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7 Steps to Successful Baby-Led Weaning


We’ve written about the basics of baby-led weaning before — what it is, why some people prefer it, and whether or not you should try it with your baby. If you need a good, foundational understanding of those basics, check out this “What is Baby-Led Weaning?” post.

Here, we’ll explore 7 steps to get started successfully with baby-led weaning (or BLW). As with anything else in life, planning and preparation is a key part to getting off on the right foot with baby-led weaning. So use our 7 steps below, and start your baby-led weaning journey today!

7 Steps to Successful Baby-Led Weaning

1. Educate yourself.

Before you embark on something brand new, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about it. Same goes for baby-led weaning. Here are a few resources to help you educate yourself about all things BLW:

2. Don’t start too soon.

While it’s possible to start spoon-feeding your baby purees before she’s six months (although it’s not recommended), you really can’t start BLW until the 6 month mark. It’s generally recommended that you wait to start until your baby is able to sit up unassisted (meaning he doesn’t need to lean against the back of the highchair for support.) Some babies are able to do that at 6 months; many don’t develop that skill until later.

If the idea of waiting until your baby’s 6 months or older has you feeling anxious (“But doesn’t he need to eat solid food?”), take heart. Remember that “food is fun before age one!” In other words, for the first year of life, breastmilk and/or formula is your baby’s primary source of nutrition. Food is for practice. As long as your little one is nursing or taking his bottles well, he’s likely getting the nourishment he needs.

3. Start big and small.

Yes, that’s a contradiction in terms. 😉 Here’s what we mean…

Start Small
In the beginning, offer one “meal” a day. You don’t want to overwhelm your baby with food right off the bat! And offer the meal between nursings or bottle feedings; this’ll ensure that your baby isn’t so hungry that she quickly becomes frustrated.

Place very little food on your baby’s highchair tray — a few pieces at most. Remember, she’s new to this! Having a few pieces of food will be less distracting and will help her focus on learning to feed herself.

Start Big
In the beginning, offer large pieces of food. That might seem counter-intuitive (“Won’t my baby choke?”), but this is the safest way to start. At 6 or 7 months, your baby won’t have developed his pincer grip and won’t be able to pick up small pieces of food. Instead, you’ll want to give him large chunks of food that he can pick up and gnaw on. Think whole carrots, whole apples, long strips of meat, etc. Later, once his pincer grip is developed, you can move to small pieces of food that he’ll put into his mouth whole.

4. Don’t offer (much) help.

The biggest difference between BLW and traditional methods of starting solids is that BLW puts control in the hands of your baby, right from the beginning. Instead of you feeding your baby, your baby starts off by feeding herself.

A general BLW rule of thumb is that you should never put food into your baby’s mouth for her. You can help guide her hand (filled with food) to her mouth, and you can mime the chewing and swallowing motions you want her to do, but you shouldn’t be the one actually feeding her.

5. Supervise, supervise, supervise!

Now, just because you’re not feeding him doesn’t mean you should set a few celery stalks on your baby’s highchair tray and then walk away. Remember, one of the goals of BLW is to reinforce that mealtime is a social time. Sit with your baby while he eats (and even better, eat something yourself!)

You’ll also want to stick close to watch for gagging and choking. Lots of babies gag in the early stages of BLW, and while this is a normal and safe reaction, you’ll still want to be nearby to ensure that your baby isn’t actually choking.

6. Work in the utensils (eventually).

Once your baby has gotten good at hand-feeding himself, start incorporating a spoon into his meals. Offer him a dish of something “spoon-able” (like applesauce or yogurt) and a spoon, and see what he does!

At first, he’ll probably get far more food on himself (and the walls, and the floor) than he’ll get in his mouth. But as long as you give him lots of opportunity practice, you’ll find that he gets better and better at feeding himself with utensils.

7. Embrace the mess, friends!

In case you haven’t come to this conclusion yet, let us offer it here: BLW is a sticky, goopy, drippy, messy process. Food is messy after all; hand it to a novice with no self-feeding experience, and it becomes exponentially messier!

But this is okay. It’s part of the learning. Instead of trying to avoid the mess, embrace it. Arm yourself with a high-chair that’s easy to wipe clean. Feed baby in a room that has wipe-able flooring. Consider stripping baby down to his diaper at meal time (if it’s warm enough), or wrapping her in a large, cover-all style bib.

