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Sunday, September 16, 2012

How I Do It: Baby-Led Weaning

Disclaimer: I shouldn't need to say this, because we all should support each other, but: This is the way *I've* chosen to do it. Parenting is full of choices; as long as those choices don't include playing with live grenades or eating crack cocaine, it's probably okay. Plenty of people make different choices than this, and that's okay. Your kid will be fine and thrive. Plenty of people make this same choice, and that's okay too. Our kids will also thrive and be fine.

The pics in this post aren't in any particular order; I'll note what she's eating when I can remember. 


 Destroying a brussel sprout; around 9-10 months.

Strangely, everything I'm doing in parenting seems to be summed up in acronyms: CDing. BFing. ERFing. BWing. (That's cloth diapering, breastfeeding, extended rear facing, and baby-wearing). And one more big one: BLW.

Pear, around 6 months.

BLW is baby-led weaning: a new name for a very old concept. I promised a reader (Denean!) that I would do a post on this ages ago because she was interested in it, but by now her child is probably eating pizza and sushi and entering college so it doesn't matter. But maybe someone else out there in InternetLand is wondering about it. Probably not. But, you know, that's what blogs are for. Writing about things no one cares about!

Mac N Cheese made with whole cow's milk and whole cheese, mixed with tuna and peas.  
Around 10 months. 

I don't remember where I first heard the term "Baby-Led Weaning" (or BLW), but wherever it was, it struck a chord.  To put it extremely simply, BLW is skipping rice cereal and oatmeal and purees and going directly to finger foods when your baby is ready (usually around six months old).  There were a lot of reasons behind the philosophy that made sense to me. I wrote them out, along with some of the mechanics behind BLW, but the post got insanely long and boring and detailed so instead of including that information here, I'm just going to link to it:  Baby-Led Weaning: The Whys and the Hows

 Brussel sprouts, whole wheat pasta, chicken, and pepper slice around 9-10 months.

To summarize what's at that link: we started doing BLW because it made sense physiologically, and with a history of obesity in my family I wanted to do everything I could possibly do to to give her a good start (the early introduction of solids has been linked to obesity later in life). Add in the "open gut" that babies have and the fact that the AAP recommends delaying solids of any kind until six months or later, and I was sold (more info on all of this in the above link).  With BLW, you offer large chunks of table food starting at around six months of age - basically, whatever you're eating!

Peas, corn, and chicken around 7-8 months.

Carys actually started eating real foods around 5.5 months old, because she met all of the guidelines and had been sitting up on her own for a while.  Trust me - I started to get antsy when I saw friends feeding their babies rice cereal and posting adorable pictures of their kids making hilarious faces in reaction. But for children without other health issues, there is no reason to start before six months (or 5.5 in our case), and believe me...you want to keep those formula or breastmilk poops as long as possible!  We started with things like avacado and steamed carrots and peaches and turkey and moved onto apples and steak and sushi. Yes, seriously. Sushi.

Sushi! Around 11 months.

She's been eating table food since she first took her first bite of non-breastmilk food, and she has loved it. I've loved it! First, it's adorable watching them feed themselves. Second, once you see a baby doing baby-led weaning, you'll be shocked whenever you see babies eating purees after six months. It's understandable, because that's still considered the norm by far, but after doing BLW, you realize they are SO capable of eating real food and feeding themselves!  A few months after we started BLW, I was eager to make sure she got enough pears (TMI alert: their poop changes a lot and I wanted to give her a bit of, um, help!) so I pureed some up and tried to give it to her with a spoon. She looked at me like I was fucking crazy and took the spoon right out of my hand to feed herself. Needless to say, I have let her feed herself almost all the time from that point on.

We started with big chunks of avocado, steamed veggies, soft fruits, etc.

Around 7-8 months old (and ready for a nap!)

Once she got the hang of those, I'd also give her a spoon full of food (yogurt or avacodo, etc.) and let her feed herself with the spoon.

Steamed sweet potato and pureed pears, around 7 months old.

Now, at a year, she eats about two-thirds of her meals with a spoon or fork and the rest with her hands.

