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Baby-Led Weaning Works for Us

It’s hard to believe nearly eight months have gone by since we welcomed our sweet little girl. She’s growing and changing each day, and so much of her personality is starting to show. Being the food people we are, Eric and I were ecstatic to introduce Clara to solid foods. I decided before she was born not to worry about how we’d do that until the time came to actually do it. Since I worried about so many other things beforehand, I decided to go with the “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” mentality in regards to solid foods. I had heard and read about various methods for introducing foods, but it wasn’t until I got to see baby-led weaning in action that I really started to consider it. My friend Marlyn introduced me to the concept, and I got to see it firsthand when she, her husband and their daughter came to visit us earlier this year.

Baby-led weaning, or as my friend Aimée calls it – baby-led feeding, is basically a common sense approach to introducing solids. I wasn’t even certain I wanted to try it, but the more I watched Clara while we were eating, the more encouraged I became to attempt it. After a couple weeks of her pulling food off our plates, we finally took the plunge. I’m happy to report that it’s been a huge success. I’ll admit to us both being nervous in the beginning, but Clara hasn’t had a single problem. We have gotten a few questions like “but does she even have teeth?” (actually, she’s cutting her third and fourth right now) and “can she actually swallow any food?” and “what happens if she chokes?” Trust me, I had similar questions and researched the heck out of this before giving Clara food for the first time. What I found out is that babies don’t need teeth in order to eat solid food. Before her first two teeth came in, she did a fine job using her gums to chew the food. As to whether or not she swallows food when eating, the answer is yes, most definitely. Choking concerns are minimized by waiting until the baby is big enough to sit on her own, which Clara was easily doing by the time we started, and providing soft foods in large pieces (though, admittedly, I still looked up how to perform an infant Heimlich maneuver before we started).

We started BLW when Clara turned six months old, so it’s been almost two months since she had her first bites of solid food. With very few exceptions, Clara eats almost everything we eat. During this time, I’ve been amazed at how much her hand-eye (or rather, hand-mouth) coordination has improved. When she first started eating solids, she was a little clumsy and could only eat the parts of the food sticking out of her fist. Now, she has an easier time gripping the food and is even starting to open a couple fingers as opposed to keeping them all tightly clenched around whatever food she’s holding. She eats with intention, and it’s evident every time she takes a bite.

Clara started out mostly sucking on the foods we offered, but it didn’t take long for her to break off pieces and swallow them. Before we knew it, she was actually chewing her food! Our little girl hasn’t turned down a single food she’s been offered, and I’m hoping this means she’ll continue trying and enjoying new foods as she grows. Like I said, though, there are a few exceptions to what she eats. First – we don’t give her any spicy food. Eric and I both love spicy foods (some of which make my eyes water), so obviously we don’t share those with Clara. Second – we are mostly keeping sweeter fruits, like banana, out of her diet for the time being. We want her to develop a love of vegetables and savory foods first. Eric and I try to fill our diet with fresh, unprocessed, mostly organic foods, and we feel comfortable sharing those foods with Clara. I love that we can all eat dinner together, Clara in her highchair feeding herself, and Eric and I at the table (watching her closely) with free hands to feed ourselves.

Some of the foods we’ve given Clara are:

  • roasted carrots
  • roasted acorn squash
  • fresh tomatoes
  • sweet potato wedges
  • baked chicken
  • ground beef and chicken
  • penne with goat cheese
  • caramelized onions and roasted butternut squash
  • penne with spinach and avocado sauce
  • sliced avocados
  • applesauce (no sugar added)
  • watermelon
  • toast, cut into sticks
  • cheese grits
  • steel-cut oats
  • garlic bread, cut into sticks

Baby-led weaning is certainly messy – after all, it’s essentially letting a small child feed themselves – but it’s totally worth it. Plus, Abby is more than happy to help clean up the mess. ;) I’m so happy we decided to follow this method, and every time I watch her chubby, dimpled hand guide a piece of food to her mouth, I know that we made the right choice for our family. We want Clara to grow up with an appreciation of food, not just how it tastes but how it’s cooked and where it comes from, and I think we’re on the right track. Though Clara won’t actually be weaned for some time and continues to get most of her food from breast milk, she’s already eating more food than when we started.

