Two years ago I started feeding my daughter solid food. Being a first time parent, I researched everything and stumbled upon Baby Led Weaning (BLW). The approach seemed practical and had a list of great benefits, so I decided to give it a try. There were times it was scary and there was always a mess after meals, but I am so glad I chose to try it! The approach I took to may not be considered “true” BLW, but it’s what worked for us. Remember to always talk to your doctor and make sure they give you the go ahead to start solids. Having CPR training also never hurts regardless of the method you choose.
There are a few important milestones a baby must reach in order to try Baby Led Weaning. The first and most important is that your baby should be able to support themselves in a seated position so that they can properly swallow food. They also need to be able to know how to grab and bring items to their mouth. Last, they should be showing an interest in food.
Baby Led Weaning starts by introducing large pieces of food. Babies continue to drink breast milk or formula as their main source of nutrition and use meal time to explore self-feeding. If allergies are a concern, introduce foods one at a time and watch for possible reactions. No one on either sides of our family has allergies, so we weren’t concerned. We jumped right in and offered everything and simply tracked what they ate just in case.
Food cut into finger shapes are easiest for babies to pick up. Not much gets eaten at the beginning while babies spend time exploring and munching. Foods that are great to start with are roasted or steamed veggies, avocado, banana, dry toast, pancakes, fritters, mini muffins, cooked meat, eggs (hard boiled or hard scrambled and cut into strips), even yogurt, but expect a mess.
With both my girls I offered them large pieces of whatever we were eating for dinner. I also experimented with giving them mashed or puréed versions of our meals to boost their iron intake. I froze cubes of mashed beef stew, lentil soup, and puréed chicken. I found both girls quickly got irritated with spoon feeding and preferred feeding themselves.
Within 2 months, babies get the hang of biting off pieces of food, making chewing motions, and swallowing. This is where things can get a little scary. Not knowing how much is too much to bite off means a lot more gaging and spitting food out. At this point, I began offering food cut into smaller pieces so that there was no chance of choking.
By 8 months old the girls were eating a version of whatever we were having for dinner, as long as it wasn’t too spicy, salty, or difficult for them to pick up. I also made freezer-friendly items that could quickly be re-heated and offered whenever we were eating something that the girls couldn’t eat. Here are some of my favorite recipes perfect for BLW.
Red Lentil Fritters – These fritters are a great source of iron and freeze really well. Because the veggies are grated they easily break apart for babies without teeth. I did not include the spices in the recipe.
Quinoa patties – These are a little more tedious to make, but are great for the whole family.
Carrot Cookies – These are awesome for breakfast! They have a muffin-like consistency and break apart easily.
Baby Cereal Pancakes – These are also a great iron source and freeze really well.
Chicken and Carrot Meatballs – I actually like making these in a patty shape.
Today, my almost 3 year old loves food! She rarely is picky and enjoys whatever we are eating as a family. I’ve now started Baby Led Weaning with my second child and already notice she is developing a strong pincer grasp and has been enjoying food with a variety of flavors and textures. Want to learn more about BLW? Here is the Baby Led Weaning book I read before starting. This is a great visual reference on how to cut food by age. This is the Ezpz mini mat I love to use, especially when eating out.
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