.
I receive a lot of questions from moms who are worried about choking, and rightfully so! That’s why I started both kids on mashed up foods they could feed themselves, in appropriate-sized portions (that way they couldn’t fill their mouth with a ton of food).
If you have additional questions about choking, I suggest talking to your pediatrician or taking an infant CPR class.
Do you have more questions about baby-led weaning?
It was all of these questions about baby-led weaning that got me thinking. There are so many things I wish I knew when I got started a few years ago with my first baby – and things I’ve learned along the way with baby number two.
I wanted a way to be able to share everything I’ve learned, all of my best tips and advice, recipes and baby-led weaning meal ideas all in one place.
So after many, many late nights, I finally finished Everyday Baby-Led Weaning, a realistic guide for the everyday mom. This is the information I wish I had the first time around. Whether you’re just getting started, or already on your baby-led weaning journey, I’m sharing essential tips for everyone in this comprehensive guide.
Grab your copy, here!