Resources:
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods
The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook
Momtastic

Let me qualify this post by saying that I know baby-led weaning isn’t for everyone. It was the right approach for us and Clara, but you should obviously do what is best for you and your little ones. I mentioned this method to Clara’s pediatrician before we started and got the all clear to proceed. Like pretty much everything related to children, what you decide to do is incredibly personal. However, I wanted to share our experience since a few people have asked me if I’d be posting any baby food recipes. If you’ve done baby-led weaning, I’d love to hear about it!

We often joke that Clara’s expressions are like a baby meme generator, so I just had to do this.


  • http://www.emskyrooney.blogspot.com Emily

    Thanks for this post! My baby girl is 2 months old so we’ll be starting in a few months. I’ve purchased the book but haven’t had a a chance to read it yet and am very interested in trying this out with our girl.. With our son we did the standard pediatrician advised way and while he’s a pretty good eater I wish we’d introduced him to more than just mush from the start… Baby girl seems interested in what we’re eating already so I’m hoping this will work for us. Thanks for sharing your experience so far!

  • http://jaclynscookies.blogspot.com Jaclyn

    Thanks for this post Courtney! It seems like a really great way to introduce babies to a variety of foods. And Clara is so adorable, love those pictures of her!

  • Kara

    Can I ask why you avoid giving her spicy food? I mean obviously you don’t want to feed her whole jalapenos, but babies all over the world grow up eating spicy food and I’ve never understood US/Western parents who say they won’t feed it to their children.

    • Courtney

      Kara, if it’s so spicy that I feel the need to drink water immediately after taking a bite, then I think that’s too spicy for a seven month old baby. I’m sure we’ll give her more moderately spiced food as she gets older, but I have no intentions of doing it anytime soon.

  • Kristin

    We did baby led feeding with my son (my 2nd child) completely by accident. He had 4 teeth by the time he was 4 months old and he was constantly watching us eat and watching his big sister eat. One day she just handed him food off her plate and he gobbled it up. That settled that. He never ate any baby food, he ate what we were eating or I kept some steamed mushy veggies in the fridge ready to go. And I’ll say this, he is a much much better eater than my daughter who we fed traditional baby food to until she was 1. He’ll eat just about anything and she is super picky. I’m all about telling other people about baby led feeding!

  • Tara

    Thanks for this post! I have a 6 month old and we started him with BLW a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely love it. He has so much fun (with the exception of 2 rough teething days)and I just love seeing his reactions to food. Tonight is Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese :)

  • Courtney

    Great post! I wish we had done this with our son. He’s 5 and while I wouldn’t call him a picky eater, he’s definitely not very adventurous. :<}

    I LOVE that first picture of her face- she looks either determined or warning you not to think about taking her food away! She's so adorable.

  • http://www.kyleecooks.blogspot.com USA Kiwi (Kylee)

    My 10 month old son has been eating the BLW since 6 months too!

    I love it, and love to watch him eat quinoa, kale, hummus, falafel and everything else we eat.

    I recently made broccoli/cheese nuggets (patties for the adults), and a simple pasta risotta (orzo, basically) which he LOVES.

    Baby carrots, steamed and halved are a favorite, as well as never meeting a bean he didn’t like!

  • http://www.simplebites.net/ Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Courtney I love this!! Go Clara go.

    Everything you say resonated with me. My Clara is eating practically what we eat. I’ve LOVED skipping purees. I’m impressed DAILY with her dexterity. And she loves everything!

    I’m so glad you spoke up about BLW. I think it’s a big help to moms and the best start for baby.

    What a cutie!!

  • Crystal

    This is new to me, but sounds genius! And, obviously Clara agrees! Thanks for the post. You have embraced motherhood beautifully!

    Totally laughed out loud at that last picture!!

