I’ll be the first to admit: with my first I was overwhelmed with the information out there regarding Baby Led Weaning (BLW). I wasn’t sure what foods are best to start BLW with. I was overwhelmed with what foods to avoid. And is it really safe to do BLW if baby doesn’t even have teeth?
Thank goodness I had great mom friends who have been there before to help. They shared what worked for them, helpful suggestions, and calmed me when I was nervous about starting new foods. You’ll be surprised what a baby with no teeth can “eat”! Now that J’s almost 9 months with two bottom teeth, the kid can eat pretty much anything.
I’m really excited to share some of our BLW journey with you all. I’ll cover baby led weaning breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas, things you need to know, and more. Please let me know if you have any questions along the way!
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What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning is a newer way to introduce foods to your baby, while they are still breast / formula feeding. In the simplest terms, baby led weaning is letting your baby feed himself. It means foregoing purees and jumping straight into finger foods. For some families, you may be already doing this without even knowing it! Especially as a second time mom, baby led weaning has been an easy and natural fit for us. Plus, J sees his big brother and wants to do everything he does, so BLW makes a lot of sense. Food is usually softened for baby’s lack of teeth, and cut / served in fry-type shapes.
Why Baby Led Weaning?
The benefits of baby led weaning are pretty incredible. Although every toddler and kiddo goes through their picky eating phase, I credit BLW with the reason why our toddler is more adventurous with his food choices. More and more research is showing that baby led weaning can have a positive lasting effect on a child’s eating habits, preferences, and flavor palates.
As parents, we want to do what we can to ensure our baby’s develop their skills in the best way possible. But, it can be overwhelming. Baby led weaning is a double whammy – it helps fine tune motor development, and it’s less work for me! Hand eye coordination, pincher grasp, oral development, chewing skills, healthy eating habits are all benefits of baby led weaning. A local dietician also shared with me that baby led weaning can be huge in babies learning self-regulation at an early age, as well as gives more ways for babies to explore their foods in regards to texture, colors, flavor and more.
When is your baby ready for solids / BLW?
First and foremost, baby is ready to eat real foods when they are at least 6 months old. Before 6 months, their gut is not developed enough to introduce BLW. Additionally, baby needs to be able to sit up unassisted, able to grasp foods, and has lost the tongue thrust reflex. What is the tongue thrust reflex? Tongue thrust reflex is what helps baby drink from the breast or bottle! It’s a natural reflex that happens when something touches baby’s lips, and is basically what makes baby suckle.
Your baby is also born with an extrusion reflex. The extrusion reflex is most likely what you’ll encounter when you first start baby led weaning. This is when baby pushes any food you or she places on her tongue out of the front of her mouth.
Other signs to show baby is ready for food: watching you while you eat, and following the food. When baby reaches for your foods, and mirrors your chewing motions, they are showing interest!
How do you teach a baby to feed himself?
In short: modeling and practice! We set J up in his Regalo Easy Diner Hook-On High Chair and just let him explore. Whatever we eat that day, so does he. So for breakfast he gets eggs, fruit and toast, just like his 3.5 year old brother.
To go along with what I mentioned earlier, re: when is baby ready for solids, I sit across from baby J, and slowly and intentionally eat. I use my hands, and will pick up each piece, opening my mouth wide, and nodding with a happy look on my face while I’m eating. I then pick up a piece from J’s plate, and hand it to him. I personally like to ask him “Would you like some of this yummy food?”, while smiling and nodding, and let J take the piece from my hand.
Sometimes if he opens his mouth, I will put a piece in for him, and then eat a piece myself. I am overdramatic with my chewing, and I’m sure I look super silly, but it makes J smile and chew, so whatever works for you! Remember that eating food uses completely different muscles and skills than breast or bottle feeding. Like anything, practicing is the only way to get better.
What if my baby chokes while BLW?
It’s okay! I remember the first time my oldest choked after we started baby led weaning. I freaked out, picked him up out of the high chair, and started patting him on the back. I made a huge deal out of nothing, because he wasn’t choking. Rather, he was gagging, and gagging is a safe response to food traveling too far back into their mouth. If your baby is choking – you’ll know. Signs of actual choking include: baby looks panicked, lips may start turning blue, little / no sound can come out. This is another great reason to take a CPR class if you have kids, just in case.
So, if you see your baby *gagging*, monitor them closely, but know they are actually handling it on their own. Do not freak out – remain calm, or as close to it as you can, and wait until baby figures it out on their own, which he will do!
What do you need for Baby Led Weaning?
This is in part why we love baby led weaning so much: you really don’t need any extras! Since baby is eating what you eat, there are no unnecessary additional “must haves” to clutter your kitchen. I always recommend a great high chair and some type of non-slip mat. As someone who is on the minimalist side of things when it comes to baby gear, I don’t much care for the traditional high chairs. They take up too much space and are a hassle to move around and clean. The best space saving highchair for baby led weaning is a collapsable one. Specifically, my favorite is:
I seem to make chunky babies, so the fact that Regalo’s can hold up to 37 pounds is important to me. My 3.5 year old is just over 40 pounds, so it’s pretty cool to know that I could use this same chair for several years! Regalo’s Hook On High Chair is an awesome choice for small homes, apartments, restaurants, traveling, or just those of us who don’t want something taking up floor space.
Touting all steel-construction, there’s definitely no question about the safety of this high chair. Additionally, this high chair has a double locking table security feature, and a five point harness – this further ensures baby’s safety.
As I mentioned earlier, we plan on using this Hook On High Chair for years to come. Regalo is known for their durable baby gear, and this high chair is no exception. The high back is fully padded for extra comfort while my little piggy enjoys his meals, and when he’s done, I can just remove the cover to clean. Y’all know that washability is HUGE for me, and I think it’s a necessary quality to have in everything for my kids.
When you’re ready to get going, simply collapse and fold the Easy Diner. Use the complementary carrying case for travel or storing the super lightweight highchair (3.4lbs) when not in use. Regalo has one of the best safety records in the industry, and is a trusted name in the industry. Regalo’s Hook On High Chair is available online at Regalo.com, Walmart, and Amazon.
Other Helpful Items to Have for BLW:
- A dog. Kidding, sort of. Baby led weaning can be very messy. Things are going to fall on the floor, and will get mushed. Our dog is like a built in floor cleaner during and after meal times, but if you don’t have a dog, some type of floor mat is a great option to help keep your floors clean.
- Bibs. I love the bibs that provide a little more coverage, since babies have a habit of dropping foods in their lap. Having a bib to wipe down can save you a lot of laundry.
- Non-slip placemat: My favorite are the ezpz placemats. We are still using the same ones we used with H three years ago! Ezpz were the first to introduce a silicone suction placemat that won’t get thrown onto the floor, but several companies have created their own versions.
And there you have it – the answers to all the questions I had about BLW when I first started. Do you have any other questions about baby led weaning?