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How to start baby-led weaning? This is a question that a lot of moms have. Baby-led weaning is one of the popular things many moms don’t have enough knowledge about. Or maybe don’t know how to get started.
I am not saying that I know everything on this subject, but I can speak from my perspective and experience with my son.
I used to be one of those terrified moms out there that wanted to start using this technique but didn’t know how and where to start.
Somehow I managed to break through that fear and offered my baby the possibility to learn and love food by feeding himself.
Table of contents
- What is baby-led weaning?
- Early signs that baby is ready for solids
- Do I still offer breast milk or formula?
- What do you need to get started?
- Will baby choke? How to do it safely?
- How much food? Tips on how to offer food
- What if the baby rejects the food?
- How do you know if the baby had enough food?
How to start Baby led weaning series
- How to start baby-led weaning? | Introduction to BLW (this one)
- 10 Benefits of Baby Led Weaning | Pros & Cons of BLW
- Baby-Led Weaning Essentials
- Best First Foods for Baby Led Weaning
- 49 Easy Baby Led Weaning Recipes
What is baby-led weaning?
I won’t get into a lot of details as the web is full of answers on this term.
Baby-led weaning, long for BLW, is just a fancy word for “letting your child feed on his own”. It has been my favorite way to wean my baby. It helps him explore food, learn, and actually enjoy his mealtimes.
The major difference between BLW and normal spoon-feeding is just the way you are offering food to your baby.
Before you start baby led weaning, I would recommend doing lots and lots of research. This is essential in order for everything to go as smoothly as possible and for you to be ready for when something goes wrong.
You can start off by reading Baby-led weaning The Essential Guide by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett.
This book is a gold mine and it has helped me a lot in this process and it has answered many questions. It even convinced me that BLW is better for the baby then the spoon feeding. At least that’s what I think.
So if you are unclear or still thinking about it, you should definitely read their book. There is a second book The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook by the same authors, which is more of a recipe book, but it also has a summary of the most important things you should know about BLW. Just enough details to get you started. So the one I mentioned first is the detailed version of the cookbook.
I have them both and they have many similarities. So, in my opinion, there is no need to buy them both, but it’s your choice.
Early signs that baby is ready for solids
Experts all over the world recommend that solid food (no matter what form) should be given to baby around 6 months. I said “around” because not all babies are the same and their development is very different.
There are clear signs that show readiness. There are some babies that are not even ready for solids at 6 months. That’s why you should watch your baby closely before starting baby led weaning or any type of weaning to be more precise.
Here is a list of the most significant signs that your baby will show when he’s ready for other foods than breastmilk or formula:
- Baby has control over his head and is able to keep it in an upright position. This will prevent your baby from choking while eating.
- Sitting well supported or not. This is essential. Your baby has to be able to sit upright in a highchair. It will help him swallow the food.
- Curiosity about the food. Your baby will show interest in the food you are eating. He may even attempt to grab pieces from your plate.
- Losing the tongue reflex. This is when your baby takes something to his mouth and immediately starts poking his tongue out. This is a clear sign that he is expecting a breast or a bottle. So he’s not ready for solids yet.
Do I still offer breast milk or formula?
Yes, definitely! Your baby will still take most of the nutrients he needs from milk. No matter if it’s formula or breastmilk.
I remember that when we started with solids I used to nurse him either before or after he’s had his solid meal. Whenever I used to nurse him before his solid meal he would be calmer and more interested in his food.
What do you need to get started?
The beauty of BLW is that you don’t need special food or fancy equipment (like you normally would for spoon feeding). You can offer him whatever you are having, from your own plate.
Even though this is recommended, I know for a fact that sometimes you don’t really know what to offer to your baby. Maybe you’re not eating one of the most healthy meals in the world and the last thing you want if feeding your baby nasty foods from this early age.
Another good thing is that with baby-led weaning you don’t need a lot of things, but they will definitely make your life easier. I’ve put together a list for you with my absolute essentials for BLW. Please keep in mind that you don’t need all of these. My baby is now 11 months old and I recently introduced suction bowls and plates. So do not go out and buy all these on a list. If I were to choose a single item from this list, that’s a must-have I would most definitely choose the high chair. It’s practical, convenient and your baby will be much safer there during meal times.
Will baby choke? How to do it safely?
Choking has been my number one fear when it comes to BLW. Even though months have passed since we started baby-led weaning, I’m still terrified of choking. This can happen with any type of feeding technique, but for some reason, I found it more likely to happen with BLW.
Thankfully we didn’t have many bad experiences so far. My baby has choked only once so far. Nothing serious though. Maybe it was just a more serious gag. It was a huge scare for all of us, especially for my little one. He cried his eyes out and I was all shaken up. But everything was alright in the end.
You have to trust your baby. He knows what he has to do when you give him food. Don’t forget that babies are survivors by nature. Since they are being born it’s all about survival for them until they learn everything they have to know about life.
