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We loved Baby Led Weaning – It worked for us and it was my inspiration to start blogging in the first place so I thought I’d put together a few baby led weaning tips for anyone considering going down this route with their child.
What is baby led weaning?
Simply, baby led weaning is teaching a child to eat by themselves, letting them explore different flavours and textures in a safe environment without forcing them to eat, feeding them using a spoon and deciding how much they should eat at each meal. Baby led weaning is all about leaving the eating experience down to your child.
I know baby led weaning isn’t for everyone and as long as your baby is fed in some way then it really doesn’t matter your views on how they get that food – feeding baby is the most important thing.
When to start baby led weaning?
You can start solids and start babyled weaning from around six months old and for us the complete baby led weaning benefits were huge. We introduced a few first foods for baby led weaning and then just went from there, giving our children the same foods as us at each meal time to introduce them to solid food.
One thing to be aware of is that there are a few baby led weaning foods to avoid at the start and there are also many baby weaning books and weaning guides out there. Read all the information and then do what works for you. For us, that was baby led weaning and we found it quite easy once we got started introducing solids.
So how to start baby led weaning?
1 – Food is fun until they’re one!
This is the most important thing to remember. Babies get all the nutrients they need from the breast milk or formula in their diet until a year old and into toddlerhood. The milk will have much more nutritional content that any food you give them and it really doesn’t matter if they don’t eat much before their 1st Birthday.
Up until then food can just be about learning, exploring new textures and getting to know different foods. I’ve put together some baby led weaning starter foods to give you some suggestions of what to start with. You should also offer water in a baby led weaning cup with each meal.
2 – Buy messy floor mats
One of the first things we bought to help with BLW were a few Messy Floor Mats or splash mats. We keep one under the highchair and keep it super clean, if any food falls on this mat we know we can give it back to LM and it’s much easier to clean up after each meal.
3 – Get an Ikea Antilop highchair
The Ikea Antilop highchair is one of the best things you will ever buy and it was one of our baby led weaning must haves. Yes it takes up a little bit of room compared to other high chairs for babies – like the Stokke Tripp Trapp – BUT the legs do come off easily for storage/transportation. It is also wipe clean, has a safety harness and is even dishwasher safe! It’s in the region of £15 for the Ikea high chair and removable tray and is a baby led weaning dream.
I cannot praise this highchair enough and it’s a great addition to any family dining room where your little one can sit right at the table with you. It really is the best baby highchair as well as being an incredibly cheap high chair too! We also invested in a booster seat or table chair to take to other people’s houses which was a great investment and a perfect toddler chair option.
4 – Embrace the mess
Weaning is messy at some point. BLW is messy from the start – expect it to be messy, prepare for mess and embrace it. You’ll be able to appreciate the weaning experience a lot more and you will never, ever forget the lasting effects of baby led weaning banana – it ends up everywhere! Plus, it was probably our baby led weaning first food. We often let the children eat in just a nappy or used some baby led weaning bibs to try and minimise the mess.
5 – Offer a variety of foods
When doing BLW your baby doesn’t need a lot of food but a couple of pieces of each item is great! Try to offer two or three different solid foods at each meal to give your baby different textures and flavours to experience and learn from.
6 – Eat with your baby
We all know that babies learn how to do everything from copying the things we as parents do. Try to eat at the same time as your baby, and as a family if you can, so they see you with food in front of you, using cutlery and even chewing. It’s a great way for them to learn eating habits and to make meals a really sociable time for your baby.
7 – Stick to Finger Foods for a while
There’s no need to cook special meals for your 6 month old baby. Food is all about exploration and at first your baby will only be able to hold larger pieces of food, not the small things that make up a typical meal. Offer parts of your meals where appropriate – pieces of toast, pasta shapes, steamed vegetables. If you’re eating a meal that your baby can’t eat then offer them other finger foods – fruit/veg sticks, bread sticks, rice cakes. Your baby isn’t going to mind if it doesn’t have a ‘meal’ and it isn’t even going to mind if it has lunch foods at breakfast!
8 – If they gag on food – wait 10 seconds!
The best piece of advice I was ever given about choking was that babies have a very pronounced gag reflex at first and they use it to reposition food in their mouths. If your baby gags, wait 10 seconds before helping as stepping in to help too early can stop the baby from dealing with the food by themselves.
At times I’ve had to sit on my hands but with both children I have never had to wait more than 5 seconds for them to reposition the food and eat it or spit it out. At other times after a few seconds they’ve been sick which was also their way of dealing with the food. You’ll find that very soon the gag reflex subsides and they don’t gag often at all and baby led weaning choking is actually very rare if you leave them for just a few seconds to reposition the food themselves.
9 – Expect waste
BLW is messy, food does get chucked on the floor and there is waste. Don’t buy a lot of food especially for your baby at first – give them things you already have or buy things that you know the baby will
eat play with over the course of a week.
10 – Try loaded spoons
If you want to give your baby a bit more variety try loaded spoons. Any wetter meals, yogurts, fruit purees can be put on a spoon and handed to your baby and you could ever use traditional baby food at times like this just for practice – although a baby led weaning baby may not like the flavours of baby food that much.
At first with loaded spoons the contents of the spoon goes everywhere but after a while the baby’s coordination improves and they love the challenge of feeding themselves with the spoon. Eventually it will click and the baby will feed themselves with ease. During this time try not to start spoon feeding and let the baby do it by themselves. You can invest in baby led weaning cutlery to help with this but we found these to be some of the best spoons for baby led weaning.
So there you have it, ten tips to help you get started on your baby led weaning adventure. It will be messy, it will take time but it may well be one of the best parenting decisions you make. We loved it – and so did the children. You can also read the best baby led weaning book and the baby led weaning cookbook for more information and advice – from our experience they are the best weaning books on the market.
I hope this has helped if you’ve been asking what do I need for baby led weaning and really I would say just an IKEA highchair, a mat for the floor, a drinks cup, a spoon and coverall bibs. They can start to share your food and you can go from there. Whatever you do, enjoy the process – it’s something you’ll be talking about for years.