What Is Baby Led Weaning?

5 Reviews / 3.4 Average
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What is Baby Led Weaning? From 100 Days of Real Food #realfood #babyledweaning

This is a guest post by one of our blog team members, Kiran…to learn more about Kiran check out our team page!


Recently the term “Baby Led Weaning” (BLW) was introduced to us here at 100 Days of Real Food, a term that, believe it or not, none of us had heard of before. Our small team collectively has 11 kids (4 of which are mine) and without a doubt, we are tuned into lots and lots of real food-related information. Yet none of us knew about or (thought we) had personally used Baby Led Weaning with our own children. We were encouraged by some readers to take a look into the philosophy… and so we did. Interested in learning about this method – and how it might help introduce baby to real food – we did a little research on the subject so that others, like us, who may not know the term or ideals, can become informed.

Before we dive into Baby Led Weaning, however, a few important points should be made:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for babies until around the age of 6 months.
  • The AAP also offers guidelines as to when babies may be ready for solids; generally speaking, they suggest some time around 4 – 6 months, though every child is different.
  • This post is not medical advice regarding feeding your baby; this is simply informing you of another method that is out there regarding feeding your little ones.

Now to get on with business.

What is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

In a nutshell, Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a feeding philosophy that means skipping the purees and starting babies on solid foods by following your child’s cues. This is suggested to be done while continuing to breastfeed at the same time. It’s giving your baby soft, whole foods (of the right “bite size”) and letting baby decide which they’d like to try. Stephanie Cornais, one of our affiliate partners at Mama and Baby Love, did BLW with her daughter. She explains it further with this:

“The idea is that as babies gradually start to learn how to pick up and eat food, they will proportionally start weaning themselves from breast milk or formula. At first when babies don’t get a whole lot of food in their mouths it is OK, because breast milk or formula is more than enough to sustain them. Introducing food at this age, whether traditional or BLW, is just about introducing food to them, not getting X amount of calories in them at each feeding. So it is a very easy, gradual and peaceful way to introduce food and start the very slow weaning process.” – Stephanie Cornais

What are the benefits of Baby Led Weaning?

Those who follow BLW principles feel that the benefits are plentiful. It allows baby to be a part of family meals from the beginning, to be able to experiment with food at his or her own pace, and to develop new abilities, including self-feeding and chewing. My opinion is that this could also help out with confidence, and as a parent of multiple children, not having to hold a spoon for baby is an added plus. Trust me – I always loved spending time feeding my babies, but sometimes parents don’t have as many hands as they need!

Added benefits include:

  • No need to purchase or prepare (i.e. puree) separate foods for baby
  • Babies are in control of what they eat
  • Babies are exposed to textures earlier on and learn to chew first
  • In terms of “real food,” you know exactly what ingredients you are feeding your little one

My personal take

In my personal experience, I definitely became more laid back with each of my four children. With my first, I did what many of the “mainstream” parenting web sites and books advised. I did jars of baby food (even the – gasp – non-organic) and followed the “stages” as suggested. Though I didn’t know what the term BLW actually meant until looking into it (through this post) I discovered that I had actually practiced a little bit of it with my fourth child. Yes, I did a few (organic) jars in the beginning; I also made my own purees, and I also used pouches. I guess I went the combination approach. I also started letting him eat table foods at a very early age (mine was probably more around 8 months of age). Though I obviously hadn’t read the advice on how to get started with BLW, I had followed his instincts; when he was grabbing for foods on my plate, I let him try them, ensuring that they were the right size and consistency, of course. Just for the record, I am happy to say that all four of my kids are great eaters – including my eldest who I fed regular ol’ Gerber jars to, as well as the rest, who received better and better nutrition as my knowledge expanded.

