I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I/we introduced Wyatt to solids, usually as a response to Instagram posts showing Wyatt tearing into some food. I chose a somewhat less common approach, at least here in the US, and decided to dive into the world of baby led weaning (BLW) after hearing about it all throughout my pregnancy + doing a lot of research. I’m all for however you choose to introduce your little one to solids (you do you!), but since this isn’t as “common” of an approach, I felt it definitely needed its own post. I’ve also made a quick video montage that captures our journey from 5 1/2 months to now (9 months!).
First off, what the heck is baby led weaning? Basically a fancy term for skipping purees and giving baby solid finger foods to explore and figure out for themselves. Despite its name, it doesn’t actually wean them off of nursing/formula any more than traditional baby food. Instead of airplanes and Choo Choo trains, we simply handed Wyatt large chunks, or whole pieces, of various fruits, veggies, meats, breads, etc. and let him go to town. The idea behind this is that babies are able to learn about foods in the way they learn about everything during infancy: through exploration and experience. They’re able to feel the different textures, tastes, and shapes without the pressure of being expected to eat a certain amount. Since all food before 1 is just for fun (as they say), it really relieved the pressure for us and Wyatt. And we all had a blast, especially him.
I know you’re probably thinking, but isn’t that dangerous? Won’t he choke? I definitely thought that at first, but, I learned that infants’ gag reflexes are located really far in the front of their mouth, nowhere near their throat (where they’d choke). So letting them explore in this way earlier makes it safer for them to figure out how big of bites to take + how much food to put in their mouth at once before the gag reflex moves further back and things actually can get stuck in their throat causing them to choke.
So, when is a good time to start? There’s a few signs of readiness that we looked for with Wyatt before we dove in. I wasn’t really in any hurry for him to start solids, since there’s really no need for it, so I waited until he was 1) able to sit up unassisted (or with very little assistance), 2) showed interest in food, 3) had the tongue thrust reflex (where they can push food out of their mouth), and 4) was able to reach for and grab things with ease. For Wyatt, this was about 5 1/2 months, typically BLW is started sometime around 6 months.
With BLW it’s best to give the baby larger chunks, or whole pieces, of softer foods that they’re able to hold in their hands and still have parts of it peeking out at the top. So, his very first food was boiled sweet potato (with the skin on). For the first several weeks he barely consumed any of it. It was mainly just a big mess of sweet potato, avocado, bananas, mangos, oatmeal, bagel, etc. But he loved it and it was so much fun to watch how quickly he figured out the whole food thing.
A book that REALLY helped me figure out how to prepare food for him, what I should expect, the difference between gagging vs. choking, and a lot of other extremely helpful information was Baby Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods by Gill Rapley + Tracey Murkett.
Some of the foods that we tried in the beginning:
-Bananas (whole, slightly peeled)
-Avocado (with skin on)
-Sweet Potatoes (roasted)
-Bagel (whole wheat)
-Bell Pepper (w/ hummus)
As far as food allergies go, there aren’t any that are common on either side of our family, but I did start off with caution and tried introducing things slowly. With BLW there’s different ways to do it, some just dive in and throw caution to the wind, and others introduce things slowly. I chose to introduce one food every few days. Once he had tried a variety of foods, I just went for it and let him try anything I felt he could handle. We did hold off on citrus until around 7 1/2 months and meats until he had some teeth. Regarding the choking, there were a few times that he gagged that made me a bit nervous, but now that rarely happens. He was always able to recover with just a few coughs and then he was back to smiling and eating away.
Overall this has been an amazing experience and Wyatt handles food like a pro + HE LOVES IT. He is such a wonderful eater with a palette that is more adventurous than mine. Some of the things that he’s tried, and enjoys, are foods that I don’t even like (cauliflower). I would HIGHLY recommend this approach to anyone. I truly feel that he’s gained advanced eating skills and a relationship with food that will help him throughout his entire life.
I’ll leave you with this video! Not only does it show how much his eating skills have grown, but how much he has grown too.