Everything You Need To Know About Starting Solids – All In One e-Book!

thumbnailWhat if you could find everything you needed to know about starting your baby on solid foods – when it’s best to start solids, how to introduce solids, complications, food allergies, etc. – in one easy-reference guide? Now you can! Your Baby’s Start To Solid Foods: A Comprehensive Guide will walk you through every step of starting solids. Plus, your e-Book package includes several bonus materials, designed to maximize your success in starting solids. You’ll get a thorough guide to treating constipation, a dietitian’s advice on how to avoid 5 common solid-foods mistakes, and a weekly mean plan for your baby’s first year. Grab your e-Book today, and ensure your baby has the healthiest possible start to solid foods!

Anything to add? What steps have you taken to do baby-led weaning with your baby?

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What To Do If Your Baby Is Refusing Solid Food

We’ve talked already about what to do if you suspect that you’re feeding your baby too much solid food. But what if you have the opposite problem? What if no amount of coaxing or pleading or “here comes the airplane!” maneuvering can get your baby to eat a bite of food?

What should you do if your baby flat-out refuses to eat solid food?

Baby Refusing Solids? Don’t Panic!

First, don’t worry — just because your baby hates solids right now definitely doesn’t mean he’ll hate them forever! Some babies simply resist all the “newness” that comes with starting solids — new tastes, new textures, etc. After all, up to this point, your baby has known ONE taste, and ONE texture — the taste and texture of breastmilk or formula.

Second, remember that when you first introduce solid foods to your baby, she’s mainly just “practicing” with food. Breastmilk or formula is still her primary source of nutrition, so if she’s totally rejecting the pureed peas you painstakingly prepared, it’s okay. 🙂 She needs breastmilk or formula more than she needs vegetables, at this point!

4 Things to Try If Your Baby Is Refusing Solids

Still, you want your baby to learn to love solids; eventually, that’ll be all he eats! If you find that your baby is resisting solids in a big way, try putting one of these four tips into practice:

  1. Try different foods. Does she hate rice cereal? Try applesauce! Does he despise peas? Try avocado! When you try a variety of foods, you’re more likely to find something he’ll like. Consider offering him pureed or chopped table food, too (if allergies aren’t a concern) — some moms find that baby will eat if he’s having what everyone else is having.
  2. Encourage her to do it herself. If your baby’s old enough (8 or 9 months), encourage her to feed herself. It could be that your baby hates mashed bananas on a spoon but adores tiny piece of banana that she feeds herself. Sometimes, being in control is all it takes for a baby who’s refusing solids to suddenly start eating with gusto.
  3. Get creative! Try having someone else feed him. Try feeding him at different times during the day. Try feeding him in different settings — he may refuse to eat in the highchair but will eat just fine while sitting on dad’s lap! It could be that a small change like this prompts him to get interested in eating.
  4. Give up (for a few weeks, that is!) If all else fails, don’t be afraid to give up for a few weeks. This isn’t a battle to be won, after all, and if your baby senses your frustration (or desperation!) she may be even less inclined to eat. Instead, take a break and try again later. You might be surprised at the difference a few weeks makes!

If you try the strategies above with no success, or if you’re concerned that your baby’s refusal to eat may be a sign of something more serious, consult with a healthcare provider to make sure your baby isn’t suffering from an underlying medical condition.

Everything You Need To Know About Starting Solids – All In One e-Book!

thumbnailWhat if you could find everything you needed to know about starting your baby on solid foods – when it’s best to start solids, how to introduce solids, complications, food allergies, etc. – in one easy-reference guide? Now you can! Your Baby’s Start To Solid Foods: A Comprehensive Guide will walk you through every step of starting solids. Plus, your e-Book package includes several bonus materials, designed to maximize your success in starting solids. You’ll get a thorough guide to treating constipation, a dietitian’s advice on how to avoid 5 common solid-foods mistakes, and a weekly mean plan for your baby’s first year. Grab your e-Book today, and ensure your baby has the healthiest possible start to solid foods!

Is your baby a “solids-hater?” How have you coped? How have you encouraged your little one to eat? Share your tips and tricks below!

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What Is Baby-Led Weaning?


We’re tackling a topic today that you may or may not have heard about: baby-led weaning. What is it? What are the benefits? Is it something you should try with your baby? We’ll explore all those questions in this post.

First, though, let’s clear up a misconception about the term itself. The “weaning” part of baby-led weaning refers to the British definition of the word — in the U.K., “weaning” means “adding complementary foods.” It doesn’t mean “giving up breastfeeding or bottle feeding”, which is how those of us in the U.S. would use the term.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

This is really simple.  Baby-led weaning refers to letting your baby feed herself small chunks of food right off the bat.  No runny purees.  No bowls and spoons (at first).  Just pieces of food, offered to your baby, and she takes it from there.