What is Baby Led Weaning? From 100 Days of Real Food #babyledweaning #realfood
Me (Kiran) on the left along with Lisa Leake and our children

When it comes to parenting, there is honestly no “right” or “wrong” way – at least in my opinion. It’s important to recognize that everyone’s situation (and knowledge) is different. Our work situations, financial positions, family sizes and so on are just a few of the factors that influence our decisions on how we raise our children. Yes, I chose to breastfeed all of my kids, each one for well over a year. But by no means do I expect every other mother to do the same. For example, both of Lisa’s daughters voluntarily “gave up” breastfeeding all on their own before 3 months of age (which was extremely difficult for her to accept, but it was her reality). It’s important for us, as moms, as women, to support each other. While one mom may choose to do all jars and/or pouches, another may decide that BLW is the right choice for her. We are fortunate to have so many options available and the ability to choose.

A recipe that is family-friendly AND BLW friendly

Cornais wrote a (super popular) cookbook that we actually wrote a post about earlier in the year.

“My slow cooker freezer recipes are the perfect dinners for babies because they are cooked slowly at a low temperature; the meat and veggies are very soft and are an easy thing for baby to grasp, chew and swallow,” says Stephanie. “I also loved using these recipes for BLW because they not only introduced a wide variety of meat and vegetables, but also a wide variety of flavors and spices – something that is great to do to help your kid not be a future picky eater. If you are curious to know how much food is enough to fill up a baby’s stomach, just look at the palm of their hand. If the pile of what they ate is the size of their hand, that is one serving, and plenty for their little tummies.” – Stephanie Cornais

Below is a delicious meal that incorporates whole foods that can be enjoyed by your baby (as well as the rest of your family) during BLW.

Irish Stew

This Irish Stew freezer-friendly recipe is super easy to prep the ingredients and place them in freezer bags and cook later! It will fill 2 bags (with 4 servings per bag). It's perfect for when you're in the process of baby led weaning.
Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Cornais with Mama & Baby Love
5 Reviews / 3.4 Average
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 8 hrs
Total Time: 8 hrs 15 mins
Print Recipe
Servings: 2 bags

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds stew beef cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes
  • 1 pound potatoes New, chopped
  • 2 onions cut into 1″ pieces
  • 6 carrots chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 2 parsnips cut into 1″ pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
  • 2 tablespoons thyme dried (or 6 to 8 fresh sprigs)
  • 1/2 cup parsley Flat Leaf, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1 6-oz jar tomato paste
  • 2 cups gluten free beer divided (the alcohol will boil off during cooking)Equipment: 2 one gallon freezer bags

Instructions
 

To assemble and freeze:

  • Label your freezer bags while they are empty and flat.
  • Evenly split all ingredients, except for the beer, between the two freezer bags.
  • Massage the ingredients together in the bag, mixing well.
  • Before closing the bags, get as much air out as possible. Lay each bag flat like a brick in your freezer.
    Note: These last 3 to 6 months in a side door freezer or 6 to 12 months in a deep freezer.

Day of cooking:

  • Dump the frozen brick of food from one bag into your slow cooker and add 1 cup of beer.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4.
    Note: You may leave the slow cooker on the warm setting for several hours after it is done if you wish.

Notes

We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition Facts
Irish Stew
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1381 Calories from Fat 315
% Daily Value*
Fat 35g54%
Saturated Fat 12g75%
Cholesterol 422mg141%
Sodium 590mg26%
Potassium 4771mg136%
Carbohydrates 98g33%
Fiber 23g96%
Sugar 21g23%
Protein 163g326%
Vitamin A 32040IU641%
Vitamin C 96.7mg117%
Calcium 451mg45%
Iron 29.2mg162%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

If you are interested in more slow cooker freezer recipes, check out one of our other favorite slow cooker e-books here.

Have you tried BLW? Please share your experience and opinion in the comments.

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105 thoughts on “What Is Baby Led Weaning?”

  1. Hi there! I know this is a very old post and I have an off topic question… I am unable to breastfeed my baby due to a combination of issues (the perfect storm) and I am heartbroken but now need to move on and pick the best formula for my child. I fully intend to do BLW when he is old enough as I want him to learn to appreciate real food. Have you all ever done any research on baby formulas? I love your page and both 100 days cookbooks, they changed the way my husband and I eat. I would love your opinions on formulas. I am so overwhelmed by the options and the ingredients lists! Just a thought. Thanks for all the amazing recipes and real food tips!!!

