Once upon a time ago, I was the type of mom that was excited to make my own baby smoosh and airplane feed it to my little one. During our four month check up, Evelyn’s pediatrician gave us the okay to introduce solids. However, from basic homework that I did myself via online, I knew that we should wait a little bit longer. A month passed – Evelyn was now five months old & I pulled out the beloved Gerber baby food. She mad a terrible mess; threw her bowl on the floor, got in between her toes (impressive since she was in her highchair) and in every tiny cranny of her seat. Ohhhh, the joys of early motherhood. I told myself that maybe food could wait until her six month check up.
Well, at her six month appointment, we were seen by a different pediatrician. She is by far one of THE best doctors I’ve ever dealt with. She was sweet, gentle, and was pretty convincing that Evelyn could have been her baby & I was just the babysitter. Towards the end of our appointment, we began to discuss table foods. She once again gave the green light and official stamp of approval. However, she introduced something that I’ve never heard of before – baby led weaning! I was surprised with the information that she had just given to me!
Being skeptical, I went home and did further homework. I checked out Pinterest and Google. However, I struggled to find a well informative post. I consulted again with the pediatrician and she gave me further information. I hope this post doesn’t leave you in the dark like many other posts out there.
What is baby led weaning(BLW)?
Baby led weaning is letting your baby feed themselves table foods! Yes. . . super scary, non mushed, same as you table food! Having steak and potatoes for dinner? Well, so is baby.
Before you begin
First off, make sure to consult your doctor and discuss BLW. BLW is ahhh-mazing, but not for every child. Secondly, make sure to do your homework! I hope this post is able to answer most of your questions. If not, I hope it’s at least a good stepping stone in the correct direction! Lastly, make sure your baby meets all signs of readiness. Teeth not required! What is that, you may ask? Well I’m glad to talk to you about it!
Signs of readiness
- Baby is 6 months of age.
- If baby was born prematurely, go off of adjusted age. For instance; if your baby was born at 36 weeks, wait until they’re 7 months old.
- Baby can sit up unassisted for 1 minute.
- Make sure they’re sitting up properly. “Tripod stance” is not considered sitting up correctly.
- Loss of tongue reflex.
- Baby no longer automatically pushes items out of their mouth.
- Baby can pick up and bring objects to their mouth easily.
- Think of teething rings or their toys!
- Shows interest in your food.
Perks of BLW
It’s enjoyable- Allowing baby to be part of dinner time isn’t only fun for baby, but it’s fun for mom and dad too! Like I talked about earlier, BLW allows babies to be in control of their eating. Who doesn’t like to have all of the power? Perhaps, all of the power also means all of the fun?! Personally speaking, it was interesting to watch which foods Evelyn would devour and which ones would give her sour faces. Only 2 weeks into BLW, we took her to Chili’s. I wasn’t quite comfortable sharing our greasy table food with her – so I gave her a pickle! My oh my, that was THE most fun I had seen her have!
It’s natural- Fun fact: Did you know that the concepts of “momma-birding” food and BLW were the norms until the early 1900s? Back in the early 20th century, the use of formula was being widely distributed and being taught as being the best. These same people were the ones that curated pre-strained foods (aka your beloved Gerber) as being the “safer” alternative. I recently read an interesting book; Mothers and Medicine : A Social History of Infant Feeding, 1890-1950 by Rima D. Apple. Her primary objective was focused on breast versus formula. However, she examined some clinical studies that baffled her. I screenshotted the highlights – so you don’t have to go through all 265 pages!
So why the mush? Because the Gerber family saw a chance for dolla dolla bills bills, duh.
Development- Giving your baby a small variety of foods helps with all 5 primary senses. Yes, you guessed it – sight, touch, taste, smell and….and…..even sound. Allowing your baby pick through your famous casseroles is good for their development! Don’t be discouraged when most of it lands up on the floor, though.
- Sight – Introduce multiple colors. In the spirit of Christmas; think green, red and white. Allow them to decide which color is most enticing and see which color they enjoy going to! Evelyn nearly always goes for her strawberries or asparagus first!
- Touch- This one is a no-brainer. Feeling different textures is a new and exciting concept for your lil’ babe. The pincer grasp skill typically isn’t developed until 8 – 12 months. However, don’t be shocked when your BLW baby develops it at 6-7 months!
- Taste- Sorry Susan, your casserole is a no-go with your tiny human. BLW gives your baby the opportunity to decide what they do and do not like…including your casserole. In fact, BLW babies are more likely to NOT be picky eaters! Check out this post from The Asian Parent on BLW – stop picky eating.
