Why I Let My Babies Feed Themselves: AKA Baby Led Weaning

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) has been the single greatest discovery in my life as a mom apart from the day I realized I could pop in a movie for my kids to watch in our van while I went through the Starbuck’s drive-through and subsequently enjoy a few minutes of silence.

Baby Led Weaning is not what it sounds like, at least, not what it sounds like to us Americans. In America, we hear the word “weaning” and we automatically think in terms of giving up breastfeeding. But the BLW idea originated in the UK where weaning simply means to add complimentary foods to a babies diet.

The genius behind BLW is that you never give a baby pureed food. Never. Instead, you simply give them bite-sized pieces of the food you are already eating. No mashing, pureeing, straining, etc. You put one meal on the table for everyone ages 6 months + and you call it a day. Like this day, where I made scrambled eggs with goat cheese and tarragon for me, Oliver, and Beatrice. img_7482

If you are new to BLW then I’m sure this is the part where you start to question my ability to mother safely. You say to yourself that this sounds questionable. Dangerous, even.

I get it.

But the thing is, babies, around the age of six months, are actually fully equipped to handle bite sized pieces of food. The function of gums and saliva is to break down food, and what many parents wrongly perceive as choking is just the baby’s gag reflex. A baby will gag less and less as they instinctively learn to keep food towards the front of their mouth.

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Bea loves her carbs. A girl after her momma’s heart.

When Oliver was a baby, I read the book, Baby-Led Weaning by Gil Rapley and Tracey Murkett to get started. In this helpful guide, Rapley shares some of the BLW benefits to baby:

BLW will develop your baby’s chewing skills, manual dexterity, and hand-eye coordination.With your help, he’ll discover a wide range of healthy foods and learn important social skills. He’ll only eat as much as he needs…

I have discovered all of these claims to be 100% true now that I’ve done BLW with two children. I’ve been amazed at how quickly they developed the dexterity to reach, grab, pinch and successfully get food into their mouth. Not only that, but both Bea and Oliver are eager eaters, never passing up food because of taste or texture.img_7291

An interesting point that the book makes is that babies instinctively crawl and walk when they are ready, but why do we decide when they are ready for food and then give them mush? A baby’s readiness to explore foods and eating on their own and our insistence at spoon feeding them might be the cause of so much dinner time drama and stress because they were made to do this next milestone on their own. 

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These are photos of Oliver when he was a baby, feeding himself pinto beans and rice. Eating out has never been easier.

I could go on and on about how much I love BLW, but I’ll try and spare you. To keep it short, here is a list of some of the other perks:

  • You can do meal times together. No longer does someone have to wait to eat their meal so that they can spoon feed baby, now you all have your food and eat together as a family!
  • Babies learn to eat great foods right from the beginning. Already, Beatrice has been introduced to a wide variety of seasons, spices and textures and doesn’t bat an eye! Plus, I firmly believe that Oliver is a better, more adventurous eater because he started with these foods/flavors/textures.
  • BLW is cost effective. Jarred baby food can really add to the grocery bill. Now, baby can eat the same dishes you are already making for the rest of your family!
  • BLW is so much fun! I love seeing how eager Beatrice is to eat and try new foods. Meal time is so much more relaxed.
  • Eating out is so. much. easier. I give the kids their food and let them go at it. As for me and my husband? Well, we focus on our own meals!img_5940

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    Oliver was and still is the best eater. I credit BLW! He learned to love a full range of flavors, textures, and combinations right from the start.

A few words of caution:

  • It is messy! We lucked out and started this during the summer so we could do a lot of meals outside. But either way, be prepared for some mess until baby gets the hang of it (for us, that was about 1-2 weeks).
  • No salt! Babies can’t have salt, so keep pre-packaged food to a minimum. Often times, I will pull out Beatrice’s portion before I salt our dishes.
  • At first, I was disappointed  I didn’t know about this with our first son, Theo. Then I read that this practice shouldn’t be implemented with preemies, which I can totally understand. Theo had a very hard time with all of his suck/swallow reflexes, which made nursing and eating very difficult for him. For preemies, stick to the traditional feeding method.
  • Nursing/formula should be continued as usual with BLW. The majority of baby’s nutrients will come form nursing/formula, not from table food.
  • Remember that gagging and choking are two very different things. Gagging is normal as babies learn how far is too far to push food and fingers. This usually subsides after a week or two.
  • No, babies don’t have teeth when they start BLW (from 6 mo. on), but they tend to keep food in their mouths longer, “gumming” it and breaking it down with saliva.

A few BLW foods to get you started:

  • Oliver loved anything smeared on toast (especially hummus or cottage cheese), which I then cut into strips that are easy to grab.
  • scrambled egg are another favorite
  • apple slices, skin on
  • cooked broccoli (Both Oliver and Bea love broccoli! I think it’s because the spears are easy to pick up.)
  • dishes with chopped veggies, rice and beans
  • cooked noodles
  • biscuits, like the broccoli cheddar biscuits from Taste of Home

BLW has been a great experience for me and my family, and if you have a little one over the age of 6 months, I would encourage you to give it a try! I didn’t cover everything with this post, so I would encourage you to check out the Baby-Led Weaning book I mentioned earlier, and it’s companion cookbook.

What about you? How did you introduce food to your little one? Have you tried BLW? What is your favorite BLW food?

2 thoughts on “Why I Let My Babies Feed Themselves: AKA Baby Led Weaning

  1. I never actually knew what BLW meant. I just thought it was as simple as letting them stop BF when they wanted. I did that with my first and didn’t realize it. Here I just thought it was me being a lazy Mama. LoL Actually, I got started doing it because that is the way my Mom fed my brother and I, and that is the way both my parents were fed. Baby food was unheard of basically. The one thing though that I cannot vouche for is the picky eating. My brother, son, and I are all very picky. That could be from not experimenting with a lot of different foods or spices. We keep it pretty simple. Basic veggie, fruit, and protein. Thanks for giving me some education on it. It’s so nice to hear another mama think outside the box.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Amanda! I do think you hit on something, though, and that’s allowing your kids to experiment with lots of foods and flavors. I gave my middle son everything, even the things I don’t like, and he isn’t the least bit picky. I’m doing that with our youngest too, so it will be interesting to see if Oliver’s lack of pickiness is due to this way of eating, or if it’s more personality! I guess time will tell ;-).

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