  2. Yes as a dietitian and mom of 3, I love teaching about babyled weaning! However i find many parents start too early, offer choking hazards and food that’s too low in iron and calories. For more info take a look at my free video: www,solidstepstoblw.com/lp2

  3. I actually heard about and did BLW with my first child (and plan to do it with our second child) before I learned about 100 days of real food. I read a book and did what it said and am so glad we went that route. My son eats just about anything and is quite the eater. I was able to breastfeed for 6 months exclusively, thankfully, then we started with soft finger foods. One of the best rewards to me was at a festival where my then 8 month old was digging into some chicken and vegetables when another mother stated how he was such a good eater and wanted to know how we did it as her less than 18 month old was a very picky eater. We have now been trying to continue his healthy eating habits with what we have and are still learning with “100 days” and whole foods. I highly recommend BLW as it was very convenient for us with our busy schedules and we did not have to buy extra foods or spend time processing or making separate meals.

  4. Well…I guess I did BLW and didn’t even know it!! And my offspring are 35, 33 & 30!! I just breast fed exclusively for 6 months, then started them on ‘real’ people food. It was no big deal…I just did it!

    I remember taking my 3rd one in for his 6 month checkup, mentioning to the pediatrician that ‘I suppose I need to start giving him FOOD’…the Dr. looked at me and asked if he looked like he was lacking! (he was over 10 lbs. at birth, 17-1/2 at 10 weeks and 24 lbs. at 6 months) He pretty much just breastfed for another month…except for Cheerios to grab & use his hands to shove in his mouth.

    I think people are too quick to make a big deal out of parenting…and to give unsolicited advise. Just go with the flow, use your common sense…and ENJOY being a parent!! None of us start out as experts. First babies are really just our ‘practice’ kids!!

    1. Kay,
      I love your thoughts … so true. None of us start out as experts; we figure this parenting thing out as we go along. Sounds like you did a great job with it! ;)

      Kiran

  5. 1 star
    My husband and I both really disliked this recipe – it was really disappointing because it smelled so good. I used a dark Guinness beer.

    So we were left staring at the giant pot of left-over stew, and I asked my husband what flavors he thought would help it taste better. He said BBQ. So to my next bowl I added some apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and cayenne pepper, and I thought that substantially improved the taste. (Sorry, no measurements – I don’t know exactly how much stew and I was just playing around with flavors.) Just wanted to say this in case anyone else didn’t care for it and didn’t want to waste the rest…

    1. Didn’t anyone ever respond to this? I can’t see that they did, and I have the same question! What’s the cooking time if you are cooking fresh and not frozen?

  6. Hi- I made this and it has a slightly bitter taste to it. Would it be okay to add a small amount of honey to counteract the bitterness?

  7. Overall this was a great stew. I haven’t found the right beer yet. The one I chose definitely gave the stew an off taste. I also think I left it in the slow cooker too long. The meat tasted a little dry, despite keeping the stew on the low setting. Any suggestions??? Beer??? Best cut of meat? Mine always turns out dry :(

    1. Hey Sarah,

      The best kind is an Irish beer, like Guiness. And yes, if your meat is dry, your slow cooker probably just runs hot. So cook it a little less next time, or cook it on the weekend, when you can really watch it and see when it is perfectly done. Slow cookers are like ovens, each one is different and need to be figured out on an a case by case situation. Any kind of stew meat or flank steak will work for this.

      Best of luck!
      Stephanie ;)

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  10. Just found your site and am loving the recipes. Can’t wait to try them! Thank you for the time you have invested in sharing them. One question about the Irish stew…my son has a tomato allergy so I can’t use the tomato paste. I was thinking of substituting beef broth. Any other ideas? Thank you!

