Baby Led Feeding

The only person more excited to start weaning than me, was Lily.

They say to start at 6 months or when the baby shows “signs of readiness” –

Sitting up with no support (for a little bit anyway)

Can pick up and put things into their mouth 

Holds their head steady 

If you give them a morsel of food, they can swallow rather than spitting it out

Lily had been sitting for a little while (and is generally happiest at a restaurant watching people coming and going, waiters cooing over her while we eat and chat with her on one of our knees) when at 5 months she grabbed a courgette right off my plate, shoved it in her mouth and was lost in the ecstasy of chewing on it. She let us know she was ready!

I booked the entire family into a first aid course (just incase) and we set off on our feeding journey.

Once upon a time starting solids meant cereals and rusks, but things have moved on a bit since then.

Now there are two camps, the Baby Led Weaners and The Puree brigade.

Purees are pretty simple, you blend everything into mush and spoon feed it to the baby. Some start with bitter green veg and slowly work their way through the rainbow, others just blend whatever they’re having and share it with baby.

Baby Led Weaning is a bit trickier to get your head around. You give your baby whole food and trust them to get on with it. Ripe fruits, flaked fish, strips of meat, softened veg, finger foods basically.

Advocates of BLW say it helps motor skill development, helps dexterity, chewing skills, builds a life long love of food and makes for less picky children. Most peoples biggest fear is around choking, and you do have to be careful, cutting non-mushy fruit into little pieces so they couldn’t block the airway, etc, but a recent study suggests there’s no more risk of choking than with purees. You just have to hold your nerve and watch like a hawk!

We’ve opted for mix of both approaches. Some BLW purists say you can’t do this because babies will forget how to chew solids if they also have purees. But she’s a baby, not an idiot, so she’s doing just fine.

We started with a few nibbles here and there. Strips of toast, natural yogurt (particularly funny because it’s quite sour and she’d shudder while shovelling it in!), dry omelettes, berries soft enough to mush between your fingers, carrot & parsnip mash, simple stuff. In the beginning it was just for fun, you don’t need to worry too much about nutrients because she still gets everything she needs from breastmilk. It’s just a fun adventure you’re on together, where she gets to experience everything you love for the very first time. Some things didn’t go down particularly well, we never pushed anything or made a big deal about it, just kept offering them.

Naturally the daughter of two foodies was always going to be a keen eater! She got hungrier and hungrier, and at 6.5 months is now on 3 meals a day (she’d have more if she could!)

Baby led weaning

Here’s an idea of how today looks –

7am – Breastmilk

8am – Breakfast – Organic Greek yogurt mixed with 1tsp fruit puree, 1tbsp chia seeds, baby probiotics, handful of blueberries on the side.(whole but squeezed between my finger and thumb, so she can pick them up and eat them in two bites, rather than putting in whole which would be a choking risk)

11am – Breastmilk

12pm – Lunch – Chickpea pasta (great source of iron!) with Bolognese (I make in advance and freeze in little pots) and roasted baby aubergines (sliced long ways, roasted with some oil and herbs for 20mins, served cool. She picks them up and sucks the “meat” off the skin which she leaves.)

3pm – Breastmilk

5pm – Breastmilk

6pm – Supper – Carrot, parsnip & sauerkraut mush (Steamed veg blended with some olive oil and herbs, frozen in little pots in advance) tenderstem broccoli (finger food, she chews the leaves off the trees and leaves the trunks) dipped in hummus.

7pm – Breastmilk

10pm – Breastmilk (dream feed)

As you can see “weaning” doesn’t actually mean transitioning away from breastfeeding (or formula) which we wouldn’t consider until after she’s a year old. It’s more about getting great nutrients in along side the milk, playing with new flavours and textures, teaching her that mealtimes are fun.

We have a great highchair that attaches to the table, so we try to eat with her whenever possible (even if we just have our own tiny bowl of what she’s having, she loves to see us having the same thing).

Rather than feeding her, I fill the spoon and hand it to her and she then puts it in. She’s done this since the start, even if it was just a few scoops then, and it’s amazing to see how quickly her dexterity and coordination is developing. Sometimes she’s just too excited and waves her hands around in delight as I spoon feed her, we just go with her mood.

One of the theories behind BLW is that you teach your children to follow their hunger cues, and stop when they’re full. Removing pressure from mealtimes, so there’s no “just one more bite” chat, we go until she stops.

There’s a popular line going around that “food is just for fun before one” and it’s true, it should be fun! But it’s also a brilliant learning experience, helps them top up on nutrients that they start to need more of at around 6m (particularly iron!), helps avoid allergies, and hopefully sets them up for a life long love affair with their food.

We’re pretty relaxed about what she eats, with a few caveats –

  • Strictly no added sugar (including natural ones like maple syrup, etc)
  • No honey (not safe for babies under one, botulism risk)
  • No salt (if I’m cooking for the family I’ll make it all, take hers out, then add salt)
  • Only water to drink and only with meals (you don’t want it to displace breastmilk)
  • Trying lots of strong flavours! Baby food doesn’t have to be bland.
  • High fat options always (full fat Greek yogurt, etc.)
  • Chia seeds (full of goodness!) + probiotics at breakfast
  • High iron options when possible
  • Trying allergens out one at a time, (only in the morning, so we wouldn’t be sending her to bed where she could react without us seeing her. More info on allergens here.)
  • Keep mealtimes fun, social and exciting, with no pressure.
  • Allow her to get stuck in with her hands and make a good mess!

My biggest worries were allergies (she’s currently allergic to egg, but I suspect she’ll grow out of it) and choking. Choking is very different to gagging, which all babies do a bit in the beginning because the whole system is so new. Gagging looks like they might vom, you just have to stay calm and say “are you ok?” While holding your nerve and not leaping across the table. Choking is different, they’ll look at you wide eyed and not make any noise. This needs a really good (calm!) pat on the back and we’ve had one incident where I had to scoop her up, hold her upside down over my arm and give her a firmer whack on the back, something I was so worried about with BLW and of course, it happened with a thicker puree! Beyond that, I really do recommend doing a first aid course, just so you know that you know what to do in a real emergency.

We’re not really following any books, but I did buy a couple to place around the house to help loved ones who were freaking out at the idea of BLW! People tend to undermine less if they’ve seen what you’re saying in black and white. This book seems good as does this one.

In terms of highchairs, people swear by the IKEA classic, this option is more attractive and still unbelievably reasonable. Then there’s the one you find in most hip restaurants. Personally we’ve opted for a hook on chair so she can join us for meals, we also added the tray which is great for cleaning up after a hummus finger painting session!

We use these stick on bowls, and these brilliant spoons. These baby cups are great & we also use an enamel espresso mug which works brilliantly.

We’ve tried bibs with sleeves but they’re all so big and bulky at this age, we find it easier to strip her off and use a smaller pelican bib. I’d rather clean a baby than a onesie!

I use these little storage containers to freeze prepared food.

I also bought one of these to prep food in small batches, which is not needed but a really great little luxury because it’s so easy to wash up!

I think that’s really it in terms of kit… if I think of anything else I’ll let you know.

Whenever I remember to do so I pop Lily’s meals into a highlight on my Instagram account, incase you’re lacking in inspiration. I also enjoy following this account, this one, this one, this one, and this one which is less kids based but still interesting.

And that’s about everything I can think of to update you on! If you have any questions, pop them below.

If you’re also on a weaning journey, yogurt-a let me know how you’re getting on!

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