 Mixed veggies, spinach tortilla, fish sticks (homemade), around 11 months.

It has worked wonderfully for us, and she's a great eater (trust me, I know their eating habits at one don't translate into great eating habits at ten, but it's a start). She can handle any food we throw at her. The only things I try to avoid are super hot spices (but she can handle moderately or even fairly hot!) and super salty foods (since their bodies can't handle a lot of sodium). I do try to give her fresh, organic, "real" food whenever possible, but that is definitely not a requirement of BLW.  We eat out regularly!

Grilled cheese, around 1 year.

A rib she stole off my plate at a restaurant, around 9-10 months.

Again, this isn't necessarily a tenet of BLW, but I do try to refrain from giving her too much sugar.  She has treats on occasion, but they are just that - treats. She has her whole life to enjoy bad foods, so now, when she's too young to know or care, I try to only give her wholesome food. That's food that has nutritional value (so not a lot of white breads or mashed potatoes or other "filler" foods) and that is good for you (so no cupcakes). I'm not totally horrible - she has had ice cream, bits of cake, a bit of frosting, dinner rolls, etc. But I limit it and only give it to her rarely and in small amounts. Again, I know she'll have these things as she gets older, and I would never expect that she totally refrains. These things aren't BANNED. That can only backfire in the long run. But again, right now, when she doesn't know better, I don't give them to her often. Even for her first birthday, she had a "healthy" cake made with blueberries and bananas.  We do fruit for dessert quite often.

Watermelon, around 10 months.

I plan to teach her about foods that will help her grow strong and fuel her body and make her body feel good - there won't be "good" or "bad" foods, just foods that help her grow and foods that won't. Someone once told me if you wouldn't feed it to a plant (i.e. compost it), don't eat it! I don't live by that mantra, but it's a good thing to think about.  

Yes, she does get SOME treats. I'm not that mean! Ice cream around 13 months.

When we started, we did BLW for just lunch, since she was still nursing every 2-4 hours.  Around 8 months, we added dinner, and at around 10 months added breakfast (there are no hard and fast rules with this - it's just what seemed to work with our schedule). At the beginning, she would usually have two to three pieces of a veggie, a piece of meat, and a piece of fruit. I tried to hit some good fats, some good protein, and some good carbs, with most of the focus on the veggies. Avacado is something she got (and still gets) almost every day, since it is SO full of healthy fats that are so important for brain development!  I also tried to get a good variety of color - so orange carrots, green peas, red strawberries, yellow mango, etc. - the colors in fruits and vegetables come from various nutrients, so I tried to make sure she got a good mix.  She gets a sippy cup with water in it at each meal. If I'm not there, she gets a sippy cup with half whole milk and half breastmilk with each meal. Whether I'm there or not, the sippy cup with water is available to her all day long.

One of her regular early meals. 2-3 veggies, a fruit, and a protein. Pear to the left, 
then steamed baby zucchini spear, avacado, carrot, and ham. Around 6 months.

At 14 months, now that she gets more of her calories from food than breastmilk, a typical day might look something like this (there are also 2-4 nursing sessions sprinkled in here as well):

Whole-mik yogurt with fresh or frozen berries (I don't do store-bought flavored yogurt because sugar is usually the second or third ingredient)

AM snack: 
Ella's Kitchen Nibbler

Spinach quiche made with whole milk
Steamed carrot
Avacado wedge

PM snack:
Cheese and apple slices
[Sometimes she will get a puree pouch (these are great on the go, and they follow the BLW concept as long as you are letting them feed themselves - I look for ones that only have the fruit or veggie and lemon juice listed as the ingredients. However, they still have a TON of sugar in them, so this is a rare snack.)]

Salmon fillet
Zucchini and squash sauteed with olive oil
Strawberries for dessert

Eggs, whole wheat pancakes (no syrup or butter) and blueberries. 14 months. And very excited.

