Our Adventure with Baby Led Weaning

or perhaps it should be called Hailey’s adventure into real foods, because it certainly has been a fun journey to watch her taste and explore foods for the first time, but let’s start with the basics.

H's first food

I first heard about baby led weaning (or baby led solids) when I was pregnant. BLW is a method of introducing solids that is based on the idea that babies should explore food. Texture, smell, taste and color intrigue the baby and the baby is free to play with their food and taste and eat it at their own pace, as opposed to the traditional spoon-fed method.

It’s recommended to wait until 6 months to try solids in this fashion because by then the baby’s digestive system is mature enough to handle food and the baby is able to sit up properly. So, I waited until Hailey was 6 months old and showed clear signs of being ready (obvious grabbing for our food and imitating our biting and chewing), then I asked the pediatrician. She wasn’t familiar with the method, but after I explained it, she gave me the go-ahead and assured me there was no medical reason that we needed to use rice cereal or oatmeal, so with her blessing, I skipped those in favor of unprocessed whole foods. I was mostly concerned about iron, but was assured that the baby’s iron stores and the iron in breast milk is more than sufficient until we get into iron rich foods (note, if your baby was premature or low birth weight, make sure to consult with your pediatrician about what would be best for your baby because they might require more iron)

I did read the Baby Led Weaning book (mostly) and found it just OK. I felt like it was more so selling me on the idea than informing me on how to do it. I’ve heard the Baby Led Weaning cookbook is better and plan to check it out. Finally, I decided I’d read enough and it was just time to eat food already!

H sweet potato before 2

Do what? Eat it? Well, OK…

H sweet potato before

Haha.

I decided sweet potato would be Hailey’s first food, so I washed, peeled and roasted long sticks of sweet potato. The pieces you give the baby are supposed to be at least 2 inches long because at this age they grab food with their whole hand, and the piece needs to be long enough to have part of it sticking out for them to taste.

IMG_4932

I let the pieces cool completely while I brushed up on my first aid skills (I was a bit scared about choking) and David and I got her set up in the highchair. Then it was game time. I set 3 sweet potato pieces in front of her and gave one to David.

baby led solids demonstrating sweet potato

I wanted to make sure we demonstrated what to do (which I’ve found is very effective!). She examined the pieces and it didn’t take long until they made their way to her mouth.

H first food

She gummed it a little and then pulled it out, as if to say WhAAAt is this??

baby led solids unsure

But then the pieces kept going back in.

baby led solids sweet potato

I was so nervous about choking, but she was really careful and for the most part, couldn’t bite pieces off. She just sucked the soft inside out. It was so much fun to watch her explore that we decided to give her avocado, too.

hailey tried avocado

Though it was a bit tougher to hold (I’ve heard you can coat it in crushed cheerios to make it easier to hold, but I wasn’t up for that), she liked it! However, she did bite one big chunk off. I looked at David panicked and ready to swoop in and flip her upside down, but he told me to wait. We watched as Hailey made some funny faces, gagged (NOT choked) and spit the piece out. She then reached out for more.

One important thing I learned is that at 6 months, the baby’s gag reflex is located much further forward on the tongue, where as in an adult mouth, it’s in the back of the throat. This is nature’s way of protecting from choking, and because of that, the baby will gag sometimes as he/she learns to maneuver the correctly sized bites around in his/her mouth. BLW claims this is another plus to this method of introducing solids because the baby learns how to chew food from the get-go, rather than sucking down purees and having to learn how to chew later on when the gag reflex has moved further back in the mouth

baby led solids carrot

Hailey only gagged once or twice before she seemed to understand how to spit out bites that were too big, and since then, she’s loved learning about food! She’s eaten sweet potatoes, avocado, carrots, a green bean and bananas, but her favorite so far? Broccoli!

baby led solids broccoli

I steam it until tender, let it cool and she loves it!

hailey loved broccoli

One factor that I can’t deny about BLW, though, is that is is messy! I’m talking broccoli in the hair, smushed avocado in the seat, needs a full wipe down after kind of messy.

baby led solids messy

It helps if you have a willing participant to help clean up. Luckily, we do.

koda helps clean up

Another benefit I really liked about baby led weaning is that it helps develop baby’s hand eye coordination. I thought it may be a stretch, but I’ve found it fascinating to watch Hailey scoot a piece of food around until she’s able to grasp it and bring it to her mouth.

baby led solids avocado

Another benefit? She eats what we eat! I make sure it’s modified to fit her needs (soft, long pieces with no spices), and we can all eat together. And if we’re out? She can eat off our plate- no spooning her food! (I’d be lying if I said pure laziness wasn’t a motivation of mine to try BLW).

H first food with mom

She now eats food 2 times a day. I make sure she sits down when she isn’t hungry, usually about 1 hour after nursing. It may sound counter-intuitive, but at this stage, babies don’t understand that food will fill them up, and if they are hungry or tired, they will be frustrated and not enjoy the experience.

