How Do I Start Baby Led Weaning?
I have gotten this question A LOT recently! “My baby is almost 6 months, and I want to do BLW. How do I start?”
I remember starting out (it wasn’t that long ago). And I remember not having a doggone clue. Here was my thought progression about baby led weaning:
- My like-minded friends are doing it, so I should do it, too.
- Oh, it just means I start whenever he wants to start. (How will I know that??)
- Oh, no, I start at 6 months, but I make his food (instead of buying baby food).
- Oh, wait… I start at 6 months, but he doesn’t eat puréed food. He just eats what I’m eating.
- So, I just, like, give him food off my plate?
First meal was mashed avocado plus breastmilk. From a spoon. *gasp* He didn’t actually get any food in his mouth for that first meal.
Then I started reading about what BLW actually was, and…
Second meal was a half of an avocado. NOT mashed. No spoon. Again, he didn’t eat anything, and he was a mess.
Third meal was a half of a banana and a half of an avocado. (Real creative, I know.)
And finally, I started figuring it out. And he had some eggs on that next day.
SO I want to share that insight and info with you so that you can skip over those first confusing days!
Important note: If you fed your baby purées, I don’t want you to feel left out or anything, and I’m certainly not judging! Feeding your baby is awesome, no matter how you do it. But I want to clarify something. The definition of “weaning” is to “accustom an infant to food other than its mother’s milk”. So if you have been offering purées for a while now, and your baby is actually eating solids, then he/she is weaned! If your baby has never had any solids, and you start with finger foods, then it’s called baby led weaning because no spoon feeding is involved. But the weaning process ends whenever the baby is finally eating foods. At that point, it’s just called “eating”! Example…. my baby started eating (was weaned) around 10 months. That’s when he started to just eat food on a regular basis.
My baby is almost 6 months, and I want to do baby led weaning. How do I start?
Remember, baby led weaning really is meant to be easy: you really do just give him what you’re eating. Let me paint a scene for you….
It’s a day. Your baby is 6 months old today. (Woohoo!) You head to your kitchen and look through the fridge. You decide to make some scrambled eggs while baby is on his play mat or in his jumparoo. You pop a flourless pancake in the oven and make a cup of tea. You fix a plate: scrambled eggs, a piece of fruit, and a flourless pancake with butter. As you sit down at the table, you realize, “Oh yea! Little version of me is 6 months today!” Here’s what you do: Put him in his high chair or booster seat (whatever you’ve got for eating… if you don’t have anything, he can sit in your lap! Just make sure he isn’t reclined). Put a small scoop of scrambled eggs on his food tray. Put a small strip of pancake on his tray. Put a slice of fruit on his tray. Put a giant bib on him because it will get very messy. And that’s it. Sit back and watch (because let’s be honest, at this point, you’re going to take pictures instead of eat your own breakfast. Today you will end up eating cold breakfast).
Here’s what you can expect:
- He will grab something on the tray. Chances are, he will use his whole fist, and it will disappear into his hand.
- He might get some food to his mouth. He will probably spit it right back out and make a very funny face.
- He might gag, especially if he’s never had any food (see my “important note” above!). Remember, gagging is normal. Adults gag, too! There’s a gag reflex that keeps food from going down before you want it too. A baby’s gag reflex is a little further forward than yours. If he isn’t ready to swallow something, it will hit that gag reflex and he’ll cough/gag and spit it out! It’s natural.
- It may take a little while for him to figure out his tongue. Since he probably doesn’t have teeth (or very few), he will use his tongue to push the food around. (From the outside, it looks a lot like chewing!) And there’s a reflex he has from birth where he automatically pushes things out of his mouth. It’s survival!
- He will make a mess. His shirt, bib, pants, hair… will be messy. Most of the food will be smeared somewhere or on the floor. Be prepared!
First meal DONE! Now, how often should I feed him?
It really will depend on your baby. At first, it may be hard for you to remember to feed him! You aren’t accustomed to setting up a tray of food. Give yourself a break. I would suggest offering a morning meal at first. To make it easier on you, just serve breakfast while you eat breakfast! (If you’re a working mom, and you’re gone for breakfast, I suggest checking out this post I wrote about daycare meals and snacks.)
Stick to one meal a day until you feel like you want to start offering new foods. Sometimes, you may try a new food or recipe I’ve shared (hint hint!) during the day, and you want to let your baby try it. So go for it! Down the road — maybe in 2 weeks, maybe in 2 months — you will step it up to two meals a day, and eventually three meals and snack time! It will come naturally at that point.
What sort of foods am I supposed to feed him?
Let’s be honest. We, as adults, should eat a well-balanced diet, filled with vegetables, fruit, healthy proteins, whole grains (or none, if you’re a clean eater!), and last is sweets and fats. So your baby should be eating a well-balanced diet too!
Vegetables and fruits should be a huge part of his diet. Protein is important too, and a small portion should be carbs (grains are often rough on small tummies, so it may be a good idea to hold off on them a little while). And save the (artificial) sweets for when he’s a bit older!
Here is MY recommendation, which is a loose guideline from a non-professional! I would offer at least the following, each day:
- 2 fruits
- 2 veggies
- 1 protein (egg, chicken, beef)
But, ultimately, just offer a little of what you’re eating. REMEMBER — and this is very important — you should avoid the following:
- excess salt (a baby under 1 year should have no more than 400 mg sodium a day)
- excess sugar (avoid refined sugars for as long as possible! It’s not really good for any of us, right?)
- whole nuts (you can give nut butters from 6 months and up, as long as there’s no history of family allergies… read this post I wrote about allergies a while back!)
- whole grapes or cherry tomatoes (cut them in half lengthwise, or even quarters, if you’re nervous)
- honey (in any form: baked or raw or on Honey Nut Cheerios) – wait until 1 year for this!
- hot dogs (because of the shape, these are also a choking hazard)
Hey, I have another question!
Okay, here are a handful of other questions I’ve gotten:
- What do I do with the food he doesn’t eat? It depends on YOU! You can just eat it yourself, if you don’t have a weak stomach like I do. You can save it for later. You can compost it or just throw it away. I throw things away if they’re all mushed or combined with other foods. I keep things that are basically untouched.
- How much of each food should I give him? That depends on your baby, too. But if you’re just starting out, give 1 big slice of each item. If something goes really well, you can always give him more.
- What shape of food should I offer? At the beginning, you should cut all the food into strips. A baby doesn’t develop the pincer grasp right away (that is where he can grab something between his thumb and index finger), so everything is just grabbed with his fist. If the food is too small, it will “disappear” into his closed fist. Make sure it’s long enough so that some of it will poke out of his fist!
- What temperature should the food be? Make it edible. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for him. And some things are just better cold (yogurt, am I right?).
- What about nursing/formula? Check out this post I wrote a while back about nursing and solids!