  • http://www.mrsregueiro.com Krystal R {Mrs. Regueiro’s Plate}

    What a great and informative post, and glad to see BLW is working out for Clara. I was thinking about trying this for Elena, so far she is enjoying homemade purees, but I would love to see her personality come out with BLW.

  • http://www.thingsforboys.com abby @ thingsforboys

    We did BLW with our son (he’s now 2) and it was/is amazing! It was definitely something that made sense to me and then seeing it in real life was fantastic! I knew I was doing the right thing when we went to sleep school at 10 months and all the Mums and nurses (who see hundreds of babies) were all coming to watch Roman eat his dinner. He goes through picky phases now, but generally eats very well and a varied diet. This week he is loving sushi and anchovies!

  • http://goodthymesandgoodfood.com Rachel

    I’ve been heavily considering BLW for this next baby we are having and I think you pretty much just convinced me of it fully. :) Thank you for posting the resources and Clara is just as cute as can be!

  • http://www.thefoodhound.com The Food Hound

    YAY! So glad you’re a BLWer, too!! We started Emma at 6 mos and have never looked back! We started with just your basic steamed veggies, soft fruits, and shredded chicken or beef, but now she eats exactly what we eat- seasoned and all! Obvi we don’t do a ton of spicy stuff, but I feel like she prefers the stuff packed with garlic/cumin/cinnamon/pepper to the plain steamed stuff now. We also do a TON of eggs- so easy and so good for her. The AAP just revised their guidelines on when to introduce eggs, but I feel like most pediatricians still keep it old school by telling you to defer. Grrr. I just tell them I’m an RD and my kid loves eggs :) Anyway, so glad you posted on this. I blogged about a blueberry-pear baked oatmeal a few weeks ago, and I shared my story of BLW, too. Clara would love the baked oatmeal, I bet! I know Emma does! She eats so well we’re down to nursing 4x/day. Crazy, since she was a 10x/day baby for forever! I love watching her eat- I bet you feel the same way! Keep up the good work!!

  • Priya

    I have only just started looking at your blog – ths is the second thing I’ve looked at (after the rainbow cake which I’m making for my daughters birthday in 2 days time) and I think I’ll keep coming back!
    I did BLW with my almost 4 year old and tell everyone how awesome it is!
    To answer the spicy food question… It’s not great to watch a baby with spicy food on her hand rub her eyes…. Ouch!
    I am really excited to start BLW with my 10 week old too! Yes there’s mess, but I don’t spend Sundays making ‘meals’ for the week and I don’t buy expensive mush at the supermarket. Plus we went out for food lots and as long as I kept wipes and a bib in the bag we could be spontaneous.
    Love it! Not enough people do it in my opinion so excited to find this blog!

  • http://www.coffeeandcannolis.com Angie @ Coffee and Cannolis

    I wish I had done BLW with my son because when we did start introducing tablefoods around 12-months it was difficult. Whether or not we would have had a different experience with BLW I’m not sure, but I do think that with any future children we’ll probably BLW.

  • http://www.brannyboilsover.com branny

    this was such an interesting post to read – even though I have no kids!

  • Jen

    Did a mix of baby food/solid food with my 16 month old and will do more of the baby-led way with my newborn Charlie…best bib tip ever…these rubber Tommee Tippee ones from target that go in the dishwasher and the front pocket gets all the dribbles. Best thing ever FYI!! Love your site and Clara is adorable!

  • http://www.simpleawesomecooking.com/ Tony B

    That’s a great list of foods your toddler has been working through. I’ve never heard this “BLW” term, but it sounds like “Introducing Solid Foods”. Funny how everything these days has to have a clinical sounding term as if it were just invented.

    I had a friend give me the book The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet just before our son was born. It’s a great month-by-month guide to how to introduce solids with easy meal ideas. Highly recommended!

  • http://twitter.com/mumsmakelists Mums make lists

    Great post and tips – so impressive!

    Would love for you to link this up at the Friday Baby Shower link party – we’re focused on weaning this week, Alice x