Modern Toddler

Baby-led Weaning: What is it?

February 8, 2018

Over the past nine months I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the method I chose to take with feeding Theo.  I wanted to do a quick post to answer some of the more common questions.  He was the first baby I have ever fed any food to (I’ve never baby sat in my life haha) so the whole concept of introducing foods to a baby was new to me.  I did a lot of research and decided that for our family, baby-led weaning (blw) would be the best approach.  At first Jordan was not really on board at all.  He’s the oldest of seven and watched all of his siblings start out with eating purees, so he didn’t really understand it at first.  We talked about it a lot and once we started feeding Theo solids and Jordan saw how well he did with eating, he agrees it was a great approach.

What is Baby-led weaning (BLW)?

Baby-led weaning is when the baby is in charge of their own feeding process and they feed themselves right from the beginning (skipping purees and spoon feeding). In the beginning, foods are cut into sticks or strips because young babies don’t have the dexterity to pick up small pieces of food such as peas or diced foods. If you want to give softer foods such as oatmeal or yogurt or even purees, you can put it on the spoon for baby and let baby bring the spoon to their mouth. It’s messy, but so fun watching your baby learn how to eat.

How old was Theo when you started BLW?

We waited until he was six months, was showing interest in food, and could sit very well unassisted.

Did Theo ever choke doing BLW?

I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about choking versus gagging. Gagging is very common when babies are first learning how to eat. They are learning how to chew and swallow, and sometimes they want to spit food out but can’t quite figure out how.  When Theo first started eating it was very common for him to gag. He did this if he took too big of a bite and wanted to spit it out, if he didn’t like the taste of something, or just because he thought it was funny. We always watch him very carefully when he eats and if he starts gagging I can almost always see the food on his tongue so I let him work through the gag on his own.

Choking, on the other hand, is dangerous and requires intervention. Choking is when the airway is completely blocked, and your baby will not be able to make any sound. He or she will begin to turn blue, as they are not able to get air into their lungs. If your baby is choking make sure that you are prepared to perform back blows and infant CPR.

The Feeding Littles Infant Course that I mention at the end of this post has some great footage of babies gagging to help you better understand what gagging looks like. I also encourage everyone that is going to be taking care of little ones to get certified in infant CPR.  Hopefully it’s never needed, but in case of an emergency you want to know how to handle it.

What was his first food?

His first meal was deconstructed tacos. He had black beans, avocado, grilled chicken, and tortilla strips. He mostly just played with his food and more than half of what he brought to his mouth ended up dropping on the floor.  To this day though, avocado is still his favorite food!  Below is a picture of his first meal.

Did you start feeding him three meals a day?

We chose to start with one meal a day, dinner. We chose dinner because we were almost always both home for this meal so we were able to get used to feeding him together. At seven months we added in breakfast, which quickly became his favorite meal of the day and it is still the meal that he eats the most. At eight months we added in lunch. However, it wasn’t until closer to month nine that he really ate much for lunch. By one year he was eating three meals a day and anywhere from 2-3 snacks per day.

What do you do when he doesn’t like something?

I don’t ever pressure him to try something that he doesn’t want.  However, I still continue to serve him foods, even if last time he had the food he was uninterested.  Exposure is key for helping kids develop a broad palate.  Keep giving them the opportunity to try things and they might eventually surprise you. For example, Theo had no interest in eating chicken until he was 1. I continued to serve it to him in small portions and eventually he stopped throwing it on the floor and started eating it. Now at 15 months, it’s a food that he regularly eats and loves.

How do you handle the mess?

I wish I had some really great advice for this but the fact is, feeding babies is messy. As they get older and their dexterity improves the mess begins to decrease. I also try and keep the snacks that I offer mess-free (cheese sticks, veggie sticks, crackers, granola bars). If I know we are going to have a very messy meal like lasagna for dinner, I tend to keep the other two meals relatively mess free.  This helps me to avoid spending my whole day cooking and then cleaning up. Also, when we eat at restaraunts I tend to choose things that are less messy as I don’t feel like doing a bunch of cleaning up. At home I am more than happy to give him fun foods and let him make a big mess.  I usually take his clothes off to avoid staining them if the meal’s messy. In public, I choose to avoid that haha it’s a personal preference.  I also always make sure to have his Bapron baby bib with us. It ties behind his back so he’s not able to pull it off, and it’s designed so that dropped food is caught at the bottom of the bib instead of falling on the floor. Now at fifteen months, I will say he is much less messy.  Also, your baby will throw food.  It’s a normal part of development and it’s best to just ignore them when they do it.  Giving them attention will just encourage them to do it more.  It sucks, but it is what it is.

When did you introduce utensils?

I chose to introduce a spoon right at 6 months.   The num num gootensils (I’ll link these at the end of the post) were the first spoons I used, because they are designed with little hands in mind.  I would load the food onto the spoon and then put it on Theo’s tray for him to pick up himself.  Around age 1 is when he started really learning how to use his spoon without me loading it for him.  I waited until closer to 11 months to introduce a fork to him.  I would say it took until about 13 months for him to really grasp the concept of getting his food onto the fork.  Now at fifteen months he does really well with utensils.  He still chooses to eat with his hands sometimes though and I just let him do his thing.

When did you introduce a plate or a bowl?  How do prevent them from throwing it onto the floor?

We started out using the EZPZ plate because it stuck to the tray so he wasn’t able to pick it up and throw it.  Around age 1 I started giving him food on a regular plate.  Sometimes he eats nicely and doesn’t touch the plate, sometimes thirty seconds into the meal he tries to grab it and huck it.  Once he starts playing with it I just move his food to the tray and take away the plate.

What foods, if any, should I avoid when starting BLW?

There are a handful of choking hazards that you want to avoid feeding children.  Choking hazards include uncut grapes, tomatoes, and hot dogs, nuts, hard veggies like carrot sticks.  I encourage you to check out the feeding littles course at the end of this post to learn more about choking hazards.  Honey is also a no-no before the age of one because it can contain botulism.  Botulism is a bacteria that can be very toxic when ingested.  It takes a much larger dose to make adults sick, but babies can get sick from a small amount so it’s best to avoid before the age of one.

 What are some of your must-have products for starting solids with your baby?

Honestly, you don’t need much to start feeding a baby. Get a good high chair, some utensils, and a bib to help keep the mess at bay and you are good to go.  I’ve included links to some of my favorite products, some of them are affiliate links.

Num Num starter kit (comes with easy to use gootensils and bowl)

Peg Perego high chair (I love this high chair because it’s easy to wipe off and it looks so comfy)

Bapron baby bibs (this is the bib brand he is always wearing, they have the cutest prints!)

Ezpz mat

What resources would you recommend for learning about BLW?

The best resource I can suggest is the Feeding Littles course.  The instructors, Megan and Judy, are nutritionists who work with a lot with children.  They are so knowledgable and I learned so much from their course. I took the in-person course but there is an online version if you are not local to Phoenix.  I’m not getting any compensation for this recommendation, I just really believe in the value of this course.  The course gives great information about introducing allergens, strategies for food introduction, choking hazards, and so much more.  Also, the online course also has some really good clips of babies eating.  Theo is actually featured in the online course, so keep your eyes open for a peek at him.  They have a toddler course with tips for preventing and reversing picky eating in toddlers that’s really great too!

I hope this post answered most of your questions, comment if you have any others that I didn’t answer.

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