  11. Could I subsitute another ingredient for the gluten free beer in this recipe? We wouldn’t drink the beer, so I hate to buy a 6 pack just for this recipe. Thanks!

  12. What could I substitute the beer for in the stew recipe? We dont drink alcohol and I would hate to buy it for one recipe (and my husband would be upset). On top of which, I’m pregnant and it makes me nervous.

  13. Thank you, I have recently been looking for info about this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I’ve found out till now. But, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you sure about the supply?

  14. I find that this method is somewhat like the “old-fashioned way” of feeding children. This is how I was raised and I’m now 29. My cousins were all raised the same way. No one ever bought baby food or made special food for us. They just mushed up whatever was being eaten for the rest of the family and that was it. I’m happy to say I’m not a very picky eater at all and most of my cousins aren’t either. I was eating liver, octopus, sardines, etc.. (I come from an old school european family) at a young age and my friends used to say my house had that weird smell (lol) but I’m glad to have been raised that way and I hope to do the same for my child one day. I have friends with kids and they had baby food and special purees made for them. Now they are the pickiest kids I’ve ever seen. Blueberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner anyone? I think not! It also makes a HUGE difference on how the parents eat too. Kids want what you’re eating and if it’s all junk then that’s all they want, sadly.

  15. My son, at 4 months really showed an interest in eating, but still had his tongue thrust. I figured he knew what he wanted, and started with purees, which mostly came back out, but he loved eating so much, so we continued once or twice a day. Now he is 6 months, a great eater, and wants to work the spoon too. Its good to read all the success at a more relaxed way to feed your baby. I think I will let him work the spoon when he is inclined, no matter the mess. And start giving him soft solids to eat by hand. I suspect he will do very well, since he is always trying to grab our food off our plates. I wish I had known about the problems with adding formula into a nursing baby’s diet. My son only takes formula if we’re out, and don’t have the option to nurse, so I always figured we were good on the iron.

  16. I wish doctors were more informed about iron and breastfed babies. Exclusively breastfed babies do not need to worry about iron levels. Once you start introducing foods with iron fortification (formula, baby cereals, etc) that is when you get a problem. Breast milk contains a substance called lacto-ferran, which binds to the iron in the stomach and takes it right into the blood stream, surpassing the intestines. Fortified iron overwhelms this lacto ferran and it can no longer do its job. With that in mind, keep the baby cereals away from your exclusively breastfed babies! From my own personal experience, my daughter refused most solids until well after a year. Her iron levels were always fantastic and we never supplemented with iron fortification.

  17. We did baby led weaning and thought it went really well. Our daughter is much more willing to try foods. We don’t feel the need to feed her “kiddie” food. It can make you a little paranoid that they’re going to choke when you seen them put a huge chunk in their mouth, but we only had 1 choking incident and it was really our fault for letting someone else give her something we weren’t sure she was ready for. Other than that little hiccup it was great!

  18. For anyone wanting more in depth information, the book that I read and that got me hooked was “Baby-Led Weaning: The essential guide to introducing solid foods and helping your baby to grow up a happy and confident eater”. It’s an easy read and covered everything you’d need to know, including whether supplements (such as iron) are truly necessary.

  19. I discovered BLW when I was looking into how to transition from bottling to food with my first baby. I was concerned because he only spit out baby cereal, even at 6 months. It just seemed odd to try to keep forcing cereal down him. Also, he gagged so much on it because it was such a runny consistency which causes the food to run to the back of the mouth versus the baby being able to control where the food goes. Anyways, I discovered BLW and it was truly transformational for our family. We have used it with both of our children and it was SO STRESS FREE and EASY. No pureeing, measuring, fussing etc … Give them food, if they eat it they drink less. If they didn’t want it, they drink more and eventually wean themselves. To this day, my kids are NOT picky eaters at all (now 3 and 18 months). We always got lots of comments, though, such as “Don’t you need to cut that up?” or “How is he/she supposed to eat that?” or “Babies can’t eat meat?” Eventually, it was just easiest to say “This is how we do it. He/she will be fine.” :) Of note: My first was bottled breastmilk and my second was actually breastfed and it worked just as well for both.

