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Baby Led Weaning: 5 Strategies to Prepare

Every month I plan to do at least one nutrition related feature blog post.  My son is doing so well with Baby Led Weaning this month that I want to document our journey with Baby Led Weaning and share why I feel it is so important and should be tried as an approach to feeding your little one!

Our Baby Led Weaning beginning:

My son started his Baby Led Weaning journey at 6 months and 1 week. He was exhibiting all the signs indicating he was ready:

  • showing interest in our food,
  • sitting up all by himself,
  • grabbing onto objects and pulling them towards his mouth, &
  • holding his own bottle.

We started with sliced avocados on day 1, scrambled eggs on day 2, and peanut butter mixed with whole fat Greek yogurt on day 3. He LOVED  the yogurt and peanut butter mixture.

5 Best Strategies to Prepare For Baby Led Weaning
Benjamin’s 1st food, Avocados! Avocados are a high energy food because they are full of mono unsaturated heart-healthy fats! They are perfect for babies because they melt in your mouth and baby gets an energy dense meal in just a few bites.

What is Baby Led Weaning?

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a term first coined by Gill Rapley. BLW is different from Traditional Weaning (TW). When you traditionally wean your baby, you use puree foods or baby foods and your baby is spoon fed. In BLW, you serve your baby table & finger foods and let them decide:

  • how much they are going to eat,
  • if they are going to eat at all,
  • how to use their hands, pincer grasp, and utensils to feed themselves. 

Table/finger food means anything you eat (with the exception of some foods that are choking hazards).

What are Baby Led Weaning foods?

Vegetables should be steamed using a steaming insert for your pot.  Vegetables should be steamed soft enough that you can mash them easily by pressing your thumb and index finger together or by pressing your tongue to the top of your mouth.

Food should be cut into strips that are finger shaped and double the size of your baby’s fist lengthwise so that baby can easily grab onto the strip. We have tried: steak strips (baby’s suck on these and get the important nutrient IRON out of the juices), pork chops, chicken, sweet potatoes, zucchini, green beans, scrambled eggs.

Steak is one of Benjamin’s absolute FAVORITE foods. They don’t actually gum up this food and eat it but he did suck it dry and consumed valuable micro-nutrients like IRON out of it by doing that. I would recommend preparing the steak so it isn’t too tender. If it is too tender, it will break off in baby’s mouth and be too big for him to swallow.

Allergenic Foods should be introduced to baby early (starting after 6 months and when developmentally appropriate). There are 8 major food allergens declared in the U.S. including:

  1. Eggs
  2. Peanuts
  3. Tree nuts
  4. Dairy
  5. Soy
  6. Fish
  7. Wheat
  8. Shellfish

Eggs.

Eggs are easy because you can scramble them or hard boil and they are soft enough to serve to baby. 

We tried eggs for the 2nd day of BLW. Eggs are a great source of iron and therefore a great first food for babies whose iron stores have run low by 6 months, especially for exclusively breast fed babies. See in the upper left-hand corner how I’ve tried to cut them into strips? Of course, Benjamin had a hay day with them and has mauled them around a bit, but he enjoyed them!

Peanut butter.

By itself, peanut butter is a choking hazard for babies since it is so sticky. I mixed it with whole fat Greek yogurt for Ben and that is one of his favorite things!  You can also mix it half and half with water. Plus you are covering two allergens in one with yogurt being dairy. 

He loves the Whole Fat Yogurt + Peanut Butter mixture and feeding himself with the spoon! We use natural peanut butter.

Shellfish.

I introduced shellfish by cooking frozen (already cooked) shrimp with unsalted butter, then cooling it, blending it up, and mixing it with mayo, sour cream, whole fat greek yogurt, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to create a shrimp salad that was easy for my baby to eat. 

*If you or your spouse have food allergies or someone in your extended family does, it is wise to talk with your doctor before offering these foods to baby to take any necessary precautions.

Puree, mashed, or smooth texture foods.

If you are going to serve your baby things like egg salad, mashed potatoes, applesauce, yogurt, etc., make sure you do so using a spoon. You can load the spoon, then set the spoon down on the tray and let them pick it up and navigate it to their mouth. I know this is messy, but the benefits to baby greatly outweigh the mess. 

HIGH RISK CHOKING FOODS.

These foods include: raw carrots, raw celery, raw salad or leaves, raw apples or hard pears, rice crackers, potato chips, corn chips, whole nuts, dried fruits, fresh cherries, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherry tomatoes, cooked peas, cooked corn, round sausages or hot dogs, tough skins can also make food hard to gum and risky. 

