Baby Led Weaning - Guest Post by Alexandra Beleche
Around when my daughter turned 4 months old, I knew it was time to start preparing for her to eat solids. I started doing research and was immediately so overwhelmed by all of the available gadgets and different types of baby food. After spending endless hours looking at the pros and cons of the options out there, I came across some information on BLW (baby led weaning). I had heard of the term before but really had no idea what it meant or consisted of. After just a little of research into it, I fell in love with the concept and knew it was the perfect fit for my family.
There are a few things that you must do to before beginning with BLW, but we knew that we wanted to follow the guideline of exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months so that gave us time to prepare. In order to prepare I did research in all possible ways. But, I want to make sure to give credit to the podcast Baby Led Weaning Made Easy by Katie Ferraro and her Instagram @BabyLedWeanTeam for really laying out the steps and information I needed to feel confident when starting solids with my daughter.
So, what exactly is BLW?
Essentially, BLW is letting your baby lead the way and do the work when it comes to their meal times. You serve them safely prepared foods in their natural form and they feed themselves, controlling the speed and amount of what they consume. I want to point out here how I mentioned preparing foods in their natural form. This is such an important concept to understand about BLW because many people think that doing BLW means never serving your baby any pureed foods. But, that is far from the truth! BLW is all about giving your baby the opportunity to experience different tastes and textures and that absolutely includes pureed foods. It is just recommended to only serve them pureed style foods that you would also eat that way – like soup, applesauce, or yogurt.
What really drew my attention to trying BLW with my daughter was all of the amazing benefits that it has.
To just list a few, baby led weaning allows babies to:
- Self-regulate their food
- Experience all shapes, colors, and textures of food
- Practice chewing from an early age
- Practice motor development like hand-eye coordination and pincer grasp
- Eat on their own (allowing parents to sit and enjoy their own food)
- Learn to use utensils and open cups from an early age
- Be better eaters as toddlers and throughout life
How to Start:
Starting solids can be a really scary step of parenthood, but to do so with whole food that can potentially be a choking hazard makes it even scarier! While this can definitely cause some anxieties to form around feeding your baby solid foods, there are steps to take to that help create a sense of confidence when your little one is eating.
Important things to look for from your baby are:
- They are at least 6 months old
- They can sit independently
- They have lost the tongue trusting reflex
- They show interest in foods
Steps that you should take are:
- Have a highchair with a foot rest for baby (this helps give the baby support if they were to gag or choke)
- Have at least one set of dinnerware (bowl, sectioned plate, spoon, and cup –
EZPZ items are a great option)
- Take an infant CPR course
- Know the difference between choking and gagging (watch videos – there are tons on YouTube)
- Have baby Benadryl on hand in the case of an allergic reaction
- Know the safe ways to prepare foods
- Soft enough to squish between your fingers
- Cut to the same length and width of an adult finger
- Quarter or smash anything round like grapes, cherry tomatoes, or
- Prepare yourself to embrace the mess
Once you have checked all of these off of your list, it is go time! What foods can you introduce and how do you watch for allergies? With my daughter, we decided to follow the route that Katie Ferraro lays outs of introducing 100 new foods before she turns 1 year old. (Right now, she is a little over 2 weeks away from turning 1 and she has tried about 90 new foods!) Many people are under the false impression that you must wait 3 days or even a week between introducing new foods to your baby. However, this is only true to the foods that are in the top allergen categories. Therefore, most foods have such a low risk of being an allergen to your baby that there is no need to wait more than 1 day when introducing them.
The foods that are considered to be the highest risk of an allergy are called the Big 8 Allergens and these are:
6. Tree Nuts
7. Scaled Fish
8. Shell Fish
9. Sesame (this is an honorary 9th allergen as allergies to sesame are on the rise)
Over the last few months, we have roughly followed the schedule of introducing 1 new fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, and allergen/challenge food every week. We would always do the allergen food at the end of the week with no new foods over the weekend in order to watch for allergic reactions. We have been very fortunate because, as of now, we have not encountered any foods that our daughter is allergic to! After nearly 6 months of her eating solids, I am so amazed at what she is willing to eat and how great of an eater she is. Starting with whole, solid foods from the beginning has really given her time to master biting and chewing and, while I still prepare everything safely and monitor her closely, I have so much less anxiety and fear over her choking.
Some of her favorite foods are:
- Berries (all types, but especially Blueberries)
- Roasted Seaweed
- Bamba Peanut Puffs
- Black Beans
General safety tips to consider before starting solids
While a lot of the information you need to start feeding your little one is laid out here in this post, there is so much more necessary information. It is still very important for you to do more extensive research and talk to your pediatrician in order to fully understand all of the appropriate safety measures that need to be taken. Some of the most important ones, however, are:
- NO honey before age 1
- Avoid added sugar until age 2
- Avoid processed foods
- Limit sodium
- Breastmilk and formula will still be your baby’s primary source of nutrition until
12 months old – until then, solids are much more about the experience.
If you want more info on BLW, we offer an intro to Baby Led Weaning class - you can register here!
Written by & photos courtesy of Alexandra Beleche