BLW has been one of my favorite parts about being a new parent. At first, Tall Dad was incredibly weary of this style of eating. “What if he chokes?” was his main concern. So I did lots and lots of research, read books, blogs, and watched tons of videos on Baby Led Weaning (otherwise known as BLW.) I knew that the first step to feeding my baby solid foods was to allow him to explore. I thought back to the olden days, before Targets and Dunkin Donuts, before purees. What did civilization do before purees?
Have no idea what Baby Led Weaning is? Have no fear, I already wrote a post giving you a nice and easy introduction – click here.
Now, without further ado –
- Make sure your baby is at least 6 months old, is able to grasp items, put them to his mouth, and can sit up unsupported.
- Go by the mantra of Food Before One Is For Fun.
- Make sure your milk feedings are still constant. BLW feedings should happen an hour or so after a milk feed, so as to not disrupt or fill their tummies in the beginning. Eventually, as he becomes a more proficient eater, you can start to vary milk feeds and solid feedings based upon your pediatricians recommendations.
- Forget spoons, dishes, plates, or anything else that is not food. If your child gets ahold of it, they will either put it in their mouth or throw it.
- Ideally, have your baby in a high chair. BLW can be done when they are sitting on your lap as well, but I like when they have their own space to play and learn about the food in front of them, rather than them hitting your plate.
- Get yourself one of these awesome bib sets from IKEA, which covers your child’s arms, chest and lap. The next best thing is having your child eat in his diaper. Self feeding can get messy, and will easily ruin your favorite baby clothes.
- Next, put a cheap dollar store plastic table cloth underneath the high chair. Food will be flung, mushed, and end up on your floor. Whether you start with BLW or introduce self feeding months down the lane, your baby will throw his or her food no matter what. I promise you. But eventually, your little one will learn to keep more of it on his tray. Just be patient.
- Start with steak fry sized pieces of steamed fruit or veggies. This will allow your child the ability to truly GRAB their food. I loved giving Itty Bitty big stalks of steamed broccoli.
- Place the food on their tray, and start to eat your own food. Watch them, but allow them to explore the food in their own way and time. Do not force the food into his mouth, especially if he does not want it. BLW is all about HIS CHOICE to eat.
- If you’re attempting bananas, mangos, steamed pears or apples – try keeping some of the skin on. It makes it easier to hold, and your little one will most likely scrape the yummy parts off and leave the skin on the table. Or your kid can be like mine and use the banana skin as a teething toy.
- The food world is your oyster (except for, well, oysters, and honey until age 2!) Remember that you are welcoming your child to the dinner table WITH you. Try to find foods in your meal that he may like to try. Fun noodles, little peas to work on pincer grasp, slices of mango, scrambled eggs, and even slices of whole wheat toast. Try a variety of items, different consistencies and spices.
- Only put a few items on his tray at a time. I like the number 3 (in hindsight, the picture above has too much food on it. I’m surprised he didn’t throw it all on the floor.) If he eats or plays with all three things, and they are either ingested or mushed to bits, I then give him some more. I find if you put a large portion on the tray, that it becomes an easy target to be whacked, and the mission of learning to eat is lost to an art project instead.
- Make sure you are feeding your child healthy options – not fast food, super processed items, or dishes laden in salt. Maybe BLW will be a healthy decision for your whole family 😉
- Do not fear MEAT. It’s super delicious and has tons of iron. Even if they don’t eat a ton, they can suck the juices out.
- Start off by doing this at one meal a day. Make it a fun experience for you both. If you have the ability, you can even try to do it as a snack time, just don’t make it a stressful experience for you both. Once you become more comfortable, start adding more meals throughout the day when you would normally eat.
- Talk to your baby at the dinner table as you would with another guest. Sure, the topic might be a bit different, but you don’t want to ignore him. Let him learn what it is like to be part of the social experience of eating together.
- If you are out at a restaurant, feel free to order steamed vegetables, or even let your little one try some of your meal.
- Gagging, especially in the beginning, is NORMAL. It is your baby’s natural reflex to make sure big pieces of food do not get too far back in their throat. If they are wretching and spitting the food out, allow them to do so.
- It feels wierd at first to see your baby gag and spit food out, I’m speaking from experience, but your baby is actually learning how his mouth works, and how big of a piece to put in his mouth, and how far back it should be. Your baby may never gag, or may do it a few times. Eventually he will become more comfortable eating, and before you know it, he will not be gagging any more.
- Get ready for colorful and smelly diapers!
- Remind yourself over and over and over again that this is an EXPERIENCE and your baby’s main sustenance is still from breast milk or baby formula. Do not worry about the quantity of food that is actually ingested.