  20. I did this w/ baby #5. I HATED making baby food. I hated buying baby food. I hated feeding messy pureed food to babies. With baby #5 I had a kind of revelation. I decided that moms women through history probably weren’t feeding babies perfectly strained food. They were waiting for their babies to start stealing food and then they slowly started feeding baby from the table. Of course they were mindful of what baby could eat w/o choking. I did this model 2 years ago and found a little info on the web, but not much. So I sort of winged it! Now that same 2 year old is the best eater out of all of my kids. I can’t imagine wasting money on jars of food or taking the time to make them myself. With my newest baby I’ll never go back to purees.

  21. 1 star
    The risk of food allergy is higher in babies that have solid foods introduced after the critical stage between 4 and 6 months. Most infants at this stage are not able to take thicker than purees. Breast milk is not sufficient as the sole diet after 6 months unless the infant is supplemented.

    1. There is really no conclusive evidence for these statements. Logically, it makes sense that when a baby needs more than breastmilk he can get it himself by feeding himself. The research on allergies goes back and forth every few years, but I fundamentally disagree with spoon feeding a baby who is not sitting independently and who likely still has a tongue thrust. Sitting independently significantly decreases the chance of choking. If you look up the AAP’s statement on feeding a child or toddler in an emergency, it makes it clear that an infant or toddler will be just fine on breastmilk alone. The human race would have died off a LONG time ago if breastmilk was insufficient at 4 or even 6 months. We did BLW when my son showed readiness and his iron levels were excellent at 9 months. We did not start solids until 6 months and never spoon fed. Again, there’s really no research showing that breastmilk is insufficient at 4 or even 6 months. The evidence is quite the opposite really.

  22. So the funny thing is that I did this but did not know it was called BLW. I didn’t introduce food to him until he was about 9 months. Then I gave him what his teeth could handle. I knew that if I could gum it with my lips then he could gum it with his baby teeth. I fed my first son, now 12, like every first time mom does. He was breastfed but doctors told me that at 5 months of age he needed other food. So I did it. With my second son, I did my own thing and he is now almost 13 months and we are starting to wean completely. He only likes to nurse at night.

  23. We fell into baby led weaning when my son refused “purees” at 6 months. I exclusively breastfed up to that point. He had no interest in real foods and looking back I really wish we’d waited until he was older to try any real foods at all. After several months of offering various homemade purees off and on, I just started putting small bits and pieces of foods on his plate. He mostly just played with it. He was still nursing a lot at this point including multiple times a night. Even at a year, my son was not consuming much in the way of real foods. He mostly gummed/chewed and then spit out everything. It wasn’t until around 14 months that he actually started consuming real food in any measurable amount. Nutrition was never an issue because he was such an avid nurser. Now at 3 he’s a pretty okay eater, better than many children I know.

  24. Hi! I offer another layer to BLW. My infant (whom I couldn’t nurse) developed horrible reflux very early on and eating was a painful, horrible experience for the first 6 months of her life. (We had to do many things and see many doctors to get her through this period, but I’m going to cut right to the BLW part.) When it was time for her to eat solids around 5-6 months, she wanted nothing to do with mommy or daddy feeding her with a spoon. We were scared she’d develop a chewing or food aversion and got her hooked up with a fabulous feeding therapist (who works with babies and adults who have had strokes, primarily). We had to practice BLW because my daughter wouldn’t eat any other way–I think she only trusted herself b/c eating had hurt so much previously. It was summer and I made many frozen popsicles (with very small handles obviously)–lifesaver, as you can puree it yourself and put other things in there. Scrambled eggs, noodles, mashed potatoes (regular and sweet)–I probably food-processed some chicken and stuck it in the mashed potatoes. But it worked–she got more and more adept at feeding herself and now she is my champion eater, often reaching for her vegetables first! (She is one of those blessed kids–my son, not so much.). I found the concepts of BLW helpful–but not totally truthful. I do in fact think babies can accidentally choke themselves by not chewing well enough–I mean, babies do choke. You have to be vigilant. I personally loved the very short baby puree time that my first child had–so easy to get organic food in them! But taking ideas of BLW given to me by our eating therapist (and research I did on my own) for sure saved my daughter. It’s a great concept to think about and perhaps try as you introduce food to your baby.

