If your baby is ready to start eating solids it may be worth trying baby-led weaning. Different than offering your baby pureed baby food, baby-led weaning lets the baby take control by feeding himself soft finger foods.
With my first daughter I made homemade baby food purees and eventually worked my way up to the baby-led weaning method. Now, with my second child, knowing what I know now, I’ll start with baby-led weaning (BLW) and will also mix in purees.
If you’ve never heard about this concept or need a step-by-step guide as to how to get started, here’s what you need to know.
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What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is the process of introducing softened foods to your baby that she can easily grasp, rather than being spoon fed. There’s a variety of ways you can do this and fun new products to help with this, but it’s entirely different than opening up a can of pureed baby food (or making it yourself) and spoon feeding to baby.
Baby-led weaning foods are cooked until they are soft and can easily be squished between your fingers and are about the same size and width of your pointer finger.
When do I start baby-led weaning?
Old recommendations say that you should start introducing solids to your baby between 4 and 6 months of age. Now, new and very interesting research shows that it may be far more beneficial to hold off on offering your baby solids until they are 6 months. If you are only doing BLW, you definitely need to wait until six months of age, when your baby will be ready to take on this new task.
Additionally, you want to look for these cues:
- Baby seems interested in what you’re eating
- Baby can sit up unattended
- Baby is growing and has doubled their birth weight
- Baby is capable of feeding themselves
- Baby has lost the tongue thrust reflex (this is the reflex that causes babies to push stuff out of their mouth they don’t recognize)
How to start baby-led weaning
Start slow and introduce a new food every 3-5 days
You want to identify any food that may cause an allergic reaction and the best way to do this is to only introduce one new food every few days. This way, if your baby has a reaction you won’t have to play a guessing game as to what food caused it.
Start with easy foods
Before you jump into more complicated foods, start easy. Bananas are the easiest thing to start with and you can simply peel and offer to baby. Easy peasy. After that, pears and avocados are good easy foods to try. I’ve got ideas on what to try next and how to prepare them below.
Make sure everything you offer is soft
Babies don’t have to have teeth to be successful with BLW, but foods do need to be very soft. The recommendation is to make sure whatever you offer can easily be squished between your fingers
Common first foods to try with BLW
Pears (these can get messy and work great in mesh feeders)
Mango (mesh feeder)
Watermelon (these can be put in mesh feeders)
Pineapple (mesh feeder)
Dark chicken (as opposed to white meat since it’s softer in texture)
BLW foods to try when baby is closer to 8 -10 months
Toast with peanut butter
Ground beef or turkey
How do I prepare BLW fruits and veggies?
There’s not too much prep to make these foods soft. You can either choose to roast or steam fruits or vegetables that aren’t soft naturally. Remember to remove outer layer of skin, too. For the vast majority of the food I prepped for my babies, I tossed in olive oil and added some non spicy seasonings and roasted in the oven at 400 until they were soft. Cooking times will vary based on what you’re roasting. If you have a steamer you can also easily prepare these foods, too.
Remember, you want baby to be able to grasp the foods, so aim to make them the same size as your pointer finger.
FAQ about Baby-led weaning
What are the benefits of baby-led weaning as opposed to just offering purees?
Baby-led weaning allows your baby to explore new food varieties and textures on their own, which typically helps develop accepting palates, rather than picky eaters. Because they are taking the food to their mouths, baby-led weaning really helps to develop fine motor skills, too–another plus! Additionally, because baby is feeding himself, rather than you spoon feeding him, he’s able to self-regulate and only eat until he’s full.
Can I only do BLW or can I do purees, too?
There’s many schools of thought on this topic, and if you ask 5 people this question, you’re likely to get 5 different answers. Here’s my answer: You do what you’re comfortable with! I mixed BLW with purees and it worked. Sometimes you don’t always have time to steam or roast fruits or veggies, and for that reason, it made sense to offer both. Because I still really wanted my daughter to feed herself as much as possible, I often put pureed baby food into these little feeders.
Related reading: how to make your own baby food
My favorite products for feeding baby solid foods
Super easy for baby to feed themselves when you pre-load these chunky utensils with common first foods.
These mesh feeders are absolutely awesome! My first daughter struggled so much with solids and this was about the only thing that would get her to try new foods. These mesh feeders are awesome for pineapple or watermelon.