Baby led weaning is a healthy, easy way to introduce solids to your growing baby. You and your little one can have so much fun! Now that I’ve done BLW with two kids, I’d like to teach you all of my best baby led weaning hacks to make life delicious (and less messy).
I do have affiliate links in this article. I love to recommend gear that I’ve bought, which works for our little family!
Baby led weaning is something I’m really passionate about; if you don’t really know what I’m talking about, or you want more “beginner” info, check out my post here.
While teeth aren’t a prerequisite for starting solids, there are a few other things which need to be met first. (This is not meant to be a complete list, so be sure to talk to your pediatrician too.)
- Able to sit up on their own
- Great head control
- Interest in food (watches you eat, tries to grab it, makes smacking noises with their mouth)
Also, there’s no need to bother with rice cereal. There’s no health benefit which isn’t better met in something else, and it’s a choking hazard. That’s an old-school recommendation.
BLW is the alternative to pouches or jars of purees, but let’s face it: your baby still probably doesn’t have any teeth. So the foods you give them need to be easily squishable by their little tongue and gums. If you can’t easily compress a food between two fingers, it’s still too hard.
Sometimes it might make some foods, like broccoli, a bit too overcooked for your liking; that’s ok, this is very temporary.
Be aware of potential allergies, and foods to avoid.
Take note of any allergies that either parent has, and ask your pediatrician how to handle those foods. (There are two schools of thought here: one is that you can safely introduce the food in a child less than a year old, and that this early introduction might prevent the child from having an allergy later in life; others think that this can trigger the allergy. So do some research.)
There are also some foods which should be avoided until your baby is at least one year old: acidic fruits like strawberries and raspberries (can cause a red rash on the diaper area), and honey (can cause botulism).
Finally, foods with a skin like grapes and peas should be avoided, unless they’re squished or sliced up. This is to avoid a choking hazard.
Don’t be afraid of flavor!
Different cultures have different signature flavors and spices; your baby got a taste of yours via their constant swallowing of amniotic fluid while in the womb, as well as your breastmilk. So why shy away from them now? Variance is fantastic – it’s so fun to watch your child’s face light up when their brain says “WHOA what was that?! Gimme more!”
I love adding garlic, paprika, cinnamon, or a little chili powder to grilled chicken or steamed veggies. Just take it easy on the salt, as Baby doesn’t need it.
And if it seems like your baby doesn’t like a particular spice or seasoning, don’t lose hope. Chances are, if you reintroduce it in a week or two, they’ll love it!
Finger foods are fun!
Lots of foods are safe to give to your baby, even before they have teeth. Your child can grip the food and take bites, or practice their “pincer grasp” with thumb and index finger. (My daughter is a beast at the pincer grasp, thanks BLW!)
Some examples of yummy, soft, healthy finger foods: thin avocado slices, banana, steamed carrots, blueberries, and brown rice. And if you need to amuse them for a moment so that you can do dishes, spread out some smashed peas all over their tray. It’ll keep them busy!
Use other methods to feed your baby than just the finger foods, though.
I was horrible at this with my first child. It’s important to also spoon-feed occasionally, and allow your child to learn to use a cup.
There’s no rush in getting your child to spoon-feed themselves, as it will come with time; additionally, a sippy cup is a fairly stable, no-spill transition from the bottle. But each of these methods teach your baby a different oral skill, like moving a liquid to the back of their mouth from a cup that didn’t have a nipple. So be sure that you mix it up!
Our favorite baby silverware is the First Years you see here as it’s short enough for them to grab and manuever (somewhat) effectively; and our favorite sippy cups are the Munchkin 360 ones here (they come with or without handles, and have a new stainless steel version, ooh!).
Don’t shy away from protein.
I’m guilty of this one too, with both kids. I was all about BLW with each of them, but focused more on fruits and veggies, with some grains and dairy thrown in too. I honestly didn’t give them a whole lot of protein like meat and eggs, because the texture and density worried me a little.
But there are safe ways to get proteins to your kid, too.
While we might think of protein as a big steak, which is a bit difficult for a toothless baby to handle, other proteins like black beans or scrambled eggs are soft and more manageable. I love to marinate chicken and then grill it on low heat, so that it’s juicy. Cutting meat against its “grain” helps you break it into smaller pieces. I find with my baby, who’s still learning to bite and chew, that cutting chicken or other meat into pieces which are about 1/3″ long are safe for her. And she loves it!
Teach Baby to wipe their own hands and tray.
This is low-priority, and will be a work in progress; however, my daughter really wanted to be handed a wipe (I use cloth wipes that are wet) so that she could clean her own hands. Now we hand her one after we take care of some of the mess, say “Wipe, please!” and she does it on her own!
Bibs with pockets and removable trays? Best ideas ever!
BLW is fun, no doubt. But it can also be a lot messier than the old-school spoon feeding, simply because you are literally putting food in the hands of your babe.
We absolutely love the soft plastic bibs with a pocket: and my husband takes it a step further and “tucks” the pocket under the high chair tray, effectively holding the pocket wide open! Now any food which falls from her tiny fingers is caught for easy clean-up in the sink… or for snacking later. Just don’t buy cotton bibs, that makes more laundry for you!And a snap-on, removable tray like the one on our high chair means that I’m just cleaning one lightweight piece of the tray, not the whole heavy thing with the locking mechanism on it.
Now if there was only an easy way to hose down the whole kid.
And those bibs? Hook ’em on the back of the high chair for convenience.
I’m just full of great ideas!
“Food before one is just for fun.”
I know it can be worrisome when your child hardly touches their dinner, but the truth is that the majority of their calories should still be coming from breastmilk and/or formula until after their first birthday.
One of the beautiful things about BLW is that it lets the child take the lead, on what they eat and how much. Just like you don’t want to eat past satisfaction, you don’t want to force-feed your baby. They know when they’re full, so follow their lead.
As a side note, your breastmilk supply will seem to lessen when your baby starts eating more solids; however, trust your body. Your breasts will adjust how much milk to make so that your baby is still taken care of perfectly. And continue to offer the breast, or a bottle, before and after each feeding of solids.
Watching your child laugh as they smash avocado all of their face is hilarious and a joyous moment for you to enjoy together. There’s no need to stress out about how much is actually making it into their mouth; take heart in knowing that you’re teaching your baby healthy eating habits from the beginning. These tastes, cues, and experiences are setting them up for life!
I hope that you and your child will enjoy BLW as much as we do!
Share your favorite BLW moments in the comments!