Baby Led Weaning: How To Do It and What You’ll Need
Oh, the exciting time when your baby is old enough to sit up, interact with you, smile, laugh, and eat! I’ll be honest with you. I’m not really a baby person. I like the little babies, sure, but I am always so excited for them to grow up a little and become more interactive and fun. Six months is an amazing age – they are doing such fun things, and becoming more of an active part of the family.
In our family, we love dinnertime. It is a time of day that we all gather and spend time together. I remember long, lingering dinners growing up. We sit at the table every night. We light candles every night. We use cloth place mats, and cloth napkins every night. These are important to me
It is also important to me that my kids eat what we eat. There are many reasons for this. It’s nutritious, it broadens their palates, and most importantly, it’s easy. I don’t need to cook three different dinners, and keep track of minute dietary details. This leads us to Baby Led Weaning.
First of all, I want to clear up a misconception. The term weaning in this sense isn’t how Americans typically understand it (as in the taking away of something, like nursing, or bottles). It means that you will start introducing foods to a baby’s diet, in addition to breast milk, or formula. The baby should still be getting the huge majority of their food and nutrition from breast milk.
If you start your baby on pureed foods, you need a huge number of things: food mill, food processor, jars, spoons, time, planning, processed baby food, money. If you make your own purees, it is time consuming, messy, expensive. If you buy pre-made baby food in jars, it’s also expensive, and you don’t really always know what’s in the jars. You also always need to carry pureed food with you.
If you do Baby Led Weaning you need three things:
- A baby
- A sense of humor (and maybe a bib or two)
Seriously. that’s all you need. For real.
We did this with Alma, and she’s two now. She’s the best eater I know. She eats Thai food, Mexican food, vegetables, soups, and her favorite food is Sushi. So, we are doing it again with Harriet.
I like to start with sweet potatoes, or yams, cut into French-fry shaped sticks, and roasted. The shape is good for beginning eaters because it is easy to grasp and get to the mouth. It’s important to only try one kind of food at a kind, and wait a couple days before trying the next, to make sure your baby doesn’t have a reaction.
We’ve been doing it for about a month with Harriet and she loves it. Her favorite foods are roasted, then frozen cauliflower bites, blueberries, sweet potatoes, peas (so cute to see her pudgy little fingers pick up a pea and get it to her mouth), rice cakes, yogurt, applesauce, green beans, asparagus.
Another plus to BLW is that it really encourages independence and fine motor skills. Harriet can pick up a tiny pea, and get it to her mouth just fine. She’s also getting pretty good at using a spoon to get applesauce from a bowl to her mouth.
It’s pretty amazing to see a little baby feeding herself. She only has the beginnings of her two bottom teeth, but she can chew up all her food, work it around in her mouth, and swallow it, no problem. It is so natural and instinctual (not like purees, if you ask me).
One thing to be aware of is that babies will sometimes gag (this is the case in BLW, and with purees). It is really important to understand that gagging is very different than choking. Gagging is a sign that they are figuring it out, I see it as a sign of success when Harriet gags a little. It teaches her how to keep the food in the right part of her mouth until she’s ready to swallow it.
One of my favorite parts of BLW is that we get to eat dinner as a family. We each sit up at the table and eat. Jesse and I get to enjoy our meals. We’re not constantly focused on Harriet, trying to force feed her. Harriet eats until she doesn’t want to eat anymore.