Your only job is to give him safe foods, in a size that he can handle and he’ll do the rest. I know that’s easier said than done. But trust me, I’ve been in your shoes and I know how terrifying it can be.
I mentioned earlier about gag and choking. You should know that these are two very different things.
Choking is pretty self-explanatory so I am not going to focus on that.
The gag, however, it’s not very known, at least for me it wasn’t. This is a reflex that babies have. It’s how babies are able to learn how to safely manage food and prevents them from choking. A gag is usually triggered when the baby has put too much food in their mouth. What happens is that when a baby overfills his mouth he pushes the food in the back of this tongue and blocking the throat. That’s when the gag reflex kicks in and “brings” the food back in the front of the mouth or tongue and eventually spit it out.
I recommend searching for some clips on YouTube just to be clear. I am not very good at explaining. Some babies vomit when a gag is taking place. Which is absolutely normal.
The biggest mistake that parents do, I did it myself a couple of times, is when they see their baby gag they have the tendency to pat the baby behind his neck. Why is that such a huge mistake? Baby is trying to bring food from the back of his mouth to the front and if you pat him exactly when he’s doing that it is likely that you could stop that process or even reverse it and baby will end up choking.
It is always best to watch baby closely when he gags and intervene just when necessary when baby can’t manage by himself. You can be surprised how well babies can handle this.
That’s the difference between gagging and choking. I hope I made myself clear and you actually understood something.
Usually choking happens when the baby puts something that he can’t chew in his mouth. These could be toys or food.
List of foods to avoid
Here’s a list of foods to avoid offering to your baby at a very young age. Some are choking hazards and some are just foods that need to be avoided at least during baby’s first year of life.
- Nuts – perfect choking hazard due to its shape.
- Fruits or veggies that have stones – such as cherries, olives
- Bony fish – it’s dangerous even for adults
- Hard pieces of foods – such as croutons
- Drinks – coke, soda, tea, cow’s milk
- Artificial colourings, preservatives, and sweeteners
- Allergy triggers – check your family history on any food allergies. If someone in your family has an allergy to a certain food, chances are that your baby could be allergic to the same food. This isn’t a rule, but it’s always good to be safe.
How much food? Tips on how to offer food
This has been another big question that I have when it came to weaning in general.
You should know that your baby is going to play with the food at first. That’s how they learn about it, how to eat and many more. This step will take weeks. He won’t even realize that the thing you are offering to him is going to fill his tummy. He only knows about milk. So now he learns about grown-up food.
At the beginning most of the food you’ve offered it’s going to end up on his chair, floor or clothes. But that’s OK. Don’t panic, it won’t be forever.
It’s best to offer 2 or maybe 3 different types of food so that he can explore and choose his favourite.
Offer a piece of each, but make sure that you have plenty on hand for when he “eats” everything. Don’t be afraid to pick up the food that the baby has dropped and pass it back to him.
Food size should be at least 5 cm long or long enough for your baby to be able to hold it and bite from it.
It is extremely important to let your baby in charge of what to put or remove from his mouth. You’d be surprised, but he knows how much food can handle.
Ensure that the food it’s not too hot for your baby. Keep in mind that they are more sensitive to heat than us. I usually take a bite or check the food with my lips. Lips can be very sensitive to hot food.
The most important piece of advice that someone can give you is to never leave your baby unattended while she eats. You never know what could happen and you must be close to your baby for when she needs you.
What if the baby rejects the food?
If your baby rejects the food you’re offering it could be one of two reasons:
- it’s hot
- doesn’t like it
If it’s the latter, don’t be offended. Just offer her something else. Babies are smart and they know when they don’t like something. Maybe they don’t like the taste in that particular moment, but don’t be afraid of offering that food again after a while. Maybe he’s not ready for a certain food or flavour and he doesn’t like it at that time, but this doesn’t mean that he won’t like it ever.
For example, my baby refused to eat potatoes at the beginning and I tried after a few weeks and he loved them. Another thing he does it that he wouldn’t immediately let me know that he doesn’t like a certain food. He usually informs me after he’s had a few pieces of food. Isn’t that weird?
More baby led weaning meal ideas and recipes I am going to share in future posts from my little BLW series, so definitely come back for more.
How do you know if the baby had enough food?
How do you know if your baby has had enough? Well, that’s easy.
- Your baby has finished everything you’ve given her – best case scenario.
- She will hand you pieces of food, she will drop them on the floor.
- Whenever you offer her food, she will turn her head and so on.
These are just a few. Every baby is different. The key is to watch your baby closely and you’ll know when she’s full.
Ensure that you check your baby’s mouth is completely empty after his meals. Sometimes babies like to hold onto pieces of food and he may choke. So definitely watch out for this.
This post is a summary and the most important stuff you need to know about baby-led weaning. For more in-depth I highly recommend reading the “Baby-led weaning book” by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett.
Their book is one of the main reasons I transitioned to BLW first.