  25. I’m reading this post at the perfect time. My baby girl is 5 months tomorrow, exclusively on breast milk, for about two weeks she has been interested in what we eat and drink. If given the chance she has brought a full carrot and squash to her mouth. Since then we’ve let her play with a spoon in her high chair while we eat. She has little issues with getting the spoon into he mouth correctly. I bought happy babies brown rce cereal to start her on and was ready to steam and puree her foods but am going to look more into BLW. Thanks!

  26. I mixed spoon feeding and BLW with my daughter and it worked very well. She is a wonderful eater and I can count on one hand the foods she has refused since then (she is now four). My son refused to be spoon fed entirely and I did full BLW with conviction. It worked well initially but turned to be a problem when we realized he was a highly allergic baby. I didn’t have a choice with him, as even now that he is 20 months he refuses to be fed by anyone but himself, but if I had another child with the same allergic potential I would be very weary as to the timing of introducing new foods which with BLW are very relaxed and do not help to note subtle and not so subtle reactions. Over all, I still love the method and would highly recommend for anyone who is lucky enough to have to worry about allergies!

  27. I fell into baby-led weaning almost by accident… my eldest was sitting on my knee, breastfeeding her, while I was eating dinner.
    Then all of a sudden, she sat up, grabbed a handful of peas off my plate and shoved them into her mouth….
    I was curious, so I sat and watched to see what else she would eat… she tried almost everything. The meat she spat out (texture I suspect, plus no teeth to chew it), but she really enjoyed the handfuls of mashed potato, the peas and the carrots!
    From that point on, I just gave her small portions of what ever else we were eating, and we never looked back….
    As I recall, she was around 5 months old at the time, maybe a little older.
    I continued to breastfeed her until she self-weaned at around 18 months old when I was 6 months pregnant with my second child.
    And you can bet that I baby-led weaned her and all the others as well (I have 4 daughters).
    It really is the cheapest, simplest way of feeding your child. And I am convinced that because they were weaned this way it is one reason why I have the least fussiest eaters of any kids I know… My kids will eat anything and everything! (even tripe did not phase them! They liked it!) The only veg I have found that is not popular is mushrooms, and that is only with 1 specific child (she likes the taste, hates the texture). And I have to beg them to leave fruit in the fruitbowl for someone else to eat!
    As someone else commented, it is an attachment parenting concept, but you don’t have to be an attachment parent to practice it.

  28. I think this is brilliant. I was a young, clueless person when my daughter was born and I agonized over food with her. I wish I would have known about this then. I feel like I did this in some aspects but I felt awful that my kid refused to eat jars of baby food. Funny to think I was bummed that she wouldn’t eat the brownish green peas but would eat hummus! Thanks for posting this info. I have learned a lot from your site!

  29. I love your site. My “babies” are 26 and 23. Both were exclusively breastfeed and weaned themselves. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and breastfeeding with appropriate introduction of solids until 2 years of age and beyond. Forgive me if that has already been stated. That being said every family has to do what works best for them. No mom needs to feel guilty because she was not able to breastfeed (usually due to wrong information provided to her). We always practiced eating “whole foods as close to their natural state as possible” I learned this from Laleche League and it stuck. My girls both know how to read nutrition labels and understand the importance of “real” food. A tool I loved for my toddlers and is still available in health food stores is the happy baby grinder. Healthy food gets put in the top and with a couple of turns it purees it up. So simple it can be used anywhere. No need to waste money on food in a jar that is nowhere near its natural state. I love that you keep things simple. I believe that’s the key. Food should be enjoyed and filled with love as well as nurish the body. All the best to you.

