Tips to Be Successful With Baby-Led Weaning

Tips to Be Successful With Baby-Led Weaning. Four moms share how to do Baby-Led Weaning and what foods to introduce first.

Tips to Be Successful With Baby-Led Weaning. Four moms share how to do Baby-Led Weaning and what foods to introduce first.

Baby-led weaning is a popular method used by parents to introduce baby to solid foods. Baby led weaning does not use purees. You have baby feed him or herself from the beginning. Benefits of this process are reported to be that baby learns to self-regulate (don’t eat past being full), baby improves fine motor skills, and mom saves time by not needing to sit and feed baby the purees. Baby can eat at the same time as the family is eating and everyone in the family can eat, too.

I asked group members in one of my Babywise groups who used this method to share their experiences with it for the blog so that all of you can know about it! Be sure to do your own research, talk to your own doctor, and go with your own gut on which foods to feed your baby and when.

Get your copy of the book Baby-Led Weaning here (affiliate link).

There are a variety of experiences here. So here it is:

Our Experience with Baby-Led Weaning

The basic principle of Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is simply starting your baby straight on to finger/table foods rather than purees. The idea is that by starting when your baby is 6 months old (and showing other signs of readiness) they are developmentally able to sit up, and pick up, hold, chew and swallow ‘real’ food. It is easiest to start off with foods that are chip/wedge shaped in the beginning – eg slices of avocado, pumpkin, banana, broccoli stalks, kiwi etc. This is because at 6 months babies generally cannot open their hands to eat the food inside so a long thin shape let’s them eat the tops off!

Baby-Led Weaning book

I first read an article about BLW when I was pregnant and mentally filed it away as an interesting idea! As the time came closer to start solids, I decided to at least give it a try – I liked the philosophy behind it and the logic made perfect sense! One of the key elements of BLW is that it is a low pressure/stress approach. On the day my LO, Lily, turned 6 months (yes, I was pretty excited), we decided to let her try but knew that it was common for babies to simply play with and explore the food for the first few goes. With BLW, there is no forcing to eat, no ‘airplanes’, no stress or fuss! You simply give your baby healthy food options and let them decide how much to eat. Especially as milk is still the main source of nutrition between 6-12 months, as the BLW saying goes, ‘food is just for fun before one’ – so you don’t need to feel anxiety that your child should eat a certain amount – give them the opportunity and if they are hungry, they will eat! So we presented Lily with a slice of avocado and stalk of lightly steamed broccoli and casually watched to see what she would do – to our surprise she immediately picked them up and started chomping away! She ate all the avocado and gave the broccoli a good chew, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it! The next day she had capsicum (red pepper), watermelon and roast potato and pretty quickly progressed to eating everything and anything. Meal times were always a pleasure as she ate with us from the beginning (allowing the baby to be part of family meal times is a big part of BLW) and it was so nice to be able to sit as a family and enjoy our meals together, and Lily loved to taste and try everything! It was always fun to see the amazement of family and friends as they saw our tiny girl chowing down on all kinds of exotic foods, people couldn’t believe what a good eater she was/is.

I have to say BLW was for us pure pleasure. No spending hours mashing, blending and pureeing. No special meals and no stressing and worrying about how much she ate, and no coaxing her to just ‘finish the jar’. Just fun exploring and enjoying good healthy food as a family! As they grow they quickly progress to being able to eat all kinds of foods, as their dexterity improves (and BLW is great practice!) so that soon she was able to pick up peas and corn, and other foods both big (ribs!) and small (puffed rice). BLW can be a little messy but with a good set up (splash mat, smock and scoop bib) it is easily dealt with, and I found that the pleasure of seeing my LO enjoy her food made any extra mess far worthwhile!