With baby-led weaning, you don’t feed your baby. She feeds herself. She decides what, and how much, to eat. Basically, baby-led weaning puts feeding in the hands (literally!) of your baby, and not you.

Baby-Led Weaning: The Philosophy Behind It

Baby-led weaning (a term coined by Gill Rapley, a former mid-wife) is based on the idea that babies aren’t really ready for food until they’re around 6 months old. Once they’re 6 months, though, most babies are ready to start feeding themselves.

Advocates of baby-led weaning point out that our babies know better than we do what they want to eat, and how much they want to eat. They also know when they’re ready to eat. So rather than we (the parents) setting arbitrary starting dates for introducing solids, and pushing “mush” (as they call it) on our little ones, it makes more sense to put “real” food in front of baby and let him take care of the rest.

Common Questions About Baby-Led Weaning

The practice of baby-led weaning definitely isn’t mainstream; most of us automatically think about jars of baby food and tiny baby spoons when we think about starting our babies on solids.

So understandably, lots of parents have questions about baby-led weaning — questions like:

  • Do I just give my baby food and then walk away? No, that’s not the idea. It’s true that you, the parent, shouldn’t put food into your baby’s mouth or feed him yourself, but you should be nearby to help encourage him as he eats.  You can help him guide the food to his mouth, and you can make sure he doesn’t choke (more on that next.)
  • Won’t my baby choke?!  That’s a very normal concern with baby-led weaning; it seems downright dangerous to give a 6 month old baby a big hunk of apple to gnaw on, doesn’t it? But baby-led weaning advocates assert that using this technique, babies learn to chew very early on, whereas babies who are spoon-fed purees learn to swallow first and to chew later.  So choking is no more a concern with this technique, they say, than it is with a more traditional approach to starting solids.People who’ve tried this method also point out that gagging is different than choking. Gagging is a baby’s response to swallowing a large lump of something, and it’s a normal, safe reaction.  I know my children all did this when they were little and were first eating solids. Choking, on the other hand, happens when a piece of food actually blocks baby’s airway, and it’s dangerous.  Parents who try baby-led weaning may notice gagging, but that’s not the same as true choking.
  • Is it healthy? You may wonder if allowing your baby to choose his own foods, and to eat as much (or as little) as he wants, is a healthy approach to starting solids.  After all, will your baby really choosepeas? And what if he’s not eating much? Should you encourage him to eat more?Research actually suggests that baby-led weaning is a healthy alternative to more traditional methods of starting solids — in fact, it may be a slightly healthier way to go, according to a recent study. More on that in a moment.

Baby-Led Weaning: The Benefits

According to those who’ve tried it, baby-led weaning has a few key benefits:

  • It makes starting solids less stressful. If you have a baby who’s resistant to solid food, you know how stressful starting solids can be! Baby-led weaning eliminates some of that stress — your baby eats when he wants to and stops eating when he’s done. Since your baby takes the initiative, eating happens on his terms. And basic psychology tells us that when a child (or an adult, for that matter!) feels like something is his idea, and that he’s in control, he’s much more likely to respond well.What’s more, baby-led weaning eliminates some of the work for mom and dad, making mealtimes easier for everyone. If baby’s busy feeding herself, that frees you up to enjoy your own dinner.
  • It follows a more “natural” progression. I’m not suggesting there’s anything unnatural about spoon-feeding your baby purees. Not at all! But the way we traditionally introduce solids to babies today (spoon-feeding runny purees) is fairly new. For most of history, our ancestors have practiced a version of baby-led weaning. They waited until the baby was big enough to sit up, to chew, and to grab food; then, they offered baby small bits of what everyone else was eating.  Seen in that light, baby-led weaning seems less like a new-fangled practice and more like a return to older practices.
  • It’s healthy. As mentioned earlier, a study published in April 2012 by the BMJ Group revealed that baby-led weaning may be a slightly healthier way to start your baby on solids. It seems that babies who’ve experienced baby-led weaning tend to choose healthier options; they also tend to have healthier BMI’s than babies who are spoon-fed (perhaps because their appetites guide their eating.

Should I Try Baby-Led Weaning With My Baby?

To baby-led wean or not to baby-led wean? The choice is yours, of course. It’s probably best if you talk to a healthcare provider about your options; your HCP will be able to steer you towards the healthiest choice for your family.

