Introducing solids: Helpful tips on baby-led weaning

Introducing solids: Helpful tips on baby-led weaning

When our little C turned six months both my husband and I were excited to start introducing solid foods. As an exclusively breast-fed baby, I wanted to give her the best jump-start to eating right. I came across Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett’s book, Baby-Led Weaningand it’s a great approach to introducing solids that seems right in line with natural parenting.

What is baby-led weaning (BLW)?

In a nutshell, BLW is just as the name implies: letting the baby lead the way. It’s a stress-free approach to letting your child eat real food with her own two hands rather than spoon-feeding. It doesn’t require you to make “special” food for you child; no purees or jars of mushy stuff.

Baby-led weaning makes sense developmentally

Letting your child eat the food off their own plate (or highchair tray) helps them develop fine motor skills both in their hands and in their mouths. Playing with a variety of textures, sizes, and flavors gives their brain new information to digest. They also learn to judge volume and size. Best of all, you get to include them in meal time, helping them learn social skills.

Baby-led weaning is a great approach to introducing solid foods to your baby. Learn why.

Baby-led weaning makes sense nutritionally

Your child will be eating real food. They will be getting nutritionally packed foods like carrots, bell peppers, avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, meat (and all the iron goodness that comes with it), and a variety of other foods. Because they are introduced to so many flavors and textures early on, BLW babies usually don’t have as many “issues” with food as toddlers (or adults). Most become very adventurous eaters. And studies have shown that as long as the child is given healthy options, when put in charge of their own food most babies will eat what their body needs—a skill that will help them fight obesity and poor nutrition later on.

Best of all, it’s easy!

There are no purees to make. No jars to buy. No airplane tricks to make your child eat. You are teaching your child early on that real food is important.

Baby-led weaning is a great approach to introducing solid foods to your baby. Learn why.

Some common questions:

When should I start? BLW is safe as long as you wait until your child is developmentally ready to start. Waiting until your child is 6 months helps to ensure that your baby’s digestive system is mature enough to handle solid food. But you will also want to make sure that your child is able to sit up straight on their own. From there, let them at it! You will be amazed at how they progress.

Won’t my child choke? As long as you are safe and practice some common sense, the chances of your child choking are unlikely. The fine motor skills that allows your baby to pick up small pieces of food is in line with the fine motor skills necessary to eat them. This means that your child most likely will not be able to swallow those small objects until she’s ready. Don’t be surprise, however, if you child gags a little. A baby’s gag reflex in not as far back in their throat as it is with adults. Think of this as a natural built-in safety mechanism designed to keep your child from choking while at the same time helping them learn how to handle food within their mouth.

Avoid nuts or other objects that could get stuck in their throat. (Side note: Rapley and Murkett actually talk about the fact that spoon-fed babies are more likely to choke because they are not in control of their own food, and adults have a tendency to put the spoon too far back—behind their natural gag reflex.

How will I know if they are eating enough? At the beginning your child really won’t be eating much, if anything at all. The first few weeks (even months) are more about discovering food and developing fine motor skills. One of the aspects of BLW is that you are feeding your child breast milk/formula “on demand.” Breast milk, especially, is a nutritional powerhouse and all your child really needs for the first year. Once your child begins to recognize solid foods as a way to solve their hunger they will naturally take less milk/formula. As long as your child is growing and seems happy they are probably getting enough. But of course, if you have concerns you should talk to your pediatrician.

What do I need to begin? Some patience (babies will take their time eating), a camera (you will not want to miss their first experience!), and some tactics to deal with the mess (can you say drop cloth?) Other than that, not a whole lot! The beauty of BWL is that you feed your child real food—the food you would normally eat (with a few exceptions, things like salt, nuts, and honey shouldn’t be fed to babies). Just remember to offer your baby healthy food. Organic is great because at the beginning they will be doing a lot of chomping and sucking while testing the texture of the food.

Anything else? It’s always smart to talk to your child’s pediatrician before diving in, especially if you have any concerns or a family history of food allergies. Also, never leave your baby alone while they are eating. This will help ensure their safety as well as keep mealtime about family time.

What food are best? While I loved the concepts introduced in the book, I would actually recommend Heather Dessinger’s book, Nourished Baby, for a better approach to the types of foods that your little baby’s digestive system can handle and what foods are best.

Looking for quality real food ingredients? Be sure to the check out the Village Green Marketplace!

Baby-led weaning is a great approach to introducing solid foods to your baby. Learn why.

Did you do baby-weaning? What did you think of it?

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

10 comments

  1. tiffany

    My 9 month old hates purees and prefers real food! His favorites are green beans, avacdo and squash. It sure gets messy but honestly I think is much easier than normal baby food!

  2. Dusti

    We are doing BLW with our son (second child) and everything is going really well so far. He is almost 9 months and is just now really demanding food whenever someone else is eating. I’ve essentially followed the rule that if I am making it for the rest of the family and it is soft enough for him to chew, then he can have it. We avoid grains and legumes and I give him a lot of eggs and veggies. Some meats but he only has 2 teeth still, so that gets a little tricky.

    One thing I was wondering is, have you dealt with constipation when starting BLW? I had another mom who’s son is 7 weeks younger than mine ask me the same thing the other day. It seems that both of our babies were constipated once they really started eating solids on a daily basis. We are both doing essentially the same diet for our babies with the exception that she hasn’t introduced meat but gives beans occasionally. I don’t think she has given him eggs yet, and she offers more fruit.

    When it happened to my little man I wasn’t too worried, he just had to work harder at it for a couple days and things have gone back to normal. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Dusti

      One other thing is, we are both a little concerned about the amount of nutrition that our babies are really getting from the solid food since it passes through mostly undigested. Both of our babies are breastfed and are great nursers, so we aren’t too worried about it since they are still getting the majority of their nutrients from breast milk. Any thoughts on that as well?


      1. Post author
        robin

        I think it’s important to trust your baby (assuming they seem generally in good spirits, of course). For those first few months BLW isn’t as much about food or nutrition as it is exploring. And even now, at almost two years, my little girl goes through periods where she eats very little and then eats a ton. I try not to worry unless she shows sign of illness or lethargy. And whenever she goes through a period of “little food” she will inevitably come back around and then consume tons. (Thankfully, I’m still BF, too. It’s nice to know she still getting *some* nutrition on those scarce days.) :)


    2. Post author
      robin

      Hi Dusti,

      It makes sense that there might be digestive issues when introducing any new foods. As long as it doesn’t last too long, and they are able “to go” eventually I wouldn’t be too worried. Breast milk (and formula) are so easily digested that introducing new foods will take some adjustments. I didn’t notice anything with my own girl… but she has had periods of slight constipation throughout her life. It could be the food, a little bug, or a number of things. Keep an eye on it, but as long as they still seem happy and their bowels come around eventually it should be fine.

  3. Shellee W.

    My 9 mos son had failure to thrive due to doctors not diagnosing him with lip/tongue tie. So we had to start puree solids at 6-7 mos to help with weight gain. I still puree what we ate. He is developmentally delayed by 3 mos or so. I think this is great…I will try to start with once he is able to sit better and reaches more directly to grab stuff. Poor little guy misses his mouth way to often with bigger items! Thanks for sharing!

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