BLW can also work wonderfully with BW. We followed BW from birth with great results, and love the sensible routine as well as the strong principles behind it. Although many BLW followers are from the ‘attachment parenting’ side of things, BLW still works great with routine! And like everything, you are still the parent, you still decide! We chose to introduce meals slowly rather than straight into 3 meals a day, but we still had the meals structured into our routine and definitely still followed BW in expectations like no throwing food, smearing it around, lifting the plate up etc. Good table manners are a process but still expected. Like any philosophy, different people may feel more or less comfortable with different aspects so you can choose what you feel comfortable with – e.g. some parents quickly introduce all types of foods to their LO (as current research says that by waiting till 6m to start solids, chances of allergy are reduced unless there is a strong family history, so no need to delay foods), while other parents feel more comfortable staggering the introduction of new foods. You are the parent, you decide.

You can find out more about Baby Led Weaning by googling the term for plenty of info and blogs. You can read the book Baby Led Weaning by Gil Rapley (who is credited with researching and formalising the concept) and even join a Yahoo group. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience with BLW and will definitely be doing it again for any more kids! If you are intrigued about BLW, I encourage you to just give it a go – you just might be surprised at what your baby is capable of!

Kate J

What to Do and What Not to Do When Baby-Led Weaning

I’ve read the…book…”Baby-Led Weaning” by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett.

The general idea I got from the book is to start your baby on the same food you are eating and it makes for a much happier baby and pleasant dining experience. They really don’t start consuming much food until 8-9 mos. After I read the book and the whole theory behind the whole thing….it just makes so much sense to me!! I was like duh!! Why did I ever feed my 1st son purees?? They say starting them on table food makes them enjoy food more b/c they have it on their own terms and it actually is fun & tastes good! And they are much less picky eaters as they get older.

Here are some points from the book about secrets of successful BLW:

  1. Think of mealtimes as playtimes in the beginning. Your baby still gets all his nourishment from milk feeds
  2. Keep giving milk feeds as before so that solids don’t replace milk feeds. Baby will gradually reduce milk feeds on his own.
  3. Don’t expect baby to eat much @ first.
  4. Eat w/ your baby and include him in your meals so he has plenty of opportunities to copy you.
  5. Expect some mess!
  6. Keep it enjoyable for everyone – stay relaxed & encourage baby to explore food.

Six things to do:

  1. Make sure baby is supported in upright position for eating
  2. Start by offering foods that are easy to pick up. Thick sticks are easiest. As far as possible offer baby the same foods that you are eating. Don’t forget that a young baby can’t get at food in her fist so don’t expect her to eat all of each piece – and be ready to offer more if she’s eaten the bit that sticks out.
  3. Offer a variety of foods
  4. Continue w/ milk feeds as before and offer water at meals
  5. Discuss BLW w/ your health care provider
  6. Explain BLW to any caregivers

6 things NOT to do:

  1. Don’t offer foods that aren’t good for him. (Fast foods or foods w/ added salt or sugar)
  2. Don’t offer solids if baby wants milk feed
  3. Don’t hurry baby or distract baby if he is handling food
  4. Don’t put food in baby’s mouth for him
  5. Don’t try to persuade baby to eat more than he wants
  6. NEVER leave baby alone w/ food

First Foods to Try When Baby-Led Weaning

Veggies that are hard when raw should be cut into “stick” shape & cooked w/o salt so that they are soft but not soggy. Boiling or steaming is good, but toasting sticks of veggies in the oven works good too. This gives them a slightly crisp coating and makes them easier to grip. Sticks of softer veggies (cucumber) can be offered raw.

Large fruits (melon and papaya) can be cut into sticks/wedges while smaller ones (grapes) should be cut in 1/2. Apples, pears, nectarines can be offered whole. Softer apples are better than firm as they are easier to gnaw and less likely to snap into large pieces. It is best to leave some skin on most fruit to make it easier to hold. Apples, pears, avocado, mango, potatoes work well w/ some skin on. Your baby will soon learn hold the skin and gnaw the rest w/ his gums. You can also do banana and leave some of the skin on w/ some of the fruit sticking out the top for baby to eat. Crinkle cutters work well to cut fruit/veggies to make them easier to hold.

