Baby Led Wean {How To}

When you have a child who is reaching the milestone of staring the first solid foods, you naturally have visions of you sitting there, spooning out pears or rice cereal with a tiny spoon and shoving it into your little one’s opened mouth.  But, for a child over 6 months (the minimum age to introduce solid foods), purred foods are not necessary!  Purred foods have become the norm in society.  Why?  Because that’s how babies have been fed from generation to generation.

Throughout history and up until a few generations ago, it was generally recommended that babies who were not breastfed and couldn’t tolerate cow’s milk should begin to receive cereal and purred foods early as the first month after birth.  Since the babies were so young, the food and to be pureed in order to be swallowed since their tongue thrust reflex was so strong.

There is a natural alternative to purred foods.  It is called Baby Led Weaning (BLW). What is BLW?  Simply, it is skipping thin, runny purees and not feeding your child with a spoon.  It means offering your baby child-appropriate foods that are soft cooked and cut or mashed to manageable pieces.  You prepare the foods and your child does the rest.  Your child is in control of what they eat and how much.  It teaches your child to stop when they are full, and allows them to be more adventurous with flavors and textures.  It also helps them develop their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and chewing.  BLW allows for natural, developmentally appropriate interaction to play with food, which has the potential to develop a lifelong curiosity with food.

Prerequisites for BLW

Your child needs to be at least 6 months old.  Some babies are not ready to eat at that time, but will be ready at 7-9 months.

  • They should be able to sit up unassisted.
  • They should have lost the tongue thrust reflex.
  • They should be able to grasp and hold onto foods.

There is not much you need to purchase for your child to BLW.  All you really need is a high chair and a bib.  I, personally, love a silicone bib with pockets to catch the runaway food pieces and save the clothes from becoming dirty.  Just prepare healthy foods (even what you are eating!)  and let your baby at it!

Food Suggestions

  • Avocado
  • Strips of chicken, beef, pork
  • Steamed vegetables (like broccoli florets, carrot spears, zucchini, peas)
  • Softened fruits (like apples, pears, peaches)
  • Sticks of firm cheese (cheddar)
  • As long as it’s healthy, safe, and not full of sodium (try not to give your child any salt), you can try to give it to your baby.

Make sure you are actively watching your baby while they eat.  It is also important to know the difference between gagging and choking.  Babies have a much more sensitive gag reflex than adults.  Gagging is a good thing as it teaches babies how to keep the foods away form the back of their mouth.

When you first start BLW, be patient.  Your baby, at first, may play with the foods. Your baby may not even eat anything during the first time!  As you know, babies have a natural way of learning by touching and putting things in their mouth.  When your child plays with their food, the food will end up in their mouth eventually.  Keep in mind, food before they’re one is just for fun.  It is also important for parents not to decrease the volume of milk feeds until around one year of age or until the baby is taking in enough solid foods to support weight-gain.

I did BLW with Lemon.  She did amazing!  She loved eating!  There were times she ate as much as me!  She loved her fruits and vegetables, and especially saucy foods.  She was so adventurous in her eating!  But, when she turned two, she became a picky eater and that hasn’t changed.  Of course, this is a phase and I’m not concerned.  It just amazes me that a baby can go from such an adventurous eater to a picky eater that only eats carbs, warm-colored fruits and veggies, and chicken.  That’s it.  HA!  Jokes on me!

Anyway, keep these top 10 baby led weaning tips:

  1. Food is fun until they’re 1!
  2. It’s a good idea to buy messy floor mats to protect your floor
  3. Use a high chair
  4. Use a silicone bib
  5. Embrace the mess
  6. Offer a variety of healthy foods
  7. Eat with your baby
  8. Stick to finger foods for awhile
  9. If they gag on food, wait 10 seconds!
  10. Expect waste

Is BLW the right thing for you and your child?  Only you and your baby can answer that.  Give it a try!

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