  30. I have one 14 month daughter now, and she started playing with food and reaching for ours at about 8 months. We weren’t in a rush to get her eating solids, and we were exclusively breastfeeding, however, I was really concerned about her iron levels around 6 months, when I’ve heard that their stored iron from womb starts wearing off. She wasn’t eating enough solids with iron in them until about a month ago [13 months], so I made purees at home to make sure she could eat/drink her iron for that 6 month window. Spinach and squeezed oranges purees were her favorite and now I can give it to her in a reusable cup with a straw, mixed with avocados since she can’t stand to eat those by herself. I agree with BLW, but I also wanted to make sure she was getting enough iron and good foods like avocado, and that wouldn’t have been an option if I didn’t make her “baby food” at home.

    1. Actually, if your baby is exclusively breastfed, you don’t have to be concerned about iron at 6 months. The iron in breastmilk is more easily absorbed than the iron in formula or cow’s milk. Also, the gut of a breastfed baby is healthier, so less iron is lost. Breastfed babies are usually good for the first year, rather than 6 months. You do want to introduce iron rich foods, but you can do so as part of BLW. By the time they are in need of the additional iron, they also will be good eaters and will be getting plenty through the iron rich whole foods they are offered. There will occasionally be a baby who might be anemic, but this is usually due to some other sort of issue. If a baby is being given formula or any sort of iron fortified cereal, this does not apply because the iron in those foods changes the intestinal situation.

  31. Baby led weaning is an attachment parenting concept. To me this article doesn’t expain BLW very well.
    I’m a mother of 5 soon to be 6 and have allowed each of my babies to wean themselves on their timetable, not mine.
    BLW, is when breast feeding mothers allow their baby to lead and decide when to nurse, when to stop, and when to start solids.
    An example of how a breast feeding baby might slowly transition into solids: mom is eating a salad with avocado in it. Baby smacks lips and reaches towards salad. Mom puts some avocado on fork and feeds to baby. Or hands her a slice.
    Whenever baby has interest in food, it is shared with her. Slices of pear, oatmeal, cottage cheese, etc. Simple, healthy, unprocessed food. No jars, pouches, baby bisquits or other processed “baby” food.
    Sometimes she is spoon fed at her request, other times she eats finger foods, again at her request. All the while baby continues to breast feed on demand.
    I’ve found most babies become interested in table food around 8 months, some earlier some later.
    Food is never forced, always offered and given at baby’s request. Breast feeding continues. I’ve found the breast feeding frequently naturally decreases and eventually ceases over time as the baby adds more and more solids to her diet. Some babies naturally (baby led) wean early, like around 12 months, others wean a year later or years later.My babies have self weaned anywhere from 20 months to 2 1/2 years of age. I never rembered the last breast feeding, the transition from breastfeeding to not was very gradual.. Near the end of breast feeding, baby was usually only breastfeeding 1-2 times in a 24 hr. period. The rest of her nourishment was from food she desired to eat. A great way to allow baby to lead healthy eating is to fill a muffin tin with various healthy choices in each spot, then throughout the day offer her to choose what she wants from the muffin tin. Over time she will try new things. Good things to put in the tin are small prices of soft fruit, small cubes of cheese, pieces of steamed veggies, (raw veggies as she ages and has more teeth.) Buttered whole grain toast, sliced eggs, cubed chicken, etc.
    The point to Baby led Weaning is to gently nourish your child through either breast, healthy solids or both in a way that respects baby’s wants and schedules, not Mom’s schedule.

    1. I think you may be mixing up baby led weaning with extended breastfeeding. In North America the term weaning means that the baby is being taken off (weaned) breast milk. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand weaning refers to when you start to feed your baby solids. The concept of baby led weaning started in the UK and that is why it is named as such. Often it is referred to as baby led solids in North America to prevent confusion.