It is best to offer meat in large pieces that are easily sucked or chewed. Chicken is the easiest to manage at first especially when it is given on the bone. (Remove any gristle or small bones first). Meat can be made more tender by stewing rather than roasting. There is no need to give large pieces every time and you’ll soon find baby can handle minced meat just fine w/ his fingers.

Here are some other 1st foods listed:

  • Steamed for lightly boiled whole veggies (green beans, baby sweet corn, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato, pumpkin, parsnip)
  • Raw sticks of cucumber (cool sticks are good for teething)
  • Thick slices of avocado (not too ripe)
  • Chicken as a strip or on a bone – warm or cold
  • Thin strips of beef, lamb or pork – warm or cold
  • Fruit – pear, apple, banana, peach, nectarine, mango – whole or as sticks/wedges
  • Sticks of firm cheese like cheddar
  • Breadsticks
  • Rice cakes or toast “fingers” on their own or w/ a spread like yogurt or cottage cheese

Baby-Led Weaning in Practice

So, there are some highlights from the book. Our first meal I gave some oven roasted butternut squash sticks. Kinda over cooked them, but he still gave it a go. Also gave him a whole strawberry. He just gummed it and sucked the juices. I’ve also given the cucumber sticks, bread sticks, and long green beans.

I’m planning on steaming some carrot sticks & broccoli in a little water in a microwave safe dish until they are a little tender (‘m thinking it would take 3 min or so). I’m also gonna offer some apple/pear wedges & avocado w/ skin.

We’ve had some episodes of gagging, which the book says is normal. If they are gagging, that is good b/c they are learning how to move food from the front to the back of their mouth and back again. Gagging is not the same as choking. Choking is no air moving and requires immediate action. When Nate gagged, I just watched him and he got it out on his own. From what the book says and what I’ve learned on the BLW yahoo group this stage only lasts 1-2 weeks until they get the hang of it. It is a little alarming, but all part of the process. Not all babies do this, though. Some just start chowing down right away.

I was concerned about iron, but someone of the BLW yahoo group referred me to the website. It had a great article w/ lots of info and made me feel a lot better about skipping the cereal.
The BLW yahoo group is pretty helpful. It’s not as active as the Chronicles group. But, the moms on there are totally opposite of Babywise. They all feed “on demand”, many co-sleep, and hate CIO. I just ignore that part and stick w/ the food info.

Well, can’t think of anything else. I’m really excited about it and can’t wait for Nate to really start eating. I think it will be so fun to watch him chow down on a chicken leg when he is 10 mos old!

Leigh Anne

Read all about how this Babywise Mama introduces solids using Baby Led Weaning here

Baby-Led Weaning Realities

When I first read about BLW on the Wholesomefood. com website, I was interested yet skeptical. I started my DD on cereal at 4.5 months of age due to upcoming travels that I wanted her to be familiar to eat solids if the need suddenly arose. I asked the group and found that several of the moms here were using this method with great success. My biggest fear was the risk of choking. As a first time mom, I was extremely paranoid about just giving my 6 month old daughter bits and chunks of food, etc. Since she was small, my ped recommended that I feed her purees since she would actually increase caloric intake that way as opposed to finger foods only.

Tips to Be Successful With Baby-Led Weaning. Four moms share how to do Baby-Led Weaning and what foods to introduce first.

Well, long story short and 5 months later, my DD eats no purees and only finger foods or easily mashed or gummed foods. I so wish I would have skipped baby food completely and just did this at six months of age. I thing that baby cereal is great and nutritious, but my DD never seemed like she enjoyed or had an appetite when I fed her either homemade or store bought baby food. Now that I am feeding her what my DH and I eat, she is a hearty eater that really enjoys lots of varieties of foods! I just put it on her tray, and she goes at it. I usually feed her yogurt or cereal with a spoon in the beginning of the meal when she is most hungry and willing, and then let her do finger foods until she is done eating! I am so free! No more stressing and counting ounces and comparing to other babies!!!