The Born to Eat book has a variety of ways to modify these foods to be able to include them in your baby’s diet, I highly recommend buying it as a gift to yourself or to others if they have little ones who will begin their solid feeding journey soon!

On the menu tonight, mashed black beans and broccoli! I was so surprised by how much Benjamin liked this combination. 🙂 Be prepared for the diaper contents to change!

Benefits of Baby Led Weaning:

Improved Feeding Skills. 

Babies who are spoon fed purees learn to swallow before chewing or gumming their food. Babies who self-feed using BLW approaches learn to chew or gum their food first, then swallow. This is important so babies recognize their gag reflex if they try to swallow before their food is completely chewed up, then they know they need to keep chewing.

“Six month olds who resist being spoon-fed are displaying normal behavior and following their instincts, not being difficult.”

Reduced Financial Impact.

A jar of baby food costs roughly $.65-$1.29 for some varieties. We will be conservative and use $.65/jar. If baby eats 3 times a day for a whole month that is ~$60/month just for baby food!  Some people can live on $60/month for their food budget alone. Plus there is the additional cost of the glass jar affecting sustainability and Earth friendly endeavors.

And who wants to eat leftover baby food?  Maybe the dog. What would it be like if you could feed your baby the food YOU ARE EATING. Then, you can eat the leftovers or save them for later. Baby will feel more at home eating what the rest of the family is eating. 

Likelihood of Better Nutritional Quality

Baby will eat more whole foods than convenience foods using the BLW approach, which may allow for better overall nutrition quality throughout the rest of his/her life. Convenience foods may be necessary at times in our hectic life, however, convenience foods are usually highly processed and may not be the best choice for our daily diet. 

There are some “convenience” foods that are still our favorites though, for example, last night I warmed up a can of green beans for our vegetable at the dinner table. Canned vegetables are already soft enough for baby to eat, but they do have a high amount of salt in them. I rinse them with water a few times to reduce the salt content. 

Steak strips and canned green beans for the win!

Strategies to Prepare for baby led weaning:

Purchase a steamer basket for steaming vegetables.

Steamed vegetables are a staple to the BLW baby’s diet. I’m pretty partial to this one I have.

Invest in the “right” high chair.

BLW is MESSY. Get a highchair that is easy to clean. I recommend the Fisher Price 4 in 1 Total Clean High Chair. I do not have this myself, however, my friend does and loves it. I wish mine (the Graco 7 in 1) was easier to clean because the straps are already stained. Her straps are rubber and are easily cleanable. 

I purchased the Graco 7 in 1 with the idea in mind that I would have 2 kids needing a high chair at one time. With my frugal mentality, I didn’t want to purchase a 2nd high chair when that time came.

Have a discussion with your partner about your comfort levels for feeding baby the BLW way.

One of the main fears parents have for using this approach is choking. Research has not validated this as a risk for baby led weaning, however, gagging (much different than choking) is common with BLW and can be a scary thing for parents to encounter.

**GAGGING is completely NORMAL for babies. Gagging lets the baby know that he/she needs to continue chewing or gumming their food first to appropriately swallow it. If your baby is choking, he probably won’t make any sounds or cough and may have a frightened look. If he is gagging, the baby will usually cough, their eyes may water, and they will spit the food back out.

Benjamin has had a few gagging episodes and it is hard not to intervene. Usually I stand up very quickly to help him, but I know that I can only make the problem worse by sticking my finger in his mouth. By doing this, you can actually push the food further in their throat and cause them to choke.

My fears are quickly calmed when he spits the hunk of food back out.

Purchase some almond meal or almond flour.

This does two things at once. Introduces the allergen tree nuts and allows for your baby to grab slippery/slimy foods like avocados, kiwi, and nectarines easier!

My son would get frustrated with these foods because they slipped out of his hands until I started rolling the strips in almond flour to make it easier for him to pick up.

Purchase the Born to Eat book!

This book has been so helpful and reassuring to me in this Baby Led Weaning process. I would not have had the courage to start and pull through without it. It is an excellent guide!

The book has several recipes, templates about how to explain to family and daycare providers about Baby Led Weaning, chapters on body trust, embracing different body types, and family meal planning.

Please comment on this post if you want to learn more or have questions about Baby Led Weaning. I would be happy to get in touch with you for a free 15 minute consultation!

If you’re wondering why this blog is called Personal Finance RD and you’re reading about Baby Led Weaning, start here and read more about my story.

Hope to see you back!

In health and happiness,

Bethany

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