Probably the most common question I get is, "Aren't you afraid she'll choke?" And yes, of course. Choking is dangerous! I don't even want to think of the worst case scenario. But since the child is controlling the food entering their mouth, and since babies have a VERY sensitive gag reflex, it's incredibly rare. Gagging, however, is very common - some kids even (eww!) throw up when they gag. It's very important to be familiar with the difference between the two. Parents mistaking gagging for choking and interfering when they shouldn't (and inadvertently making the situation worse) is one of the biggest difficulties with BLW.  In 14 months, Carys has gagged several times (usually when she tries to eat too quickly) but has NEVER choked. I've seen parents grab their kids and do a finger sweep when the kid was only lightly gagging. It's so important to let the child handle it on their own whenever possible. Obviously you don't want to ignore a dire situation, so education is key here, in order to ensure you know the difference.

Corn on the cob, 10ish months old.

BLW is all about letting the baby guide the food process. Some kids are ready to start at 5 months, while some are still picking at the food at 18 months. And even within that timeframe, babies may have phases where they eat a lot and phases where they eat almost nothing. It's normal!  For the first year, solid food is about learning and exploring, not about nutrition (they should still be getting the majority of their calories from breastmilk or formula). BLW helps babies discover and fine-tune their hunger cues and discover all sorts of new textures and flavors, and it's great for their manual dexterity. It's something that we've both enjoyed immensely, and I'm not going to lie - the look on people's faces when she downs three sushi rolls is pretty fantastic too!

Steamed veggies, around 9 months old. 

Small update with Emmeline:
We are also doing BLW with Emmeline. She's now 6.5 months old, but just isn't quite as interested or ready as Carys was, so we're still slowly introducing solids - a wedge of avocado here, a steamed carrot there, a slice of red paper here. I'm not in any hurry to get her on any sort of schedule with solids, so we're just playing it by ear and letting her experiment now and then. When she seems more ready, we'll step up the solids game a little more. 



Baby Led Weaning
Baby Led Weaning Cookbook
Baby Led Weaning, Step by Step (Note: I have not read this, only seen it recommended)
The Baby and Toddler Cookbook (BLW would suggest skipping the purees and using only the other recipes, or saving the purees for when they can spoon-feed themselves - or the purees could be great to put in pouches for on-the-go snacks, too)

Tomee Tipee Bibs (a favorite)
Baby Bjorn Bibs (another fave)
iPlay Green Sprouts sleeved Bibs (a favorite - if the sleeved bib isn't listed, contact the company and they'll send you pricing and pattern info - it just means that the store that the site feeds from is out of stock, not that the company is out of stock - but for real, this bib is A MUST, it makes clean up a huge snap!!!)
^^^^You'll note with all these bibs that the common factor is the pocket at the bottom - that is HUGE in making clean-up easy! The bigger and more, um, stick-outy the pocket, the better!
Boon Cutlery (all soft for when they are first learning)
Gerber Cutlery (with metal, like mom and dad!)
Disposable Placemats (for dining out)
Reusable Placemat (for home or dining out)


  1. Looks like you are doing a great job in the BLW department! We started right at 6 months. I had been considering BLW, and once he refused purees, I figured that was a sign! Carys is SUPER adorable ;] I've always loved her name!

    Desirae @ Going with the Flow

  2. Oh, thank you so much for posting this! It's perfect timing! My daughter is 4.5mo, so she's not eating yet, but we are definitely in "thinking about starting solids" mode. I'm an acronymer too - we CD, BF, BW (baby wear), and plan to ERF... so BLW has definitely been on my radar. I will admit, I am a little bit scared of the choking. But not so scared that I don't want to try it.

    Did you read the BLW book? Or just get your info from the site you linked?

  3. Thanks for posting this! We had great success doing BLW with Agatha (although her daycare provider insisted on giving her cereal). We did also give her some purees while doing BLW to try to pack some pounds on her. It's so funny how strongly they prefer to feed themselves if you just give them the chance. Big fan of BLW!

  4. I have not heard of BLW yet but love the idea over purees! Definitely looking into this now even though we have a few more months before we start considering solids. thanks for the info and the link!!

  5. Yes, Carys is now 10 months and we have been doing BLWing since 6 months. She actually did eat pizza for supper last night! I appreciate the blog post lol and thinking of me!!! I love reading it all. Thanks! She is adorable btw, as always