- Smell- Obviously, another no-brainer. Cake will probably always be a yay, while sardines will be a hard nay.
- Sound- Do you know what’s one of the funniest things to babies? Weird sounds! Placing different textured food on your baby’s plate will result in different sounds after being violently pounded on. Why does macaroni make a squishy sound while a cracker makes a breaking sound? Hm, better consult your BLW baby – they’d probably know.
Long term health
Raise your hand if your lactation consultant told you that formula (regardless, fed is ALWAYS best) leads to childhood obesity. Keep your hand raised if you know that adulthood obesity is on a steep incline today. Now… keep your hand raised if you knew that your favorite chocolate morsel company makes your baby’s food? See, I knew I would stump you right there! Yes, back in 2007, Nestle bought Gerber out. Why would I want a company known for their chocolate to be factoring my baby’s food as well? Well, I wouldn’t – here’s why. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much research to figure out how bad this stuff is for your children. Even just Gerber Bananas has 28g of sugar. That’s 3 grams more than what the American Heart Association recommends DAILY FOR AN ADULT FEMALE!
Want to justify the fine things in life like steak? Well, practice BLW. It’s much cheaper to cut a fraction off of your plate to share opposed to $1.50/ jar of food. I don’t know about you, but we almost always had leftovers from just about every meal. Ever since Evelyn began eating with us, we didn’t have to worry about wasting food! It literally doesn’t cost us anything additional!
Disadvantages of BLW
Personally, I can’t really think of any serious disadvantages of BLW besides the scare factor. I remember being absolutely terrified of Evelyn choking to death during meal time. However, there is a safe way to practice. We’ll get more in to that further below 🙂 Choking is always a concern and something that you should observe. But remember, this is a normal thing! It is normal for babies to gag and even puke. Make sure to allow your baby to figure things out on their own. Remember, this is completely new to them as well.
With that being said, I highly encourage you to take a baby CPR course. We learned CPR and the baby-safe Heimlich.
TURNING BLUE- NOT OKAY
How to safely practice BLW
Choking hazards- Do not offer round and hard foods. For example; grapes, popcorn, candies, etc. Instead, cut half or quartered lengthwise. Foods smaller than the windpipe (think of corn kernels) do not need to be modified.
Know the difference between gagging and choking- With gagging, it’s normal for your baby’s face to turn red, sputter, and cough. Those are normal signs! IF YOUR BABY IS GAGGING, LET THEM DO THEIR THING. “HELPING” CAN POTENTIALLY LEAD TO THEM ACTUALLY CHOKING. However, wheezing, blue skin and unable to make noise are all signs of choking. Do not use the straps on the high chair. It’s important that you’re able to quickly get your baby out of their seat quickly if need be! Don’t worry, they shouldn’t be able to climb out. Regardless, they should always be supervised anyways.
Food borne illness– Make sure to fully cook all meats, eggs and seafood.
Avoid- Honey, unpasteurized foods, raw/undercooked anything and obvious choking hazards. Honey can contain spores of bacterium called Clostridium Botulinum. If it germinates in baby’s intestines, it can lead to botulism, which can be fatal. Do not offer honey in even the smallest form until age 1.
Offer boob or bottle first- Offer milk an hour before meal time. This is still their primary source of nutrients until age 1! This will also help introduce table foods as a new and exciting thing. Leaving them hungry can result in a tummy ache and severe frustration.
Offer finger shapes- This allows baby to hold onto their food comfortably while chomping away! This also helps them understand the size of bite they should be taking…all at their own pace. Try to cut/ offer food the size of a French fry.
Offer coined shapes- Are you offering your baby your leftover salad mix? Take your pointer finger and thumb to create a circle. If a food can pass through your hole, it needs to be cut into a half. If it is too large for your hole, it is fine to offer as is. Remember, we’re trying to prevent anything that could block your baby’s airway.
Clean up tips
- Use a towel to cover the seat part of the high chair.
- Have carpet? Place an office mat under baby’s high chair.
- Food stains on the tray? Clean with vinegar, then soap.
- Really messy meal? Use a disposable plastic mat.
- Use reusable wipes – save a few pennies!
- Have baby do meal time in just a diaper. Follow with a bath of shower 🙂
Items to make BLW easier
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Safety utensils (click on picture)
I hope this helps! Feel free to message me with further questions.
Happy BLW! Make sure to share and subscribe.