Saturday, February 23, 2013

Baby Led Weaning

We have been following Baby Led Weaning (BLW) for a month now with lots of success, messes, and fun!  The whole concept just makes sense to us and has fit so well into our family with how we are raising Liam.  I've had lots of people ask me about this and how it has been going, so here's my experience with it.  First of all, the word "weaning" here means to add complimentary foods, not to give up breastfeeding.  In fact, La Leche League (LLL) fully supports BLW!  Their book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, is where I first read about this concept.  I also regularly attend LLL meetings, and this is the route that many other moms I connect with there seem to have chosen as well.  I never gave it much thought until Liam turned 4 months old and everyone wanted to know if we were giving our baby food yet...

I knew that I wanted to skip the baby cereal/oatmeal stage, because after some research I considered it unnecessary and can be promoted much too early.  I felt especially confident in this choice as I realized that his pediatrician never even mentioned giving Liam anything other than breastmilk at his 4 month check up.  I don't judge nor want to offend others who may have chosen a different path with their child(ren); this is just the choice we have made for our family.  Our pediatrician recommended we start introducing foods when he could sit up unassisted and began to reach for our food.  Usually this happens around 6 months, and this is when their body is ready to begin digesting foods.  Initially, I thought I would make my own baby food.  I was super excited about shopping at my local farmer's market and getting all sorts of fresh/organic produce to puree for Liam!  But once I started researching when & how to introduce foods, I realized that I didn't need to spend my time blending things up for our little boy.  I was quickly sold on the idea of BLW and after talking to Conor about it we dove right in! 

I won't go through all the nitty gritty details of BLW in this post; if you're interested, there's a great book that explains it all!  The general concept is simple though: no forced spoon feeding or purees.  Once babies are ready, you introduce finger foods to them and allow them to feed themselves at their own pace.  The first couple weeks (or months) typically consist of exploring and sampling the different foods and not much is actually ingested.  Their are two things to remember when practicing BLW:

1.  "Food before one is just for fun!"
2.  Gagging is NOT choking!

BLW helps babies find their gag reflux and learn to chew right away.  Babies don't need teeth for this either; they are plenty capable of mashing things up with their gums.  However, I will say that Liam is now the proud owner of two pearly whites on the bottom row!  There is no need to worry about how much they are eating in the beginning, because through their first year of life, all necessary nutrients come from breastmilk (or formula if that's the case).  By 6 months babies are capable of feeding themselves, so why try and force it on them?  With BLW, babies are learning great hand/eye coordination as they reach for foods.  They learn that soft foods like bananas & avocados need to be handled gently or they will squish easily.  They might have to chase a slippery strawberry all over the table before finally getting a good enough grip on it!  They eat what they like, and pass on what they don't.  It teaches great eating habits from the very beginning since they are always in control.

At Liam's 6 month check up, our new (since we moved) pediatrician asked if we had introduced any foods to Liam yet.  We gave the short list of foods he had tried in just the last couple weeks and she was quite impressed and pleased with the variety.  I told her were practicing BLW.  She hadn't heard of the term before, but once I explained she said that the American Academy of Pediatrics is actually starting to shift to this method of thinking!  I was so pleased to hear this and know that our new pediatrician supported what we are doing.

Conor & I both love to cook and enjoy sharing our meals together around our dining table each night.    It was so nice to begin including Liam into that fun!  We already cook healthy foods from scratch most of the time, so we simply give Liam parts of our meal that are acceptable for him (generally unseasoned, easy to hold, whole food pieces).  I'm sure he'll be eating our full meals before I know it!  We never have to worry about "who's feeding the baby," because he sits in his own chair and feeds himself at his own pace.  However, there is plenty of "pick-up duty" from all the little bits he likes to drop or throw onto the floor.  His personality shows through so much while he's eating exploring!  Here's a few things we've learned about Liam since starting him on foods:

Liam likes to have food in both hands at all times.
The food has to have flavor right away (without him biting it) or he's not very interested.
Slightly sour foods are his favorite and cause many a funny face.
He really likes to squish soft foods through  his fingers.
You can't stare at him while he's eating, he doesn't like the pressure!

Here's a list of foods that we have already introduced to Liam; I'm sure there are more, I just can't remember them all.  Right now, we're only introducing foods at dinner time, but he is quickly showing an interest an eating whenever we are.  Soon, he'll be introduced to foods throughout the day.  I better stock up on stain remover and many more clothes for this messy boy!  Typically he eats something that we are already eating, because he wants to be included.  He's always checking out our plates which seem much more appealing to him.  We are holding off on sweets until his 1st birthday (I'm already envisioning the smash cake fun), but sometimes we are tempted to share a little dessert with him.  Conor is much more tempted than me... I always have to keep a close eye on him!

                 strawberries (a favorite)                  apples                                           spinach
                 mangos (a favorite)                         pancakes                                       pita chips
                 pears                                              steak                                             chicken
                 oranges (a favorite)                         broccoli                                         carrots           
                 cheese                                            cucumber                                       zucchini
                 hummus                                          avocados (a favorite)                     homemade pasta
                 pickles (a favorite)                          bananas

We have loved going through this fun process with Liam and highly recommend it!  It is simply another fun way to interact with our little man.  I can't imagine doing things any other way! :-)

{Update}  Read about my experience over 6 months later here.


  1. Thanks so much for this post. After reading it, I ordered the book on amazon. My son is so not into eating and so over the purees and although we're behind (he's 9 months) we're hoping this might make him more interested in food and eating!

    1. The book is so helpful! Hopefully it works out for you! It makes meal times so much fun.

  2. Just found your blog and this is totally how we have been feeding Brooklyn and LOVE it. No messing around with baby cereal and food...all natural foods and she loves it!

    1. Awesome! It's always good to hear other success stories!


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