Baby Led Weaning – The Basics & Tips

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I didn’t know too much about baby led weaning when my first was born. I was a new mom and ended up getting overly excited about solid foods. I hastily offered her puréed food from a jar shortly after she hit 4 months old.

But for my second, I was all on board the baby led weaning train. Especially since he was my first to be exclusively breastfed. I knew from the start that we wouldn’t be touching solids for him until 6+ months. And just until he was overall ready for it. I even had to remind myself that reaching/grabbing for my food was a natural reflex and did not mean he was ready.

Once he was 6.5 months old and sitting up completely unassisted, I decided it was time to give it a go. His first baby led weaning meal was long slices of avocado. Easy to grip, easy to chew for a toothless baby, and full of healthy fats/good stuff. Below is a picture of Jensen eating that first “real” meal!

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I post a lot of Jensen’s meals on my Instagram/Facebook and I’ll be answering some of the main questions I receive with this blog post. Plus adding other tips along the way.

1. What are some good foods for a baby new to solids?

As I stated earlier, I started Jensen with avocado slices. Other things he had early on: scrambled eggs (once an allergy is ruled out), boiled and shredded chicken, over cooked noodles, flakey fish, ground beef (I add a bit of taco seasonings), steamed soft veggies (easily mushed with a fork or between your thumb and finger), blueberries, sliced grapes (never whole!), and basically anything else that doesn’t require teeth to properly chew and isn’t a choking hazard.

Tip: At first your baby may only appear to play with their food. Or may chew it up and spit it back out or even gag a bit. This is normal. It takes time for the swallowing part of solid food learning to happen. It was about 12 days before Jensen truly ate his first bit of a meal.

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2. When do you think my baby will be ready for solids?

I like to answer this one with the signs I look for as being ready. I wanted Jensen to be sitting up fully unsupported, over 6 months old (adjusted age), and able to move food from the tray to his mouth on his own. Reaching out for your food while you’re eating is not a sign of being ready. It’s a natural reflex of curiosity. It’s also good to note that teeth are not a requirement to begin baby led weaning. Jensen didn’t even have a first tooth until 11 months old.

Tip: I’ve always stuck to the motto of “Food before one is just for fun“. This means that food is really a learning process while baby is under one. Breastmilk or formula still needs to be their #1 source of nutrients. Always offer the breast or bottle before meals. It’s also good to remember that you don’t have to be giving 3 meals a day plus snacks at this age. Some days your baby may not even eat any solids, others they may eat more than you expect. There’s no pressure on you to get them eating solids on an adult schedule.

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3. Do I need to cook a special meal for my baby? 

Majority of the time, probably not. Unless maybe you’re having inferno firey hot chicken or super salted ribeye steaks solo for dinner. I usually gave Jensen a deconstructed version of my dinner. No added salt or seasonings, shredded or cut up into baby bite sized pieces, and soft enough for him to manage on his own. I also love quick meals for my kids and often use frozen veggies that I’ve steamed warm in the microwave. You don’t have to stress yourself to give your baby all organic/fresh foods, unless you just really prefer it that way.

Tip: You don’t have to fully skip puréed food, but I would avoid “baby cereal”. Baby led weaning is mostly about baby learning to self feed solid foods, but I think it’s still good for them to experiment with other textures. I still give Jensen purée food pouches when we go out and about, since it’s easy to keep them in my purse. You can make them yourself or there’s plenty of  brands to pick from  I personally love Happy Baby clear pouches (as does Jensen). I also give him apple sauce or other purées in his Replay Recycled plate and let him use the GOOtensil from NumNum to feed himself. Or he just dives straight in with his hands…

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4. Is it always this messy?!

In the beginning, most likely yes. Actually, even my nearly 3 year old is pretty messy most days. I try to just embrace the mess as part of the learning experience. I usually begin BLW by just putting baby in the high chair in only a diaper. It saves me a bit of laundry and makes for easier cleanup. I’ve never seen much need for a bib unless baby can’t be nearly naked, like eating in public. Starting solids does make dining out a bit challenging and/or embarrassing though. I sometimes try to put a napkin down under the high chair and do my best to keep the mess contained. It’s totally normal for baby to treat their food like tiny missles or finger paints.

Tip: The meal for baby doesn’t have to be large. I prefer to give a few small pieces of 2-4 different meal items on the tray. It gives baby a choice on what they would like to try. There’s no pressure for them to eat all of it though, let it be a laid back learning process.

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5. Yesterday my baby loved *insert food*, but now they won’t touch it. Why is that?

Both of my toddlers are masters of this. One day Leona will love mac-n-cheese, and then suddenly she acts like I’ve tried to poison her with it a week later.  Jensen used to love corn, but now he rarely touches it. Just like adults, babies have fluctuating moods for what type of food they want. That’s one reason I always offer several things so that they can chose what they want. It also may take upwards of 15-20x putting a certain food in front of your baby before they’ll try it. Patience and persistence goes a long way to establishing a balanced diet.

Tip: No two babies will be the same when it comes to the weaning process. Leona is super picky, hardly tries new foods, and doesn’t eat majority of what is put in front of her. Jensen is like a garage disposal and will eat everything in sight most days. Just do whatever works best for your current baby. And each meal doesn’t have to be a full variety of the food groups. I just try to make sure every group is used at least once in a full day, once baby is eating 2-3 meals a day.

If you have any other baby led weaning questions, feel free to comment here or PM me on Instagram (@mommasmithx2) and I’ll be happy to answer as best I can!

Products used in pictures: EZPZ fun mini mat, NumNum GOOtensil, Replay Recycled plate and utensils, all of which I love greatly!

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