If you have a little one and are wanting to give baby led weaning a try, but don’t know where to start we are sharing everything you need to know from baby led weaning first foods and other baby led weaning ideas to help you get started and set up for success.
Baby Led Weaning Ideas
Baby led weaning is an approach to feeding babies that involves babies learning how to feed themselves. Traditionally, when most parents think of starting their babies on solids, they make or buy pureed fruits and vegetables, and sometimes even meat.
With BLW, babies are offered table food cut into big enough pieces for them to hold and soft enough that a baby can “chew” it without choking.
Most foods that are served at family meals can be easily modified for baby led weaning. This makes things so much easier with feeding your baby because you don’t have to make something different or separate for their meal. Baby led weaning also encourages motor skills and gives them control over what they want to eat.
Is Baby Led Weaning recommended?
Every baby is different. If you are a parent and want to try baby led weaning, ask your child’s pediatrician about it if you have questions. There are lots of approaches you can take to feeding your baby and every baby is different. I will say that there are many benefits that come with BLW and it is highly recommended!
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
- Your child has the opportunity to explore different foods and textures. Letting them choose fosters independence and also encourages intuitive eating. It’s more likely that your child will try different foods, therefore becoming a less picky eater in the future.
- No extra preparation of food is needed. Your baby can simply eat what you are eating in smaller bites as long as it’s soft enough for them to “chew.” This is also a cost and time saver because you aren’t having to buy separate food and prepare it differently.
- A child is less likely to become overweight in the future because your baby learns how to regulate and know when they are hungry as well as when they are full.
- Hand-eye coordination and motor development are strengthened through Baby Led Weaning. Babies learn how to grab food and get it to their mouths on their own.
- Babies learn how to chew, which is important for proper digestion.
- Your baby gets to be a part of your family mealtime, which helps with language development, social skills, and so much more.
At what age can I start Baby Led Weaning?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great guidelines for you to follow when trying to figure out if your baby is ready to start BLW.
You can start Baby Led Weaning when your baby:
- Can sit in their high chair and hold up their head with reasonable control.
- Opens their mouth when they either see you eating food or see food coming in their direction.
- Can move food to the back of their throat to swallow when given a spoonful of food, like rice cereal, and don’t instantly spit it back out.
- Has doubled their birth weight, which is usually around 4 months old or weighs 13 pounds or more.
How do I start Baby Led Weaning?
Starting BLW is a very exciting moment! You may be a bit hesitant about giving your baby chunks of food to start gnawing on, but with the proper foods and size they will know what to do instinctively.
Assess Your Baby’s Suggested Milestones from the AAP
Be sure that your baby can handle baby led weaning before beginning. Ensure your child can sit up, is interested in food, and can move food around in their mouth.
Get Things Ready
Make sure your highchair is set up properly for feeding your baby. Not only do you want your baby sitting up tall and straight, but be sure they have a secure place to put their feet.
It’s also a great idea to get a bib that can catch food at the bottom so the mess is somewhat contained.
Plan for the different foods you are going to try. It’s recommended that you follow a baby led weaning schedule when trying new foods in case of food allergies.
Baby Led Weaning Introduction
Start slow and only try one new food at a time over a few days. Track the foods you are introducing to avoid having to narrow things down if a food allergy does pop up. You can also try giving your baby a chance to start learning how to drink from a cup as well. Training cups with a little bit of water or breastmilk are a great idea.
Your baby will let you know when they are done eating. They is usually when they turn away from the food on their tray or begin fussing. Don’t try to push them to continue. Just let them be done even if they have only tried eating for a couple of minutes.
What foods do you start with for Baby Led Weaning?
There are so many different options when introducing your baby to new foods. Don’t get overwhelmed! Just focus on your baby getting to try different textures and flavors. There isn’t much emphasis placed on nutrition from the foods they are trying yet because your baby is still getting their vital nutrients from breastfeeding or formula.
Baby Led Weaning First Foods
Start with soft foods like fruits and steamed vegetables. There may be a little bit of preparation by either cutting foods up or steaming them to make sure they are soft enough for your baby.
Baby Led Weaning First Food Ideas
- Ripe Avocados
- Steamed carrots
- Steamed sweet potatoes
- Steamed broccoli
- Very ripe pear
- Ripe melon
- Steamed Green beans
- Cooked Beets
- Ripe kiwi
- Cooked apples
Other food suggestions for Baby Led Weaning Ideas
- Soft meatballs
- Toast sticks
Foods to Avoid
- Crunchy crackers or chips
- Raw carrots
- Raw apples
- Cherry tomatoes
- Whole hot dogs
- Added salt and sugar
How to Cut Foods for Baby Led Weaning
The general rule with the size of food for a baby starting out with BLW is the food being about the size of your finger. You want it to be big enough that your baby can’t fit it fully in their mouth. They also need to be able to pick up their food. With your baby’s limited motor skills you want to avoid food that is too slippery. A good way to help with food not being slippery is leaving a little bit of the peel on fruit.
Just remember, bigger is better so your baby’s chubby hands can grab it and so they won’t get small pieces to choke on.
Gagging and Choking with Baby Led Weaning
The risk of a baby choking with baby led weaning and food purees are the same. With BLW if you do hear your child start to gag, just know that it’s normal and a sign that your baby is learning how to move the food around in their mouth in order to eat it.
While gagging sounds dangerous, it is simply what happens when food is touching parts of your baby’s mouth they aren’t expecting or used to.
If you squirm when you hear your baby gagging, you aren’t alone. You may want to try easing into solid food with purees and ease into BLW solids more slowly.
It is also important to note that being prepared for a child choking is very important and should be something a parent should actively prepare for. Always supervise your child when they are eating in case of an emergency.
Good Eating Habits Start Early
Trying to navigate solids for your baby can be somewhat challenging, but if you are consistent with feeding good healthy nutritious foods your child will be much more likely to carry those good habits into adulthood and also cause you less trouble with picky eating in general.