Baby led weaning seems so easy, give the baby what you’re eating and let them feed themselves.
Here are 10 basic rules I follow for baby led weaning.
1. Don’t expect your baby to eat much
They are discovering food for the first time. Their coordination isn’t great at first so the food is making it into their mouth, or they may not like the taste or texture of the food on their first try. Let them eat what they want, when they want. Continually reintroduce the same foods (even if you swear they hate carrots), babies need to be exposed to foods more than 1 – 2 x before they really like a food. Don’t stress about how much they are eating, your milk is their main nutrition for now.
2. Plan for longer mealtimes
Let your baby explore their food, it might seem like more food ends up on their face or on the floor for the first few weeks or month and that is OK! Food before one is just for fun. So let them feel, smell and taste the food on their own schedule. Instead of rushing them consider this a time of bonding where you can sit with them and enjoy a long relaxing meal.
3. Offer a variety of foods throughout the week
You don’t want to eat green beans for every meal all week and neither does your baby. Give them a variety of textures and tastes throughout the week so they have different foods to pick from and explore.
4. Don’t put food in your baby’s mouth
Let your baby feed themself and control the amount and type of food they want to eat. They are developing strong oral motor skills, learning how to chew and swallow, working on their hand eye coordination and having the independence to do this all on their own schedule (and you thought it was just lunch time!).
5. Offer food at times when your baby isn’t tired or hungry
I usually aim for an hour after her milk feeding. If your baby is tired or hungry they will get frustrated more easily and it will create a negative eating experience.
6, Make sure the baby is sitting upright, not leaning back or slumping
Gagging will happen, but you want to prevent choking. You don’t want any food falling back in her throat and getting stuck without her easily able to cough it up.
Don’t be in a rush to start solids until your baby is ready. Some signs to look for: they can sit without support, are interested in food and family meals, have lost the tongue-thrust reflex and your baby is willing/able to chew.
7. Never leave your baby alone with food
Just because you aren’t feeding them with a spoon doesn’t mean this is a hands off approach to feeding. Be near your babe’s side at all times while they are eating and monitor them as they learn to chew their food and swallow.
8. Cut fruits and veggies into bigger pieces so your baby can pick them up
This seemed odd to me at first, wouldn’t you want smaller pieces so they wouldn’t choke? But actually bigger pieces are a lot easier for them to pick up and chew off of.
9. Prepare for a big mess
If you were to describe baby led weaning in one word it would probably be MESSY. BLW is not for the clean obsessed. Your baby gets messy, the high chair gets messy, the floor gets messy, you will probably be messy. Just expect a mess, especially in the beginning, but your baby learns quickly to eat with less mess as they get older.
10. Babies will gag, and this is a good thing.
BLW is a way to help babies learn to eat safely by teaching them not to overfill their mouths and to chew their food. In a baby, the gag reflex is more sensitive and is triggered much farther forward in the mouth than adults. Gagging isn’t easy to watch, but know that it is natural and good for the baby to learn how to feed themself and protect from choking.
Send this to sitters, family members and friends so they can understand your baby led weaning approach to feeding your baby!