Baby-Led Weaning: Real Food for Little Ones

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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.

Favorite Foods

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).

Messy Fun

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!

Resources:

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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About Nicole

Nicole can be found blogging at her lifestyle blog GidgetGoesHome.com, and is the editor of Simple Homemade. She loves to read, sew, make ice cream, take pictures, watch baseball and go for walks by the beach with her hubby and three little kiddos. She loves anything handmade and is affectionately known as a bit of a hippie among family and friends.

Comments

  1. I think BLW is a great idea, actually! I didn’t go “all the way” with my child on this, mostly because I didn’t know about it when I first started her on solids, but I started as soon as I became aware of the idea. She’d get her own plate in front of her with what she could eat of our dinner (vegetables etc), and I just let her do with it as she pleased. I can still remember the looks on other mom’s faces when she helped herself to my brussel sprouts and enjoyed every minute of it. :lol:

    I think it’s great that you brought this up, by the way, as I’m sure I’d started with it right away if I’d only have known back then. I’m glad I semi-did it anyway, though, because her love of fruits and vegetables remain to this day (she’s 4), and I know she got a lot of vitamins as a very young child thanks to this approach. If I have another baby one day, I will go all the way and skip porridges and purees alltogether. :)
    Jeanette´s latest post: Connecting with Your Heart’s Desire

  2. I had never heard about BLW when I had my first ready for solids. I knew I didn’t really want to do the rice cereal. Instead I tried making brown rice and mashing it up with breast milk. She wasn’t into it at all. And she really did not eat any solid foods until about 15 months. We would always give her small bits of whatever we were eating, but she never ate it save for a few peas here and there. And I would say that she wasn’t very interested in eating anything besides peas until about 18 months. My second on the other hand cannot get enough food fast enough. We didn’t really start him until 8 months, but then did BLW, and he eats everything we do now, at 17 months. What a difference!
    Heather´s latest post: where do you school?

  3. Wow – I never knew there was a term for this, although it pretty much describes what we did with babies #2 and #3 (and what I wish we’d done with our first. Live and learn, eh?)

    Baby Mia isn’t quite ready for this just yet, but I appreciate this post and the list of resources to check out! Thanks!

    And, oh my stars, how adorable is Hallee? Beautiful baby girl!
    Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: The Beauty of a Playlist (Cool Kids Rock!)

  4. We did BLW with my now three-year-old. It was GREAT! Her first food was a hunk of grilled potato, and we quickly progressed to giving her lots of fruits and vegetables. Basically, we gave her bits of whatever we were having for dinner – the only time I gave her purees were the occasional bowl of applesauce, or, if we were having salad for dinner and I didn’t have another veggie on hand, I’d give her a jar of some kind of vegetable. Once she developed her pincer grasp, though, I could just throw a handful of frozen peas on her tray and she was a happy camper.

    Today, she’s the least picky eater I’ve ever seen. She asks for just about every kind of produce in the store when we’re grocery shopping together (even brussels sprouts!), and she’ll eat all of it. My friends are all amazed by this, but I’m sure it’s because that’s how she started out.
    Karen´s latest post: Cooking and freezing dried beans

  5. We fed our daughter cereal and babyfood for a month before stumbling upon Baby Led Weaning. We immediately jumped in with both feet and tossed all the baby food. At 7 months our daughter started eating all the same foods we did. It is a little nerve racking at first since “gagging” (not choking) is a part of the process of learning how to manipulate food in the mouth, and boy is it slow and messy but it was the best thing we ever did. Our daughter learned to use a fork and spoon on her own, drink from a real cup both at an early age and will try most any food (though that is slowly declining as she enters her second year). I highly recommend the Baby Led Weaning book to everyone I meet.

    • The gagging is definitely something that takes getting used to, but I was amazed at how quickly my baby girl started figuring how to do it, too!

