Baby led weaning is a great way to introduce solids into your little one’s food life. Check out these baby led weaning tips to see if your baby is ready and if so, you will learn what to do to start!
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Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or pediatrician. I am not trained in baby led weaning, however I did feed 4 babies myself and did baby led weaning with 3 of them.
What is baby led weaning?
Baby led weaning is essentially giving your baby solid foods while still offering the required amount of breastmilk or formula, to get them to learn how to handle sold foods when the time comes. Baby is allowed to explore and self feed instead of being spoon fed purees. Please remember that “food before 1 is just for fun,” and according to the CDC, baby’s main source of nutrition should be from breastmilk or formula. So any additional foods is for practice and fun.
Is baby led weaning right for us?
Baby led weaning is not the definite way to go. If you’re wondering if it’s right for you, you’ve come to the right place. If you are not okay with letting your baby gag and work out lodged food, you may not be okay with baby led weaning. It can be scary watching your baby gag but it’s important to understand the difference between gagging and choking. (See graphic below). If you are not okay with messes, you might want to skip bay led weaning! Babies do not have great hand eye coordination but baby led weaning really helps this skill! It’s going to get messy.
Benefits of baby led weaning
Baby led weaning has a lot of benefits! Lots of experts will say that it helps your children be less picky – I am not a good example of that because A, I don’t like the phrase “picky eater” and B, I think my kids are considered picky and we did baby led weaning with 3 of them.
Also, it’s so easy. Making purees for my first could be time consuming. Baby led weaning takes the guess work and physical work out of feeding your baby. It saves you time and saves you money because you’re not buying anything special for your baby. For my second kid, I didn’t even realize I was doing baby led weaning – I just thought I was being lazy!
You can also expose your baby to so many more foods with baby led weaning than if you were just doing purees. So if you’re a “foodie,” baby led weaning is the way to go!
Another benefit of baby led weaning is it prevents you from making multiple meals and you don’t have to bring baby food purees with you everywhere you go. You can feed baby right off of your plate at restaurants.
Baby is learning hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. They’re also learning how to be independent! There is a self regulation aspect with baby led weaning also because they can stop eating when they want or keep eating when they need it.
Being safe with baby led weaning
Always stay within arm’s reach of baby when starting BLW and watch their faces. Since choking is typically silent, it’s important to watch their faces while they’re learning to eat food. Cut food into long strips. Eat together. Avoid foods such as honey (before 1), peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs, grapes, candy, cow’s milk etc.
Signs your baby is ready for baby led weaning
- At least 6 months old
- Sitting up unassisted for longer periods of time
- Has strong (and full) head and neck control
- Baby does not automatically push solids out of his mouth
- Baby is ready for chewing
Once your baby has all the signs for baby led weaning, it’s time to get started!
Can you mix baby led weaning and purees?
Some people will tell you it’s not recommended because it can confuse your baby on how to eat/chew. I did mix the 2 because sometimes purees were easier and less messy. I never did it in the same bite though! I also still kept giving purees because I could freeze them for food for teething babies.
Baby led weaning tips
- According to the CDC, before the age of 1, baby’s main source of nutrition should be from breastmilk or formula. This is where the phrase “food before 1 is just for fun” comes from. Don’t stress if baby isn’t eating everything you’re giving them!
- Try to eat meals together. I know this can be difficult. I usually put my kids in their high chairs so I can have 10 minutes to clean or do a quick project. But the more they see you eating with them, the better it will be for everyone!
- Cut foods into long strips. This is so they can grasp onto them and still get some in their mouth!
- Avoid foods that are a choking hazard (as stated above): peanuts, whole grapes, hot dogs, popcorn, seeds, etc. Be smart! If you’re worried, don’t feed it until you talk to your pediatrician.
- Try to stay hands off! This is so hard for me. You have to let them learn for themselves.
- Feed them meals about 30 minutes to an hour after breastmilk or formula so they’re not starving but also not full. Again, their primary source of nutrition needs to be breastmilk or formula so that should always be offered first.
Must have products for BLW
- Naturebond silicone baby bibs: We love these! They come in a pack of 2 and come with a little zipper pouch. We have 3 sets – one for the car, one for the diaper bag and one for the kitchen.
- Reusable baby wipes: We switched to these when we started BLW with the twins because I was tired of using so many paper towels. I get the wipe wet, clean up, and toss it in the wet bag attached to my kitchen cabinet.
- Wet bag: This is where the dirty wipes go after I use them!
- Contigo straw cups: Both of my boys are in PT and their PT says the best sippy cup is a straw cup. These are amazing because they do not leak. Big hit in our house!
- Toddler fork and spoon: They won’t use them correctly but it’s all about exposure right now.
- Easy high chair: We love this high chair because it attaches right to the chair and doesn’t take up any extra space.
- Food pouches: Now, I know they say you shouldn’t mix BLW with purees, but sometimes when you’re on the go you need a quick snack. The real applesauce and yogurt pouches are so expensive – just make your own!
- Snack cup: We love these little snack cups. Little hands can fit right in and if they dump it upside down, the food doesn’t come out.
I hope these baby led weaning tips helped you feel better about making the decision to start baby led weaning! Grab the starter guide printable below for baby led weaning.