Baby-Led Weaning Through Three Kids

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I have yet to buy a single jar of baby food.  But . . . I also have yet to puree my own baby food.  Want to know how?

First, let's break that picture down and analyze how different my kids look as babies:

Baby #1
Baby #2
Baby #3

I've followed Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) for introducing solids with all three of my kids.  BLW is where your child feeds herself right from the start.  Choosing this method was largely inspired by my crunchy ways with my first child--I was exclusively using cloth diapers and my daughter had some food sensitivities.  I learned about BLW from researching those areas and I am so glad I did!  (Thank you Baby Center forums!) 

Although I'm not as "crunchy" as I used to be, I am still a big fan of BLW. My current 6 month old just dived into it, and it's nice getting into the same old routine with him.  He's eating like a teenager, by the way.

The pros: It's the easiest (read, laziest) way to feed your baby; it's CHEAP; it inspires good eating habits and fosters independence; and it's adorable and fun!  The cons: It's messy; you have to watch your kids closely; and it's messy (just wanted to re-emphasize that one).

Middle child, R, chowing down.

While I thought the book Baby-Led Weaning was helpful, I found that this website has just as much information.  Also, the book is hard-core.  No spoons allowed.  Like, ever.

That's where I differ.  I prefer spoon-feeding yogurt, applesauce, soups, and leftover finger foods I mash up as we eat.  Also, when we are in public I find it so incredibly messy to do BLW, that I personally prefer sticking to feeding them myself until the baby is doing a pretty good job on their own.  My middle and current child wanted to use utensils right away--copying their siblings!  I just give the baby a plastic baby spoon if they are insisting and let them pretend while I spoon feed them a little.  R was able to successfully use utensils well by a year old, no joke.

Baby D is currently 6 1/2 months old.  Here is what he is eating (but not at this very moment, that would be crazy): banana, sweet potato, broccoli, roasted chicken and turkey, crusts from pizza, hunks of mozzarella cheese, avocado, applesauce, large stuffed pasta (he only sucked on this, for flavor!), tomato red pepper soup, rice, and baby oatmeal (you can also blend regular oatmeal).

While the book and website are the best place to start, here are some tips that I've gleaned through three rounds of this!

1) YOUR BABY IS GETTING ENOUGH: By far, your baby's largest nutrition should still be coming from breastmilk and/or formula.  Those first few months, they'll gnaw and suck on food and get little bits in.  (Their diapers will show you what, and you'll be surprised!)  You might wonder if they're getting enough, but they are if you still continue to breastfeed/bottle feed them before you give them regular food.  For a few months, solids are just for fun.  However, if you're like me (meaning you hate wasting food), you can also use a fork to mash up leftovers and feed them a bit, mixed with applesauce in the beginning, to thin it out.

2) ERR ON THE LARGE SIDE: Every person who hears about BLW first fears that the child will choke.  He/she will choke if you give them little pieces of cut up food; but if you give them larger pieces, such as a large spear of sweet potato or a big chunk of chicken, there is only so much that child can put into their mouth and suck on.  (Good news: babies can't even pick up small pieces for a few months!)  Larger pieces of food are smashed against the mouth/gums and ingested easier and more gradually.

My middle child, R, "choked" pretty easily. so be aware of that scary sound.  When I say "choked," I really mean that he mostly gagged very easily; but gag reflexes are a GOOD THING!  If you hear them "choking", then they're mostly gagging and working on getting the food back toward the front.   Audible choking means they still have air to breathe, while silent choking is when you need to swipe the food out ASAP. I never leave the room while baby is eating, even if another kid is calling for me from a different room.  This sounds scary, but it's mostly me covering my behind; spoon-fed babies gag/choke too as it's a necessary reflex!  Babies get better and better at gumming their food and moving it around in their mouthes, so "choking" incidents get farther and fewer in between.  My current baby has barely gagged at all.

3) HAVE YOUR GO-TO FOODS: All my babies' first food was a banana.  Their first few times, I cut a long chunk in half so they could grasp it better, but after a week, I just put a half a banana on the tray.  So, buy lots of bananas!  It's a great way to start each meal and it's a good flavor to mix with other soft foods leftover from your baby's fun.  I also roast a ton of sweet potato spears and broccoli (using either coconut oil or olive oil, and roast until the veggies are very soft).  I end up freezing most of them in smaller bags, and take them out when needed.  I roast the sweet potatoes in their skin because I'm lazy.  I just peel the spear before placing it on the tray--warmed up a bit, of course!

Other foods that are good to have on hand early on in BLW: avocados, rice (packed down into a small cup and turned out, so they can grab it with their little fists), rotisserie chicken (give them a chunk, not little slivers or cubes), non-frosted shredded wheat (around 9 months, I give them this after putting them in milk for a bit, so they're soft), applesauce, etc.  Just a few months in, and they'll be eating whatever you're fixing for dinner.

4) EASE THE MESS: While you're saving money on food, you can afford to buy some bibs with collecting cups or pockets at the bottom, and get a plastic wipeable mat to go under your highchair; these items will make cleaning less time-invasive as BLW is MESSY!  After every feeding, I wipe down everything with a clean, hot cloth dish-rag, starting with the mat on the floor.  I place the mat over the high chair to keep away from other little feet between feedings.  That way, I always know that the mat is clean when I start the next feeding, so I don't feel bad about picking up a tossed spear of food and placing it back on the tray for baby to continue to eat.  Pocketed bibs also help with easing clean up and preserving your baby's clothes.
Baby CJ, nice and messy!

Like every transition, starting your baby on food can be a little nerve-racking at first but diving in and learning as you go is the best way to begin.  Before you know it, your baby will be enjoying the same meals as the rest of the family.  Go for it!

Has anyone else done BLW?  If so, what are some of your tips to share?  If not, do you have any questions?


  1. It is my FAVORITE (as I sit here while my baby eats cheese).

  2. I love BLW. I did that with baby number 2 and now with baby number 3. I still keep a small supply of baby food jars and pouches for when I'm in a pinch or on the go, but I love being able to feed her pretty much everything we're eating.

    1. Flexibility is totally key. I totally forgot to mention that we absolutely love pouches for on the go! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. It was instinctive to me to feed them that way. I was happy to find it was a real 'thing' too. I was not into having to sit there and spoon feed my kid! So we just eat our food together. Jackson was better at it for sure. He was a gagger but he quickly learned to chew more. Hannah had a little harder time with it but she may have just not been as interested in food as J was. They both also had purree when we were out and about in those little pouches. But they stopped pretty early and never took a liking to mushy foods overall -- applesauce and mashed potatoes are a no. Jackson has food issues now, but Hannah will still eat pretty much anything or at least try it.

    1. Every time we speak, I'm amazed with how alike our kids are! Ditto to all of that. Dinner time is maddening and hilarious, to see R on one side happily eating all the broccoli he can stuff in his face and CJ really having a hard time even eating a bit of pasta. That's life, right?!

  4. Great tips! I did a variation of this, but I'm ready to hop on board the next time I have a baby. :)

    1. Variations are so welcome! Whatever works, is best--in my opinion.


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