It is messier for sure. But so worth it to see my little daughter finally have an appetite! Today for lunch she ate yogurt with fruit, bits of salmon, tofu, broccoli, and corn.

I especially want to encourage those of you who are concerned that your baby does not like baby food or has a very small appetite to give this method, Baby Led Weaning at try. I was always obsessing that my DD would barely eat 1 jar of babyfood a day at eight months old!

I was unsure of BLW methods giving baby too much freedom and control. But remember, mom is still in control deciding what and when baby eats. But baby has freedom to feed herself and how much. You can still train in the areas of not throwing or spitting out food, screaming in high chair, and keeping hands out of hair. It is not as neat as feeding baby solids with a spoon with their hands placed on the tray!!! So just be ready with plenty of washcloths.

I didn’t read any books or study up on this method. I feed my baby healthy and lightly seasoned foods and avoid the common no no foods for babies under 1 year. I really hope this encourages some of you!


Baby-Led Weaning Alternative

We didn’t do Baby-led weaning per say, but followed the thoughts from Ellyn Satter’s book “Child of Mine.” It’s kind of the same concept, except I DID start with oatmeal for a month, then moved on to mushed up banana, sweet potato, squash, etc, then moved on to chunks of anything soft. I haven’t used any jarred baby foods, and I “make” all my own food, if you can count microwaving frozen peas for three minutes “making food.”

My son is 9.5 months old now and eats an impressive amount of food. And an impressive variety. I like the ease of it all, the fact that we can eat a lot of the same things.

I still follow Babywise principals – we still eat, play, sleep. We’re at a point now where we’re moving dinner time to an actual family meal time (lunch and breakfast already are this way). It takes control away from Mom at mealtimes, which perhaps varies slightly from Babywise philosophy, but I don’t mind it.

Also – it makes a HUGE mess, so have a good piece of plastic under your high chair, and a faithful dog helps a lot, as well! 🙂



20 thoughts on “Tips to Be Successful With Baby-Led Weaning”

  1. I sure wish I would have known about this when my LO was 6 months. She is almost 11 months and hates finger foods, table foods, and sippy cups. Meal time is far from a pleasure at our house and I have been stressed about it since we started it. I am a BW mom, but do see how this can work well while keeping the routine. I do see how it is a little different, but can appreciate how it would work. I will plan on this with baby #2

  2. We are attempting BLW with our 8 month old son but he shoves way too much food in his mouth which results in a lot of gagging and sometimes vomitting. So at this time, I am controlling his food intake by feeding him myself. However, he does eat nearly everything we eat. He has had Mexican casserole, spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, green beans, peas, corn, bread, the list goes on and on. He still loves to eat purees, too. So far he has been a great eater and will eat almost anything offered to him. I will continue to allow him to try to feed himself, but I will also feed him.

  3. I don't follow the BLW concept 100% by any means. I put the food into bite size pieces on her tray, 4 or 5 at a time, and let her go at it. When she was 8 months old, my DD still wasn't getting a lot of food into her mouth, so I fed her with my fingers in between bites. Now, she is 10 months, and she does it all herself. I still don't trust her to have large pieces of food that she bites off herself. Since we started this late, I think that she is at an age where she will likely bite off more than she can gum.

  4. CBHoff-The BLW concept doesn't have to differ that much from the Babywise principle of feeding. The only thing that you won't be able to do is train baby to keep her hands on the tray or in her lap while you spoon fed. This is obviously because baby is using her hands to feed herself with BLW. All the other "training and highchair manners" that Babywise advocates can all be enforced while using BLW. You can still train your child not to blow raspberries, not to put her hands in her hair, not to intentionally drop food or her sippy cup on the floor, not to scream in the highchair, etc etc. You also choose what baby eats and when baby eats. Babywise method helps you implement correction and discipline at mealtimes so that when your child becomes mobile, he/she will already be familiar with obeying his parents at mealtimes. So, this training in other areas becomes easier. I don't see any reason why the Babywise method and BLW cannot be combined. I currently doing it with my child (10 months), and she is very well behaved in the highchair.I hope this helps explain it. You can modify BLW in anyway that suits you. I still feed my DD baby cereal, so she is trained that while I do that, she does not grab the spoon and will keep her hands on the tray.

