I’ve figured out that I’m a combination of a lot of different moms: I’m the super crunchy mom who wants organic everything; I’m the lazy mom who is perpetually wearing yoga pants and the mom bun; I’m the sweet mom who wants to make hand-decorated cookies every week; I’m the strict mom who thrives on consistency and efficiency.
Baby led weaning fits beautifully into all of those personas. And my kids are thriving because of it.
What is baby led weaning (BLW)? Simply put, it is following your child’s cues when it comes to starting solids. You do not waste time and money on suspicious-looking purées, but you use table food – right off of your plate! – in a safe, healthy, fun way.
I think that the benefits of BLW are pretty undeniable. Here are a few I’ve noticed with my own children:
- Adventurous eaters who love to try new things
- Healthy eaters who like most fruits, veggies, and lean proteins
- Fun eaters who enjoy varied spices and flavors
- Self-led eaters who control what they eat and when they’re full
- Skilled eaters who have great fine motor skills and oral skills
And here are the things which are great for the parents!:
- You get to eat your meal with everyone instead of feeding Baby
- Less dishes
- Less expense (no buying baby food)
- Watching your baby take the lead in exploration
- Inspired to meal plan and eat more healthy foods
Let’s look at some of these in more detail.
BLW throws out the idea that kids need to start solids by means of bland, brownish goo. Most spices and seasonings are safe for them to try when they’ve shown readiness to eat solid foods. You don’t have to be sparse when it comes to flavor – and that will translate to when your child is a toddler and a preschooler, too!
Experiment with cinnamon, garlic, vanilla, curry, and other flavors! Just be mindful of salt (they don’t need it) and acidic foods (can cause allergy-like reactions like a diaper rash).
If a food meets a “safety” standard and a “healthy” standard, it’s fair game. (You can see my quick bulleted list at the end of the article, and have talks with your pediatrician too.) That means that grilled salmon is an excellent choice, as is roasted asparagus or garlic couscous. You don’t need to just feed pureed vegetables, nor do you need to pick the least-disgusting baby food pouches at the store.
Just like us, your baby can try foods from all of the food groups: proteins (meat, fish, beans), vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy. Here’s the USDA’s website for kids’ “Choose My Plate” as a reference for when your baby is older!
Offer a variety of foods as you cook throughout the week; don’t assume that your child won’t like something like squash, guacamole, or meatloaf!
I cannot belittle this next point. I hear a lot about the reasons I discussed, but here’s another thing: when you “force-feed” your baby with a spoon, you’re essentially ignoring their attempts to tell you they’re full. This is really bad. Why? Because by continuing to feed them past the brim, your child runs the risk of having eating problems later in life. When you allow your child to feed themselves, they are in control. They can determine when they’re done – and you need to trust them. Before the age of 1 year, their main source of nutrition is breastmilk or formula anyway. Unless you’re working with your pediatrician in a unique situation, your baby will be just fine. Trust them and watch their cues. Beyond that, don’t obsess about how much they eat.
Of course, BLW boasts the least amount of work for the chef, too! Simply give the child foods which are safely cooked and prepared, and you’re good to go! No slop on a baby spoon and no weird food combinations to liquefy. I’m always ok with fewer dishes.
One of the beneficial “side effects” of BLW is that it’s made me a healthier eater. I can’t have fried food for dinner unless I want to give that to my kid, too. I am more conscientious about having lots of healthy options: colorful vegetables and fresh fruits and lean proteins.
And, my selfish victory: I get to eat my meal, too! I don’t spend my time at the table shoving spoons into my baby’s mouth, wiping her chin, and making airplane noises. She can participate with us and I can enjoy my food while it’s still warm. (Plus since my daughter is observing me eat, she can mimic me too. My favorite is when she blows on her “hot” food!) If I need a few extra minutes, I spread the food out all over her tray so it takes her a bit longer to get it all.
I hope that this has inspired you to consider trying BLW with your baby! If you’d like, you can look on Google or Pinterest for “BLW recipes” – but really in the end you’re just cooking healthy meals for your family, and letting your baby safely try foods at their own pace.
Watching your child discover new flavors and textures is fascinating and enjoyable, and puts them on a path to healthy habits for life! (Just don’t fall asleep in your noodles.)
Let me know your baby’s favorite food, and if you’ve liked/planned to use BLW!
Quick reminder of foods to avoid when starting BLW:
- Honey (can cause botulism, wait until after 1yo)
- Hard foods (nuts, raw carrots, etc.)
- Foods with an unbroken skin (peas, grapes, etc.) – are ok if cut or if skin is broken, like smushing peas a bit with your fork so the skin isn’t intact)
- Acidic foods (berries, citrus, etc.) can cause a diaper rash even if your baby isn’t allergic