Considering baby-led weaning? Here are some good resources to check out:

Everything You Need To Know About Starting Solids – All In One e-Book!

thumbnailWhat if you could find everything you needed to know about starting your baby on solid foods – when it’s best to start solids, how to introduce solids, complications, food allergies, etc. – in one easy-reference guide? Now you can! Your Baby’s Start To Solid Foods: A Comprehensive Guide will walk you through every step of starting solids. Plus, your e-Book package includes several bonus materials, designed to maximize your success in starting solids. You’ll get a thorough guide to treating constipation, a dietitian’s advice on how to avoid 5 common solid-foods mistakes, and a weekly mean plan for your baby’s first year. Grab your e-Book today, and ensure your baby has the healthiest possible start to solid foods!

Have you tried baby-led weaning? What were your experiences? If not, is it something you’d consider? Share your thoughts!

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5 Basic Baby Feeding Tools

We’ve mentioned this before, in previous articles, but let us say it again:  you don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy, state-of-the-art tools and gadgets in order to feed your baby well.  You certainly can, but it’s not a requirement.

That said, there are some basic pieces of “equipment” you’ll need in order to start feeding your baby solids.  In this article, we’ll outline those basic tools and suggest products we think are too fantastic to pass up. 🙂

5 Basic Baby Feeding Tools

  1. Good Bibs

     You may have used those little “drooler” bibs with your baby before.  You know the ones I mean — the little cotton ones, with the cute decals.  They’re adorable, but they’ll prove fairly useless as actual feeding bibs.  Instead, we recommend you get a separate set of larger, waterproof, easy-to-clean feeding bibs. 

    We like the ones that have a big pocket in the front (to catch spilled food — there’ll be lots of it!).  This one, by Baby Bjorn, is great — it’s made of soft, rubbery plastic, so it’s easy to wipe down after a meal.  And the neck closure is adjustable, ensuring a great fit.

  2. Good Spoons

      You’re going to be using your baby spoons A LOT, so it makes sense to get quality ones.  We adore these cool spoons from OXO; with their soft tips and ergonomic handles, they make feeding easier for everyone.

    Regardless of what kind of baby spoon you buy, make sure the spoons contain any plastic, the plastic itself is BPA-free. BPA is a harmful chemical contained in plastic, and it can leech into food when the plastic itself is heated.

  3. Good Dishes

      When you’re first introducing solids, you’ll just need a handful of good, plastic bowls (BPA-free, of course!)  We like these, from Gerber — they come in nice colors, and they include fitted lids, which makes food storage a snap. 

    Once your baby’s ready to try self-feeding, you may want to pick up a divided plate, like this one from OXO.  (Can you tell we like OXO?  Their whole OXO TOT line is very, very neat 🙂 )

  4. Good Seating

      As long as your baby is in a seated, upright position, you can feed her just about anywhere — in a Bumbo, in a bouncer, on your lap…  But we think you’ll probably want to get an actual highchair; it’s nice to have a dedicated seat for baby, and having that big highchair tray makes a great food-catcher! 😉

    Any highchair is sufficient, from the basic ones you can pick up at Goodwill to the pricey, high-end ones.  As long as it’s up to current safety standards, it’ll work!  We think the Tripp-Trapp is fantastic, but a simpler high-chair will do just fine, too.

    If you’re tight on space, a space-saver highchair might be the way to go.  We like this MiniSwivel Feeding Seat from The First Years; it reclines, swivels, and eventually converts to a booster seat.  Win!

  5. Good Cups

      You won’t be weaning your little one off of breastmilk or formula when you start offering solid foods; on the contrary, breastmilk and/or formula should be your baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year.  But at some point (around 8 or 9 months, perhaps), you’ll want to think about introducing a sippy cup.  This’ll give your baby plenty of time to get used to a new way of drinking milk.  We like this NUK Silicone Spout Training Cup.

Visit our Recommended Products page for more baby feeding items we love.

Everything You Need To Know About Starting Solids – All In One e-Book!

thumbnailWhat if you could find everything you needed to know about starting your baby on solid foods – when it’s best to start solids, how to introduce solids, complications, food allergies, etc. – in one easy-reference guide? Now you can! Your Baby’s Start To Solid Foods: A Comprehensive Guide will walk you through every step of starting solids. Plus, your e-Book package includes several bonus materials, designed to maximize your success in starting solids. You’ll get a thorough guide to treating constipation, a dietitian’s advice on how to avoid 5 common solid-foods mistakes, and a weekly mean plan for your baby’s first year. Grab your e-Book today, and ensure your baby has the healthiest possible start to solid foods!

Any baby feeding essentials you’d add to our list? Share your favorite feeding tools below!

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