When we started preparing for Baby Girl’s arrival, I was planning on puréeing all our own baby food. I even registered for some of the supplies. But then a friend told me about baby-led weaning (BLW). Thank goodness she did because I’m pretty sure she saved my life!
You hear and read stories about picky eaters all the time. Parents spend hours bargaining with their littles and making extra meals to accommodate tiny tastebuds. With every thing else you have to tend to as a parent, wouldn’t it be nice to take the food issue off the table? (Pardon my poor pun.) When you’re caught in between milk feedings and eating with the family, BLW offers an excellent solution.
BLW is cost effective and teaches your baby healthy eating habits from the start. No baby cereal, no baby food, no tantrums at the table….well, hardly any tantrums at the table…I mean, toddlers will be toddlers no matter what.
We started BLW when Lily was 6 months old, and, now that Tommy is approaching that milestone this week, we’re eager to let him start exploring food, too!
- bapron (or other bib with good coverage)
- splash mat (We love this one – the quality is awesome, but it is $25+)
- BLW Cookbook
These supplies are completely optional. One of the major perks of baby-led weaning is to save money, not spend more of it arming yourself with unnecessary tools. You will want to find a way to protect your baby’s clothes from all of the mess, though, even if that means just wearing a diaper for meal times. And you will want something to put under the high chair to catch spilled foods and drinks. It just makes clean-up easier. However, if you have laminate or tile flooring, you could probably do without. It’s totally up to you. As far as recipes go, I’ve included some links here, but you can also find a TON of ideas on Pinterest.
HOW BABY-LED WEANING WORKS
The main idea here is that the baby eats at the table with the family and enjoys whatever the family is eating. There’s no need for any food at all – no cereals, no purèes – until 6 months. It’s well documented that the baby’s body is not ready for food until this time. I recommend reading all the details about these facts and baby-led weaning in the book by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.
Once your baby is 6 months old, you can start letting her explore a variety of foods. We started with chunky cuts of fruits and veggies, like cucumbers, zucchini, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and toast and naan. Lily loved it! She also started drinking water at this time. Ideally, you’re just giving your baby bits and pieces of your meals so you’re not having to prepare anything extra. When you’re first getting started, though, this might be difficult. Soups can be a great starting point. You can put in lots of easy-to-grip vegetables and meat. I always serve Lily’s portion with a straining spoon so she doesn’t get as much of the liquid.
The goal of baby-led weaning is to let the child learn by doing. He learns how to bring food to his own mouth, explore tastes and textures, and chew sufficiently. One of the major benefits that caught my attention is how the baby learns to eat until she is full on her own. She can develop a healthy relationship with food through this process of exploration and feeding herself. If you’re not spoon-feeding, you’re not in control of how much your baby eats; your baby is the one in control. Food, then, becomes fun because there’s no pressure, and it’s more about play.
Some things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- It’s messy. You’re letting a 6-month-old play with food. (Just a note…the splash mat affords you the ability to give back dropped foods as long as you’re keeping it clean.)
- Remember the purpose is to explore, so try to avoid being super controlling. It’s not easy, especially for us type A’s and recovering perfectionists, but it’s important.
- The gag reflex is normal and part of the learning process. (Please see the BLW book for more information.)
- Always do milk feedings BEFORE having Baby join you at the table.
Here are some fun recipes to try when you’re ready.