But is she actually eating anything? At first I would have told you I’m not sure, but now I am 100% positive that she’s eating. The proof is in the diaper. I’ll spare you that picture Winking smile

So far, I love baby led solids. I swore that if it didn’t work for us, I’d be the first one to grab the spoon and puree, but so far, it’s working out really well. As with everything, every baby is different and it’s important you consult with your pediatrician and find what works best for your baby.

For more experiences in baby led weaning, check out this post by Young House Love or this post by Oh Apostrophe.

Now, time to eat up!

 

Any questions?

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Comments

  1. Sherry says

    Loved seeing the You Tube video with Hailey and her broccoli–cute as can be. And the whole sweet potato was funny. Can’t wait to participate in person.

  2. says

    This is really neat! I knew nothing about the differences in introducing solids/food to babies. Everything you said makes sense though. Glad it’s going well for you guys!

  3. Kathy says

    Very Interesting! I had never heard of this but I think it is a wonderful idea. sounds like it is the perfect way for Hailey! Good job mom…and dad too!

  4. says

    Wow, this is the first time I’ve heard of BLW. Of course I knew people did everything when it came to feeding a baby. Our 10 month old eats just about everything we eat, and I don’t do anything different (other than no hot spices), just break it up and put it on his tray for him to eat. Because he’s our second it was easier for me to start him on table food. And really it started mainly because a friend of mine was giving her, then 9 month old, son a quesadilla, and I thought, hmm…maybe mine is ready for that. He was. And I stopped making baby food and using rice cereal all together since then. I do give him oatmeal on sunday mornings since that’s what we usually eat, but other than that I don’t feed him. Yes it’s messy, but it’s way easier on me. Thanks for sharing this. If we have another baby I may try BLW.

    -Melissa G.

    (I’m gonna check out those sites right now!)

  5. says

    Awesome post! Adorable photos! Thank you so much for sharing this information- it is so helpful as my baby is 6 months on Friday! Have you found that Hailey is nursing less?

    • says

      She is still nursing 5 times a day. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t seem like introducing solids will decrease the frequency of milk feedings. I’m ok with that because I don’t worry as much about whether or not the food gets to her tummy :)

  6. says

    She’s so adorable! And I love the BLW concept, I want to try this so badly. Right now C acts disatisfied with just BM so we started purées for now but when he hits 6 months I’ll be doing BLW so this is a great post for me to refer to! Thanks lady :)

  7. Angie says

    I will definitely be looking into the BLW method. I still have 6 months left but I try to eat whole, unprocessed food and I want to do the same with my baby. I love reading about your parenting experiences. Hailey is adorable.

  8. says

    Thanks for swinging my my blog yesterday, and talk about perfect timing- I’m really interested in BLW for Emersyn (obviously not for awhile haha) and I loved getting another mama’s perspective!

  9. Lauren B. says

    Thanks again for another great and informative post! I always assumed that baby purée was the only way to go at first, but this post alone has convinced me to give BLW a try first! And it is so darn cute watching her play and eat and figure it all out.

  10. Jen says

    My daughter is just a week or so older than Hailey…I wish I could get over my fear of her choking and try BLW. Everything you say about gagging sounds rational when I read it, but I know I’d freak out at the first sign of it. I’m usually a laid back mom, but not when it comes to choking (I still cut grapes for my 5 year old!) So we’re sticking to purees for now…but I’m looking forward to seeiing Hailey’s adventures in eating :)

    • says

      I totally understand. The choking fear is definitely the scariest part. I still sit and stare at her when she eats so I can be ready just in case! :)

  11. Heather says

    She is so precious. And as usual informative. I will definitely be referencing all of these different methods you use when I have children of my own.

  12. Annie says

    Interesting read, being that I know zero about BLW! (I hope you post more about this topic)

    Of course it helps that your model is absolutely smoochalicious adorable. ;-)

  13. says

    Such a cutie! I really wanted to try BLW but our ped is encouraging us to start W on solids earlier than 6 mos for reflux. Maybe we can spood feed then switch at 6 mos? I wonder if that’s an option or will just frustrate him.

    • Jen says

      Hey Jen–I am thinking of doing the same thing for us–we already started Maya on purees and baby rice cereal around 5 1/2 mos, but I’d like to move on to soft finger foods, now that she has the hang of it. She just stares and drools when my husband and I eat, so I have given her a baby carrot to suck on while I dig my nails into the other end so it doesn’t go down her throat, and her eyes juts light up! I may try steaming some carrots, or sticks of sweet potatoes, or cut up some banana chunks, and see how it goes…

  14. Jen says

    So cute! I started Maya with homemade puréed, because I am too nervous about choking. Now that she is used to it, I may try soft finger foods, like bananas or steamed sweet potatoes. Just out of curiosity, if she has no teeth, how does she get th broccoli into small enough pieces to swallow? How does she “chew”?