  6. Your photographs are so delightful, what a cutie you live with!!! And who knew that feeding your baby like this had a name!!! When my youngest started solids I wrote a post on our food journey and what his starter foods were… we pretty much did the same for all our kids… I could never figure out all the rules of when to do cereal, and jars and well all that in-between stuff… we went straight to real food off our plates with all our kids… It was so easy when we traveling and not having to accommodate and schedule a special “baby – diet.” Here’s a link to our post: http://www.se7en.org.za/2010/06/10/se7en-1-starts-solids
    se7en´s latest post: Sunday Snippet: Eric Liddell Finish the Race – A Review…

  7. I like the rice cake with yogurt spread on it, a little protein is always good in my book. We offered the same foods to my little guy and nearly 3 year old fairly early on, but did find he enjoyed a lot of the homemade purees too.
    I think it’s amazing how early they figure out how to eat something like an orange segment and get all the good stuff out from the inside and then spit out the outer pith part. Same with chick peas, my guy will spit out the outer casing no problem!
    Emily @ Random Recycling´s latest post: How to Make Your Own Yogurt

  8. So, I think we inadvertently practiced this!! Mostly because my girl HATED pureed food. So, I started just chopping up our food, but by 7 or 8 months, she was working on chunky stuff that we ate…and she didn’t even get her first tooth until nearly one, so she kind of amazed us!! LOL. Thanks for the article… its nice to feel like there is support for when you do things differently
    Amy´s latest post: What if I did this to my baby???

  9. Interesting. I didn’t know it was baby-led, LOL, but I have never ever fed my babies purees. I avoid many foods before the first year, and it’s been my experience that iron is the first “extra” that breast-fed only babies miss, so I usually started with iron rich foods like organic mashed carrots. Then I stumbled upon this method of introducing foods some time around the birth of our 4th or 5th daughter: http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=825 – Since my first daughter developed many allergies in her teen years, I’ve pretty much stuck to that, and so far so good…. no allergies in the others (though the younger five haven’t hit the teens yet).

  10. While we didn’t do BLW with our daughter and she happened to love purees, she quickly moved on to eating pretty much whatever we were eating and left the purees behind. Skipping the purees altogether if and when we have another sounds like a great idea to me. It might be more messy but it also sounds simpler.
    Steph´s latest post: A Story on Transitioning to Motherhood

  11. We are doing this with our 2nd baby who is now 8 months old. I like that is starts them on “real” food right from the beginning. Plus, like you mentioned, who wants to sit and spoon feed for 10 minutes when you have other little ones running around!

  12. Hi Nicole!

    Great article – I’ve been contemplating this. We sort of started solids this week (he’ll be 6mo in 5 days). I didn’t fully puree – just smash, really. But my SIL does BLW with her daughter who is only 2mos older than my youngest. The thing that holds me back is that I’ve got 2 older boys, and when I was watching her feed my niece, I was having little panic attacks as the girl practically choked on her food. Have you had issues with this?? I feel like the older two would totally distract me from the baby, and I wouldn’t be as diligent as I would be if I was actually feeding him. I’ve been thinking of doing a mixture, I guess. :) My 4yo loves fruits and veggies and was fed very traditionally – even regular rice cereal (blech) but my 2yo will barely eat anything (sigh). So if it helps my youngest to not be too picky, I’d love that. :)
    Jess´s latest post: Winners!

    • Hi Jess! There have been a few things that have given my 8 month old trouble and I have 3 1/2 yr old twins so I definitely get the distraction thing. I have gotten into the routine of feeding the baby at the same time I feed the older kids so we’re all sitting at the table at the same time. My daughter loves to help out, tearing the baby’s pancakes into pieces and giving her more of her beans. And both my son and daughter love to “share” the foods they’re not particularly fond of. Sure I need to supervise, but because we’re all sitting at the table together and eating/feeding the baby has become a family “activity”, it’s really not that hard.
      Diane´s latest post: Who’s birthday is first, for real?