  5. We did this with our daughter and it made feeding very easy and fun; I still say that I'm considering doing more spoon feeding with my new son (due in Feb) because at times I worried about my daughter a.) chewing well enough and b.) getting enough variety/protein, etc. I will say that now at 21 months she eats many foods, loves her veggies/meat/fruit and is a (mostly) happy little consumer. 🙂

  6. Glad I read this post! With my twins on the way, I was stressing out how I was going to spoon feed two babies at the same time. I think I might read up on BLW a little more and see if I cannot do it with my twins. Might make meal time less stressful, especially if I don't have to spend time making all the purees again!

  7. cbhoff, I don't think it needs to. I think you could let it, but it doesn't need to.BW II says there is no one right or wrong way to introduce solids to your child.The real focus so far as BW and food goes is to instill manners at the table. It is possible that for some babies, this could be something "outside the funnel," but most people start allowing finger foods around 7-8 months anyway, which is basically what this is doing. You can still teach table manners while allowing your child to put the food in their mouths themselves. You can still have them not put food in their hair or throw it on the floor. If you wanted them to learn to let you feed them, you could still feed cereal. Anyway, if you understand the basic core "why" behind BW II–your goals–you can definitely apply BLW without interfering.

  8. Rochelle, If I were to do this, I definitely wouldn't be able to do it all the way 🙂 I need to have some control over what they are eating! But even just reading what these ladies wrote made me much more brave about allowing McKenna to try stuff, which has made her a very happy eater :)–although sometimes a really mad eater, like when I eat almond M&Ms in front of her.

  9. I am so excited that there was a post on this here. I found out about it when I brought this subject up on the yahoo group. A few weeks ago I started wondering if there was any information out there about skipping purees – I hadn't heard about BLW but my DD was signaling to me on her own that that is what she needs. She refuses any sort of babyfood or puree from a spoon. But she intently watches us when we eat, reaches for our food, and loves to hold items of food and suck on them. She is now 6.5 mos, so after reading about BLW I think it is the ideal method for her. And it makes so much sense! Why train her to eat bland food? My DH and I eat healthy, seasoned, ethnic foods (we love Mediterranean and Indian especially) and we want her to enjoy those types of foods as well. As I was reading on a BLW site, BF babies are already used to the flavors from BM anyway. I was also doing some reading that in other countries, this is a more common approach. They just give their babies what they eat. We were eating at our local Mediterranean restaurant before I read about BLW and our friend, the owner, came out and tried to give our baby some soft cheese. I said, no she's not allowed to eat that – and he looked so confused. Where they are from, I think that babies eat lots of foods so long as they are soft and easy to suck on! As it turns out, her favorite food so far is pita bread, and she seems to like hummus too!We have followed a lot of the BW principles, and I totally see how they go along with BLW, because it makes me feel like she is more a part of the family, participating more fully in family mealtimes. It will keep her from being a picky eater, as well as keep her getting a lot of her nutrition from BM too for awhile.The only thing is, I'm not sure what my doctor or the grandparents will think as its not that conventional anymore!! 🙂

  10. Leigh,I agree with your thought on bland foods. I was thinking about that, too. We have given McKenna our spicy foods from a young age, and she is defintely our most adventerous eater. When Brayden was a baby, I read to give them bland food because then the taste buds get used to food in its natural way and they won't be picky. That makes sense….But Brayden doesn't like food with much flavor in most cases. He likes it bland still.Now, on the one hand, he eats fruits and veggies plain with no salt or butter or dips or anything. And his food is quite healthy without all of that stuff.But on the other, little food I make is totally bland 🙂 McKenna has always eaten more of what we eat. I am trying to merge both concepts with her. I want her to be satisfied with fruits and veggies as they are in their natural state because that is the healthiest way to eat them. But I also want her to eat exactly what we eat at meals without a panic attack 😉