    Jen

    • says

      She definitely gums most stuff and I make the pieces soft so she can gum through it is she wants. The broccoli is hilarious because she loves sucking on the “tree” part, and surprisingly lots of pieces go down (as evident by the diaper ;))

  15. Tara says

    Love this post! I’m going to share it with my family which keeps suggesting I get on the rice cereal with our 5 month old but I’m waiting for BLW. It is so exciting to see her loving the broccoli! I can’t wait until 6 months to do the same.

  16. ErikaMC says

    I have debating between purees and BLW. This past summer I pureed and frozen a bunch of stuff from our garden so I feel like I should use that up first – as soon as it is gone though I want to try the BLW. My doctor didn’t think there was anything wrong with it either. Our baby is 7 months and has only had breastmilk so far. He is just now starting to act like he is interested in food so I think it’s time to start!

  17. says

    i love love love learning about BLW! I am a speech-pathologist and i work a lot with feeding/swallowing in peds and adults, so i find this very interesting! at first i was skeptical because of the choking risk, but i definitely agree that starting with only pureeds and then later going to soft solids can be a problem. i can’t wait to learn more!

  18. says

    Ahhh thank you for the food for thought (I couldn’t resist, sorry!).

    I was all ready to steam and mash food in a few months but I really love this. I am definitely going to do some research to see if it’s a fit for my baby. My older son (8 years old) would have been a perfect fit for this method. Where were you 8 years ago?

  19. Rachael says

    Love baby-led weaning! My girl can make short work of an avocado, and her most recent (albeit extremely messy) venture has been into the world of hummus!

  20. Christi says

    I SO wish I knew about this when Anastyn was at this stage. I think this will help you tremendously when she gets older for having a more balanced diet. You cracked my up about your baby “heimlich maneuver” =)

  21. says

    I love this idea! We did purees and soft foods with our babies, which was okay, but I can still remember my daughter so badly wanting to have what we were having. It sounds like this method would allow for that at a much earlier stage.

    P.S. Hailey is super cute!

  22. says

    Good for you! I tried, I couldn’t get over the “gagging” versus “choking.” She just seemed to want to take giant bites of banana. I like the idea though, and a lot of the reasoning behind it has given me a good attitude when it comes to eating, even though I grabbed the purees and spoon :-). I do the BLW in pieces (steamed veggies, sweet potatoes), but I’m not giving her a bowl of spaghetti anytime soon.

  23. adesolaf says

    This is my first comment on your blog (YAY) being a quiet follower/reader for a while now.
    I found this post very interesting and coincidentally I read another blog where the blogger’s friend was getting raised eye brows from people for using baby led weaning. This is the post(http://www.tertia.org/so_close/2012/04/baby-led-weaning.html)
    So I pointed her to this post (which I read a few days before her post). She said it has made a huge difference and was very helpful and last I checked she got so many comments from people who also tried BLW

  24. Anjali says

    Hello dear…

    Great video..I have read the book of BLW although was a bit late to start .I started at 7 months but am always woried if my LO is getting enough or no as I see all other babies gulping purees to glory :)I can very well relate to the video…
    Would love to know more about your experience and recipes with BLW…
    Cheers
    Anji

  25. says

    I’m doing my baby led weaning research (starting with you of course) because in just over a month I will have a 6 month old! I am loving looking at these old photos of Hailey! What a cutie! I can’t wait to start solid foods, but simultaneously I am so so nervous! I am hoping BLW will work as well for us as it did you…and I can’t wait to start contributing to Munchkin Meals!
    Tanya @ Vegan Faith recently posted..SleeplessMy Profile

  26. says

    Hi there, my baby is almost 6 months old and I’m now thinking about both BLW and puree. It’s also a struggle to figure out which highchair to get. Which did you end up getting for your little girl? Many thanks.
    Gcroft recently posted..Black bean burgerMy Profile

  27. says

    I am so glad that you shared this post! We recently found BLW through a mommy group and it has changed our lives! My husband was NOT a believer at first and thought Brooklyn was always choking. Now he loves it just as much as our sweet girl does!

  28. Zoie says

    I am very interested in BLW. This is the first that I’ve heard of it. Did your daughter have any teeth when you started?

  29. says

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  30. Wendy says

    I just wanted to let you know that I REALLY enjoyed reading this blog post. My dd is 10 mo old now and I just learned about blw maybe a month ago; so needless to say, she’s been eating mostly pureed foods from a jar until recently. I was struggling with ideas of what I could feed her and how to prepare the foods. Thanks so much for all of your ideas and how to prepare the foods. Hailey is beautiful! I enjoyed all of the pictures too :)

  31. Katie says

    Loved reading this! Our daughter is 6.5mo old and started on purees at 5.5 months. She loved them at first but began to lose interest, she just wanted the spoon to play with…and was much more into the food we were eating. We just started BLW with whole wheat bagels lightly toasted, ripe pears, and steamed carrots. Loved it all! I will say we cleared away any sizable chunks she got off the pears…we need to get over that and see what she does with them. ahhh.

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