Introducing Solids The Baby Led Weaning Way

Before Sawyer was born I had planned--and looked forward to--making nutritious purees and spoon feeding Sawyer when he started wanting solid foods. I looked at lots of different books that had instructions for making different flavors of healthy baby food and I was getting mentally prepared for the day I could start making all these "fun" foods.

Then I was introduced to "baby led weaning" and everything changed.

What is baby led weaning (BLW)? 

It is the idea that you let your baby choose when to start eating foods and let them explore foods in their whole state, rather than pureeing them.

Why choose BLW over traditional baby food?

Learn to Chew

Babies need to learn how to chew; whether it is at 6 months or 10 months, they will eventually encounter the need to chew their foods before swallowing. Baby led weaning is the belief that babies should learn how to chew foods starting at the beginning.

Experience Real Food

BLW gives babies the chance to experience textures (that thing that puree is void of), which can be just as exciting and fun as different tastes.

Baby is in Control

In BLW the baby chooses what goes in his mouth and when he is done eating. No overfeeding and no forced feeding. Plus, babies are much more in tune to what their body needs. In my infant class I learned about a study where a researcher gave infants over 30 different foods to choose from, and the babies always chose the food that had the nutrient their body needed at that time. It was amazing! So it is good to give your baby choices and let them choose what to eat.

Simple and EASY

Oh, and did I mention it's much easier than making tons of purees? Yeah, you just give them some soft food and they learn to eat by themselves. So simple!

Which foods should I use?

Up until now your baby has been drinking breastmilk or formula. Breastmilk (and I'm assuming formula) is packed full of nutrients that your baby needs to grow and develop. During the first two years they are growing A LOT, it only makes sense that any food they eat should have lots of nutrients.
Unfortunately this isn't the case: Rice cereal seems to be the American standard for a first food. Why? Because it's bland. Not because it's nutrient dense, and definitely not because it is a lot like milk in composition. So reconsider feeding your baby rice cereal as a first food, it just doesn't make sense.
 Is rice cereal going to ruin your child's health for the rest of their lives? NO! But it is replacing food that could be giving your baby the nutrients it needs to grow healthy and strong.
Rice cereal has very little nutrients and takes up space in your baby's tummy that could be filled with nutrient-dense food!
So enough of my rant :) What should you feed your baby? Foods that pack a nutrient punch!

  • Boiled egg yolk from pastured hens (lots of fats for growing brains)
  • Steamed liver (lots of iron, still haven't tried this one)
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Banana
  • Assorted steamed, baked or fresh fruits and vegetables
Since your baby is extra sensitive to chemicals it is smart to buy organic, even if you don't buy it for yourself.
You can find a list of the "dirty dozen" here.
Once your baby is older you can start giving him food from your own plate, but I personally suggest waiting until they are closer to a year before introducing foods like nuts, dairy, and grains. 

How do I get started?

First, you want to make sure your baby is ready. He should:
  • Watch you eat and tries to grab your food
  • Be grown out of the tongue thrust reflex (tongue pushes food out of mouth)
  • Can pick up items and bring to mouth
  • Sit up in bumbo or high chair
Next, gather your tools.
  • Bumbo or easy-wash highchair like this.
  • Bib (the Baby Bjorn bib is AWESOME for baby led weaning!)
  • Baby Led Weaning Book (we found ours at the local library)
    or you can check out some of the website below for more ideas and information.

What should I expect?

  • Gagging (not choking). Sawyer gagged a lot when he was learning how to swallow, but it's ok. Just make sure you don't leave your baby unattended while they're eating.
  • Lots of play! Your baby will play with his food, and that's what he's supposed to do! Explore, play, enjoy. Eventually he will learn that he can eat it, but it may take a while (it took Sawyer a month before he started swallowing foods)
  • Lots of mess. Feeding babies is messy business, no matter what method you choose. So suck it up and let your baby have fun! We let Sawyer eat naked most of the time, and it makes for easy clean up :)

Baby Led Weaning from Jessica Smith on Vimeo.

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