  11. Totally agree with your last comments there Val. I am about to start solids here and trying to figure out how to merge all these ideas together…some purees, some blw, some bland, some spicy/flavorful.Thinking thinking…

  12. I've found a way to combine BLW and spoon feeding that works (for us): When I first read this post, I was very intrigued by the concept of BLW and decided I wanted to try it. Flash forward to my son at four months, still not STTN, so I went ahead and started him on rice cereal and a few other purees in hopes for more sleep. Well, instead of it helping him, I found he woke earlier at night AND from naps, so I cut his baby food back to just let him taste/try things occasionally.I wanted to wait til about 8 months to start solids (for real), but by six months my son was waking even MORE in the night, so I got out the purees again. I also let him experiment with more solid food, but he struggled with the concept (wanting me to put it in his mouth for him). Then, one day I tried giving him some cheerios (I know, I know). Well, to my surprise, he was able to eat them independently! After that I started giving him lots of things in bite size pieces. Yes, we've had some gagging episodes, but NO choking. The only thing he really still needs to figure out is that he can bite manageable pieces off of larger chunks (which I'm hoping will be more natural when he has teeth!)So Here's a Typical Day for Us:Wake-upNurseBreakfast: Emphasis on Puree (I'll give him a few cheerios or banana chunks while I make my breakfast, then we eat together, him purees, me my cereal)Bath/PlayNapNurseLunch: Emphasis on Finger Food (Here's where we experiment: avocados, grapefruit without the membranes, baked potato etc.)PlayNapNursePlayNurseDinner: Emphasis on BOTH kinds of Solids.I usually make dinner, nurse, and then my son eats with us, and whatever we are eating (if possible). After dinner we clean up, and give him any leftover purees we want to finish off, as well as his rice cereal (I also cheat and make it with formula, but it's worth getting 5-8 hours of sleep in a row!), and then it's off to bed.Manners:My son has learned that when he is being spoon-fed, he does not put his hands into his mouth/onto his spoon (he HATES it when I put his hand down, so I'm assuming he's trying to avoid this). It only took a few days to get. Now, when he does this, I take it as a sign that he is getting full and is wanting to play over eat. As for food on his tray, that's fair game. The only thing I have to watch is when I spill puree on his tray. His hands will spread it all-over if I don't get it up quickly.So that's what works for us. I don't know if all my babies will be so easy, so it might be helpful to try the solids in between sides. One mistake I did make was to give him too much all at once. I've suffered some engorgement (though I'm hoping this is because he really did NOT need to be eating so much at night).

  13. One more thing! My little man loves to play with the spoon, but I don't want him make an unnecessary mess. After he's done eating, I clean him up and rinse the spoon. He plays til he drops it, and then I get him out of the highchair.

  14. Thanks for your comments and ideas! I am sure that will be helpful to someone. I like how you use substitution to allow some spoon play–excellent idea.

  15. We did BLW with our daughter, with mostly great success. I only had two concerns: 1. Part of BLW is the concept of learning to chew before learning to swallow. (This is the opposite of with purees.) During the first couple weeks (when she was still learning chewing), she was given some banana, which she choked on. She didn't know how to chew it up before it went down her throat. (And yes, it was choking, not gagging.) Also during that period, she had a stick of watermelon, and the same thing happened. So, with our next kid, I'll stick with things that are firmer (cantaloupe, cucumber, etc.) until he really gets the chewing down.2. Our daughter had a period of time, around 7-8 months, where she stopped STTN, even though she had been for months. She was BF and doing BLW, but apparently not getting enough calories, because one night we tried giving her some oatmeal, and she STTN perfectly again. So, just a caution that even if you continue BF/formula-feeding, at some point your kid might need more calories from cereal before they are able to get those calories from finger foods.


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