Baby-Led Weaning: Real Food for Little Ones
Written by editor Nicole Bennett.
I can barely believe my littlest treasure is old enough to be eating any food other than mama's milk, but time sure does fly, especially with baby number three. Right before Christmas, when we found ourselves at the six-month milestone I decided it was time to start introducing solids.
This time around, I wanted to try something new in terms of baby food. I mainly fed my first baby, Gigi, homemade baby food. I was an avid student of the Super Baby Food book and thoroughly enjoyed it. When Brody came along, a generous friend brought us jars of organic baby food by the bagful, which was such a blessing. I continued to supplement that stash with homemade purées.
A friend had mentioned the term baby-led weaning to me a couple of years ago and after recently coming across the idea again, I decided that with baby number three, this method just might work out best for me. I've been gradually taking our family down the real food road so it just makes sense to me to dive right into real food with the baby.
Not to mention... what mom of a four-year old and a one-and-a-half-year old has time to sit down and feed the baby a whole jar of food anyways (let alone batch cook and puree?!)?
Today I'm here to tell you a bit about the philosophy and what the first couple of months of eating have been like for baby Hallee.
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
In its simplest terms, BLW is the process of beginning to feed baby solid (table) foods, as they are interested and able.
The philosophy and term come from the UK, and often in America the term baby-led solids is also used to mean the same thing. I note this because when I first mentioned it to my pediatrician he was concerned (I think by the term weaning) until I explained that I just meant table food instead of purees (of which he was quite supportive), rather than weaning her off mother's milk which I think is what the term often refers to.
I know people that have stumbled into BLW simply because their babies didn't like purées, along with those like me, who purposely took this route. Basically, it's a laid-back approach that is said to likely produce less picky toddlers, save you time and money, and is seemingly the most natural way to feed a baby.
I like that with BLW I am teaching my baby to put food in her mouth and chew it (or suck/gum it to start), rather than teaching her to swallow first, which is actually a little backwards if you think about it.
Rather than invent the wheel, I will simply share our experiences, and point you to some awesome resources down below.
Our Experience So Far
BLW has been super fun. I've been amazed at the dexterity Hallee has acquired in less than two months. While she started by simply grabbing a strip of food and sucking it out of her hand, she is already starting to be able to pick up small pieces with her fingers as she develops her pincer grasp.
Hallee's first food was a scrambled egg yolk. It took her a few days to figure out what she was supposed to do with it, but then she starting catching on like wildfire. Early on her favorite foods have been chicken, turkey and pears although she also really likes tomato, orange, carrots, peas, beans, olives, cheese, sweet/russet/red potatoes, and well, pretty much anything we give her. Another favorite "meal," which probably wins for biggest mess, too, is a rice cake (brown rice) with plain greek yogurt spread on it.
We won't be giving her honey until one year, but other than that, we are open to letting her try basically any simple, real foods (nothing processed or with refined sugars).
It's true that BLW is a bit messier. But honestly, my kitchen floor is a disaster after every meal thanks to my other kids so what's a few dirty bibs and onesies?
We do occasionally spoon-feed Hallee if it's something like mashed potatoes or applesauce. I just make sure to give her a second spoon so she can get used to handling one. I'll even put food on it and then give it to her and watch her try (and often succeed, but often times fling) to get something in her mouth.
I love watching her concentration and excitement-- from serious, focused eyes, to hands banging on the tray in anticipation for more!
- BabyLedWeaning.com~ a great source of information, and most importantly, forums! The forums are full of BLW moms you can chat with. Each month they open a new thread so you can specifically chat with other "starters" who are introducing food to their babies that month. Unfortunately, the site seems to be down right now, but I'm leaving it listed here in the hopes that it comes back online soon. The forum was a great encouragement when I started feeding Hallee in December.
- The book: Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods - and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater
- The authors of the book have also prepared a very concise, helpful pamphlet that you can read/download here. It addresses some safety suggestions/concerns such as the difference between gagging (okay) and choking (not okay, and not necessarily more likely with BLW).
- I also found a BLW Facebook group that might be a useful place for support/encouragement.
- Another great book that I highly recommend: Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods by Nina Planck
As with many parenting philosophies/options, I really feel this is a personal choice issue. Please keep this in mind as you comment. Have you tried BLW with your babies? I'd love to hear your experiences with it or if you plan to try it in the future, chime in and let us know.
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