Full disclosure: your baby’s introduction to solid foods may be chaotic.
Porridge, pumpkin, and potatoes will redecorate your floor and walls. A beautiful mess awaits.
One thing to think about: will you start with purees or with baby-led weaning?
If you go with the latter, how do you know when to start baby-led weaning? Are there signs to watch out for?
Let’s dive in.
In this article: 📝
- How early can I start baby-led weaning?
- Can I start BLW at 4 months?
- How do I know when my baby is ready for baby-led weaning?
- How can I make my baby-led weaning easier?
- When to start baby-led weaning: Final thoughts
How early can I start baby-led weaning?
Also called auto-weaning, it’s risen in popularity over the years.
As the name suggests, BLW is made of two parts:
Yep, they get to be in charge of how this all happens.
In contrast to what is known as the traditional method, where parents spoon-feed their babies soft purees, BLW involves offering chopped or minced foods to your little one—and then letting them decide how much and how quickly they would like to eat.
This process doesn’t happen all at once.
As you slowly reduce breast and/or formula feeding, you increase the number of solid foods in their diet.
By starting with a new food every day or every few days, you give them the opportunity to get used to new tastes and textures while you monitor for any potential allergies that might spring up.
One of the key benefits of the BLW approach is that it may allow babies to more easily respond to feelings of being full—what is known as a “satiety response”.
And this could be associated with healthy weight gain.
There are conflicting reports on the benefits for you.
Others say that there are so many other factors, such as cultural practices and lifestyle, that go into whether or not this is an appropriate feeding method.
Bottom line? If it works for you—great. If it doesn’t, there are other ways.
“There isn’t one right or wrong way,” says Registered Toddler Dietitian and Nutritionist (RDN) Kacie Barnes. “Many people prefer BLW, and others prefer purees.
You can also embrace a hybrid of both approaches; after all, many foods we commonly consume ARE purees (like yogurt, hummus, guacamole, etc), so there is absolutely nothing wrong with pureed textures!”
So when can you start BLW?
Are there BLW signs of readiness to watch out for?
Let’s take a look.
Can I start BLW at 4 months?
“That means, no need for any solid food beyond breastmilk/formula,” explains Barnes, “as well as no additional liquid (water, cow’s milk, etc).
Breast milk or formula will have all they need until it’s time to introduce solids.”
By the time they hit six months, it might be time to expand the menu with what is called complementary feeding.
“Recommendations usually give the range of 4-6 months,” says Barnes, “but I recommend waiting until closer to 6 months.
That way, they’ll have developed more of the readiness signs and skills needed to help them be successful.
There isn’t an advantage to starting early – again, breast milk or formula is providing all they need nutritionally until then!”
And while the WHO suggests continuing to offer breast milk or formula on demand until your baby is two years old as you slowly introduce them to solid foods, Barnes says that isn’t always strictly the case:
“Formula isn’t necessary after age one. There are some toddler formulas on the market if you want to offer one to cover some nutritional bases, but many people switch to milk at age 1 (although you don’t have to do that either- your child CAN get all that they need from a well-planned diet without milk, alt milk, or toddler formula).
How do I know when my baby is ready for baby-led weaning?
In the spirit of baby being in the driving seat, they should give you some pretty solid clues they are ready for the BLW adventure.
Here’s what to watch out for.
- Sit up on their own (or have trunk stability even if not sitting independently yet)
- Show interest in your food
- Hold their head upright
- Reach out for things
- Grab onto objects
- Transport food and toys from hand to mouth
- Chew without guidance
And just like that—your baby wants to take on a leadership position in your household before they can even walk.
They’re about to steer this ship into the land of solid foods.
Gotta love the ambition!
How can I make my baby-led weaning easier?
Know that there’s no one way to do this.
You find the method and timing that works for you and your family.
Some toddler nutritionist and dietician-approved advice?
Food pieces (or finger foods) should be about the size and shape of your pinkie finger or smaller.
“They also need to be soft,” says Barnes, “able to be easily mashed between your two fingers if you were to pick it up.
Baby is mostly going to be gumming at the foods (as opposed to taking proper bites) because they don’t have teeth yet.
They still can chew (the teeth are right there under the surface), but they will be doing more mashing up front.”
And finally, mix up flavors and textures to introduce your baby to the rainbow of food options available.
Some good foods to start with are:
- 🥭Fruit slices: Mango (if it is very ripe and soft), banana, and melon are good intro foods
- 🥑Avocado chunks
- 🥬Green veggies: Broccoli, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower all work well steamed until soft.
- 🍠Sweet potato baked soft
- 🍗Chicken pieces
- 🥚Eggs scrambled into an omelet and cut into long strips
- 🥣Oatmeal with breastmilk or fruit mashed in
There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to suggest that baby-led weaning comes with more of a choking risk than the traditional spoon-feeding approach.
No matter which approach you choose, it’s always a good idea to watch your baby closely as they learn to do this eating thing – there is no increased choking risk when food is offered safely.
And if you’re after some fresh, frozen healthy baby meals directly to your door, you can get 25% off your first 3 boxes of Mamamade purees with the code PEANUT25. Shop here.
When to start baby-led weaning: Final thoughts
“Start baby-led weaning with one offering a day,” recommends Barnes, “and then slowly progress to more often.
This could look like two times a day at around 7 or 8 months, and 3 times around 9 months.
After they become more proficient at eating, they’ll eventually weave in snacks to that schedule as well”
By about nine months of age, most babies will probably be “eating” three meals a day.
Before you know it, they’ll be reaping the benefits of our expert-approved easy, healthy toddler meals
If you need support along the way, join us on Peanut.
Happy exploring mama!