All About Starting Baby-Led Weaning

BY KATHARINE ROSENTHAL, RDN, Food Blogger and Dietitian at Be Well Table

Starting solids with a baby is such an exciting milestone, but it can also be a little daunting. If you have a child who is about to start solids or recently started, this article is for you!

There are two common approaches to starting solids with your baby – baby-led weaning and spoon-feeding/purees. They can either be used individually or in combination. There is not one “correct” way to start solids, as each family and baby has their individual needs. 

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)

BLW involves preparing soft finger foods for the baby to self-feed. This method usually starts with larger pieces of soft-cooked food that babies can grasp in their fists (palm grasp).

Spoon-Feeding/Purees

Spoon-feeding with purees is the more traditional way to feed. All foods are cooked, pureed and served around 4-6 months of age. Gradually, you start to mash the food, finely chop and then serve finger foods around age one. With spoon-feeding, you also serve the food to the baby by placing the spoon in his or her mouth.

Combo of Purees/BLW

I like to recommend doing a combination for those who are on the fence about doing BLW. You can offer solid foods that you are comfortable with to start and also offer purees. Ideally, you would let your baby practice dipping the spoon in the puree and bringing it to his or her mouth. Letting your babies feed themselves is the best practice for raising children who are aware of their hunger and fullness cues.

Signs of Readiness For BLW

*All five milestones need to be shown before starting BLW.

  1. At least six months of age (for full-term babies)
  2. Baby is able to sit with minimal support
  3. Baby can hold head upright and steady
  4. Baby can pick up objects and bring them to his or her mouth
  5. Baby is showing interest in food

What To Do Before Starting BLW

Have your baby sit with you during meal times by setting them in their high chair and giving them a spoon to play with. This will encourage interest in food and also help them explore using utensils and bringing the spoon to their mouths.

It is recommended that parents take some sort of CPR class whether it is online or at a local health facility.

Before starting solids, I always recommend that parents watch videos of gagging to get comfortable with it! Gagging is very normal and a good thing, so babies can learn how to safely eat.

Benefits of BLW

  1. Independence – the baby is in complete control.
  2. Development – baby practices motor and oral skills.
  3. Appetite control – babies are in charge of how much they eat and they learn to stop when they are full.
  4. Easy – the whole family is eating similar meals.
  5. Variety – exposure to a variety of textures and flavors which helps reduce picky eating later in life.
  6. Fun – babies are curious, and exploring all the new flavors and textures is fun for them.

Samples of BLW Starter Foods

Avocado

Sweet potato

Banana

Yogurt

Eggs

*Tip for solid food – cook until tender and slice into strips that are as wide and long as two adult fingers.

Resources 

The app, Solid Starts, is such a great tool and something I use often, especially when getting started with BLW. You can easily search for food, and the app will show you how to safely serve it by age. At the end of the day, if you are feeding your child responsively and offering a variety of flavors and textures, then you are doing a great job – no matter how you choose to do it!

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