  13. Like many others, I’ve been practicing BLW without realizing it! When my now 8 month old started eating solids I tried the jarred food and just found it was so much easier to giver her smaller bits of what I was feeding my 3 yr old twins. She’s so interested in whatever the rest of us are eating and gets really frustrated when the older kids sit next to her feeding themselves and I’m trying to shove a spoon in her mouth.
    Diane´s latest post: Who’s birthday is first, for real?

  14. We pretty much did this with my son, too. He just never really liked purees and I eventually gave up on them. I don’t think I’ll even bother buying or making purees with baby #2. :)
    Becky´s latest post: We Have a Walker!

  15. I have been doing this with my almost 8 month old. Her diapers are full of chunks and bits of food though. Has anyone else experienced this?

    I’ve been told I should puree so her stomach can get used to the food?

  16. When I started thinking about making puréed for my 2nd I could not even figure out how to fit it all in…I was having a hard time making dinner for the rest of us! I read about BLW and talked to my dr. It made perfect sense. Let’s face it, what do you think people did before puréed food or food processors?

    I am sure some people would disagree, but one thing I recommend is not to get to rigid about it…babies go through phases. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. There were some days he just wanted a little extra love and wanted to be feed…and I we made the time. But the messy fun of eating the same as Ll of us was always better – and simpler for me – I the end. Good luck!

  17. I never knew there was a term for this either, although this is pretty close to what we did with both our boys too. Usually we’d just pick out whatever food was okay for them from what we were already eating and let them try it on their own. With both boys I did make a few batches of purees and freeze in ice cube trays so I could just pull out a couple on those nights when we’d be eating something like chili, where it was all one dish and a little spicy. But for the most part it was just easier to give them table food or slightly mashed table food.
    Anna@The DIY Mom´s latest post: Family Fridays: Helpful Hands

  18. Oh, I’m so glad you wrote this! My son just turned 5 months so I’ve been looking online for feeding information. I’ve been thinking about trying this since he’s been trying to grab food from my plate for the last couple weeks.
    Is she still breast/formula feeding? Also, I saw you mentioned no honey, but are you also doing no peanut butter?
    Lindsey´s latest post: reveurconstant replied to your post: Someone has been very fussy today and aside from…
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  19. I really enjoyed reading Real Food for Mother & Baby by Nina Planck as well. Did you by chance incorporate her idea of feeding your baby egg yolk with frozen raw liver shavings? I can’t remember if it was in her book and Nourishing Traditions, but when I read that I was shocked. Just wondering if you tried that, and if so, if your baby liked it.

  20. Ellie is my first child and we did BLW with her from the start. I’m SO glad we did!! It’s super easy and has been so fun to see Ellie learning and discovering about food on her own. I try to tell people about it when the topic of feeding babies comes up!

  21. I’m glad I read this, we are just starting to think about trying for our first and I’ve already been thinking about how we will feed our kids, really not wanting to have picky eaters, like I was till my early 20s! Terrible! I was planning to make my own baby food but I will have to look into BWL. Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] our fourth child, I also followed a bit of the baby-led weaning fad (although I hadn’t heard of it at the time), which meant I didn’t really make special [...]

  2. [...] than trying to create thin purees that make it past the gag reflex. This method is commonly called baby-led weaning, although it’s more about feeding than weaning. The idea is that you introduce baby to actual [...]

  3. [...] Baby-Led Weaning @ Simple Organic – my grandma told me how when her firstborn (now in his 60′s?) was under 6 weeks old her mother would feed him smushed up noodles. I was pretty aghast but she didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. I think we may try this approach this time…just a little bit later than 6 weeks! [...]

  4. [...] Simple Homemade. “BLW has been super fun. I’ve been amazed at the dexterity Hallee has acquired in less [...]

  5. […] you’re looking for an online guide for Baby Led Weaning, check out this great blog post from Simple […]

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