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Now that my fourth (and final!) baby is basically a toddler, I feel like I’m really able to look back at what worked well as parents of an infant :). One thing that we did – and loved – with all 4 kids was use the baby-led weaning method to transition to solids.
We’ve been team baby-led weaning since 2013, when my firstborn turned 6 months old. I was still nursing her and working in an office full-time and my goals for starting solids were to:
- feed her healthy, organic options when possible
- keep it simple – I remember being SO overwhelmed at the thought of making my own purees
- not spend a TON of money on store-bought baby food
I’m obviously not a doctor or healthcare professional, just a mom who has followed baby-led weaning (aka baby led feeding) with all 4 of my children :).
We also used Dr. Brown’s bottles with our babes and while bottles are definitely what they’re most famous for, Dr. Brown’s also has some awesome products to help parents at all stages of feeding their children. When you’re ready to ditch the bottle and start solids, no matter the method, Dr. Brown’s has you covered.
I’m breaking down the most commonly asked questions about BLW + sharing a few of my faves from Dr. Brown’s:
Your top questions about baby-led weaning…
Why baby-led weaning instead of purees?
I thought it was so fascinating that, historically, babies haven’t eaten pureed baby food. Prior to the past 150ish years, mushed baby food wasn’t a thing. Purees are also not the way most babies around the world get their first foods, either, even today.
This bit of research summarizes why there was a rise in puree feeding… mainly, the recommended time to start solids moved from 6 months to 4 months, and 4 month olds physically cannot self feed, hence the necessity for spoon feeding.
Of course, there is no wrong or right way to feed your baby and, as the parent, you’re making the best choice for your babe and family :).
How do I know my baby is ready for BLW?
- baby can sit well without support
- baby is pulling food to his/her mouth when given the opportunity (ie guiding your sandwich into her mouth when she’s on your lap at lunchtime)
- baby is ready & willing to chew
- baby has doubled their birthweight
This is GENERALLY around 6 months old – some babies earlier, some later.
What are the benefits?
For babies: When babies feed themselves, they’re practicing hand/eye coordination, pincer grasp, and fine motor skills. They also learn how to manipulate foods with different textures, tastes, and consistencies early-on which can – theoretically – make them more adventurous and less picky in the long-run. Lastly, babies who are self feeding also decide when they’re full. Because for the first year, baby’s main source of nutrition is breastmilk and/or formula, they say ‘food before one is just for fun’, meaning that it’s ok if baby doesn’t seem to be consuming as much solid food as you might think they need. It helps them learn appetite satiation from the start.
For parents: You can mostly just feed baby whatever you’re having as a family; for instance, if we have taco night, baby gets ground beef without taco seasoning, a few strips of soft tortilla, some avocado, and some shredded cheese – basically a deconstructed version of our own dinner. We also all eat as a family, versus one parent having to spoon feed the baby and then eat later. Pulling baby up to the table and eating as a family can show them that mealtimes are a time for community, time spent together, etc.
Do I need any supplies for BLW?
Not really! You don’t need a fancy baby blender or jars or pouches. You do need a good highchair – this one is my FAVE and I love this little footrest as well – and, eventually, baby utensils, cups, plates and bowls. Dr. Brown’s has some awesome options with smart details to help with any feeding journey.
A good bib is also nice to have to prevent at least some of the mess BUT just know that with baby-led weaning, a mess is to be expected – really like this one make of soft silicone since it catches food + it’s easily washable.
Dr. Brown’s has some great options for babies entering the toddler phase! A few of my favorite Dr. Brown’s products for feeding:
- I LOVE these Cheers360 Spoutless Transition Cups cups for Emmy, who is 4 but absolutely cannot be trusted with any cup without a lid.
- These No-Slip Suction Bowls are genius – they suction to the surface so baby can’t lift the bowl and toss it on the ground mid-meal
- If you’re nervous about giving baby solids, this Fresh Firsts Silicone Feeder is an AWESOME solution!
- Auggie is currently learning the whole sippy thing with a the Sippy Bottle with Silicone Handles – I’ve been a little late to the game on getting him started, but when he’s able to drink from a straw better we’ll transition to the Sippy Straw Bottle with handles.
- These TempCheck Spoons spoons are great for self-feeding once baby is a bit older, too. They are just the right size and have a little temp check tip that turns clear when baby’s food is too hot. They also have a tiny little ridge so that when the spoon is in resting position, it’s not laying on the counter. Smart!
- This Silicone Starter Spoon/Teether is also super cute and a great way to introduce a spoon 🙂
Aren’t you worried about choking?
This is far and away the biggest reason BLW scares people (and I get it!). There’s a difference between choking and gagging, and gagging definitely happens sometimes. I read a few posts that state that a baby’s gag reflex is towards the FRONT of their mouths (nature’s way of protecting them from sticking dangerous objects in their mouths) and their tastebuds are in the BACK of their mouths – this makes sense since they’re generally nipple fed, either by breast or by bottle. This makes the whole ‘gagging’ thing a little less nerve-wrecking, I think!
I did find this study that says there isn’t a difference in the likelihood of choking between BLW infants and spoon-fed infants. As always, supervise during meal times.
This little silicone feeder is an awesome way to let baby mouth foods without worrying about choking. The soft silicone is great for teething, too – you can put fresh food in there or even make a little popsicle. Bonus is that it’s super easy to clean.
What are the best Baby Led Weaning Foods?
We personally skipped rice cereal all together and then started all four kids with big slices of ripe avocado while they were sitting in a highchair. We used a crinkle cutter to slice the avocado (makes it a tad easier to grasp!) and I also found that coating anything slippery in ground flaxseed also really helps them hold on to the food.
Offer a variety of foods – mix it up to try to ensure baby is getting a variety of textures and tastes :). And you definitely can offer both purees and ‘real’ foods! Whatever is easiest.
This list of first foods should help! We mostly offer whatever we’re eating, either deconstructed or without as much spice.
“I generally try to avoid foods with skins / harder vegetables like brussels sprouts or asparagus – do I need to?” Basically what foods do I need to avoid?
I definitely offer grapes (quartered! I use a grape cutter and it’s a lifesaver!) and just steam or roast anything that would otherwise be too hard. We also avoid honey, anything super salty, or super spicy.
What about iron? How do you make sure baby is getting enough?
I found this article about how to make sure babe is getting enough iron – basically, offer a variety of foods :).
Other BLW Resources?
I’m definitely NOT a pro but I read this book 8+ years ago – if I had to do it again, I’d have just read this book as it summarizes everything very nicely. 🙂 Feeding Littles is an AWESOME account on Instagram too! This account also looks like a great resource.