I first learned of Baby led weaning (BLW) two years ago at a Mom’s group with Lucy. I was surprised I hadn’t even heard the term before. I of course went home and googled it. Essentially, it boils down to letting babies feed themselves soft chunks of food instead of spoon-feeding them purees when they start eating around 6 months.
A lot about Baby Led Weaning made sense to me.
I read that babies at 6 months who can sit up and grab toys are also capable of feeding themselves. Research supports that it helps develop babies’ hand-eye coordination, dexterity and chewing skills. And it could help baby gain confidence as she explores taste, textures, colors and smells on her own. I figured, why not try it?
The drawbacks are that a lot of the food doesn’t make it to their mouth at first—so you don’t know exactly how much they are eating and it can get messy.
Feeding is all about experimentation anyway at 6 months since babies are still getting most of their nutrients from breastmilk or formula. Also, I knew I could monitor intake somewhat by her output (stools). And unfortunately, I’m used to the mess already with my other children. So for me, the positives outweighed the negatives.
They key for me is that baby eats at the same time, same table, and sharing the same food as the rest of the family.
With three under four, being hands free is essential. I’m not always able to sit down and spoon-feed the baby. I’m typically cutting up food, cleaning up spilled milk, pouring more milk, or eating myself. I did BLW with Lucy and she is a great eater now at 2. So it was a no-brainer that I would do the same for Paige.
What to make was a bit daunting at first
I started with naturally soft choices like baked sweet potato, smashed peas, roasted butternut squash, avacado, banana, melon, banana—foods I was already feeding my other children. I slowly introduced new things by either steaming or roasting to make soft chunks or shredding others.
Once we found that she had no allergic reactions, I was hooked on the BLW and ready to combine different foods and make more recipes.
I ordered the book “The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook” by Gil Rapley and Tracey Murkett, which gave me a lot of great ideas. Here are a few of the things I made at first: meatballs of all varieties including turkey, pork, beef and adding spinach, zucchini, carrot; simple pancakes adding banana, blueberries, pumpkin, or zucchini; soups and stews with chunks of food that I pull out for Paige; pasta and vegetable dishes with just olive oil or simple tomato sauce.
Now at 8 months, Paige eats just about anything we eat.
Just yesterday, that included smoothie in the morning with greens, fruits, yogurt, almond butter, chia seed. She even enjoyed peanut butter sandwich and carrots at our picnic lunch at the park. For dinner, she’ll eat any fish or meat we have along with veggies, starches and even on the not-so-awesome cooking nights of scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and pizza. Really, she can eat anything as long as its not too spicy or over-seasoned.
She’ll still have purees on occasion.
I steam, puree, and freeze batches of veggies that I pull out whenever she needs some more greens. And I buy those pouches and keep them in my diaper bag for times when we are eating out or on the go. But at home, she eats all the food we eat now. Her fine-motor skills are really developing well from this. She can pick up just about anything and get it to her mouth. She started with the raking technique and now she uses her pincer grip.
The best outcome is making mealtimes less stressful and seeing her enjoy the family meals.
When I can serve everyone, even the baby, the same thing—that makes life easier for me. That way I can enjoy the family meals too. I feel like recently, I’ve heard so much about the value and importance of family meals for children— even that its as vital to children’s development as reading to them everyday. I see BLW as a natural way to introduce family meals to babies and get them to start exploring and enjoying food early.