  32. We’ve been doing a combo of BLW and heartier purees, but definitely prefer BLW (as does our daughter)! Thank you for this recipe; I’ve definitely found that stews are perfect for BLW.

  33. 5 stars
    LOVE BLW!!! I researched this and read the book with my first child and it was the best thing ever. Truly amazing. It is very stress-free and took no more preparation, as we never bought “baby food” and never pureed any foods. Just simply fed from the table, what we were eating as a family. Our first child didn’t really start eating solid foods until she was 10 months old, but would just “gum” the foods prior to that but once she started she never looked back. I think there is a misconception that we have to start solid foods early, including rice cereal at 4-6 months of age…I actually think this causes more problems. Babies aren’t meant to eat so young and this may be increasing allergies and food intolerances in children these days. We are just now starting BLW with our second child as she is 8 months old and ready! Can’t say enough things about this method of introducing solid foods to babies. It’s easy, allows kids to explore their own food choices and start eating whole, solid food at an earlier age, and helps bring families together sharing the same foods at the meal table!

  34. I am interested in this approach for my second child…are there any concerns with food allergies? I remember with my oldest I was to introduce a food at a time to make sure there wasn’t a reaction and then introduce another. Also are there foods you should avoid till they are at least one?

  35. I love BLW! It is so much easier than the store bought purees. I worked at a daycare for years before having my own children and I couldn’t stand spoon feeding 4 month olds. They had no idea what to do with it, the purees ran off the spoon they were so watered down and it was such a mess. I learned about BLW while pregnant with my first and I am so glad. We started my first at 6 months with mashed banana, avocado and some real oatmeal (not the boxed baby kind). Once I felt safe that she didn’t have any problems eating food(lol), then I just steamed and/or baked fruits and veggies til they were super soft and froze individual portions. It was so easy and a healthier option. http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/ Is a great website for information and recipes. They aren’t a “clean eating” website but switch regular for organic and you are good to go ;)

  36. Before I was even pregnant I knew I was going to do BLW with my baby as I’d seen friends back home in the UK do it and it seemed so much easier than the puree route. My now 16 month old eats everything I give her these days. And I love that when we go out to eat I don’t have to pack special food for her, just give her whatever we’re having. She’s gone through phases of only eating small amounts and of rejecting food she ate happily the day or week before but I’ve trusted that she’ll eat what she needs and I just keep offering the same real food that we all eat. I love that she’s now “helping” me cook our meals too.
    Funnily enough I’m planning a post about BLW on my own blog soon as I’m a huge advocate for it.

  37. I really like this concept! Thanks for informing those of us who had never heard of it before. I truly believe as a society we are going back to the old ways, the way things used to be done hundreds of years ago. It makes absolute sense that a child would know what to do following breast feeding since that’s what they were designed to do. Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      I agree, Ashley! Going back to the old ways seems a smart way to go. Funny how we are coming full circle. Glad you enjoyed it!:)

  38. We started baby led weaning when our son was 6 mos old. It went very well, made our lives easy and he has been a great eater! Goes to show that the best laid plans- we went to a friend’s house and he had pureed food and went bonkers for it, so we ended up integrating it because he loved it so much. At 7 mos he could finish a 4 oz pouch in under 30 seconds…

  39. I teach a college course for early child care educators called, “Health, Safety and Nutrition.” It’s amazing how linear the chapters on nutrition are. I really appreciate your website and learning about different ways to feed healthy foods to kids (and adults). I will definitely pass on the information!

  40. I LOVE the slow cooker chicken recipe on 100 Days for my infant. I throw carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes in the slow cooker toward the end and he eats it all! (Started this at about 7 months.). The consistency of the chicken is perfect.

  41. 5 stars
    “When it comes to parenting, there is honestly no “right” or “wrong” way – at least in my opinion. It’s important to recognize that everyone’s situation (and knowledge) is different. Our work situations, financial positions, family sizes and so on are just a few of the factors that influence our decisions on how we raise our children.” Thank you for saying that! We have been judged so much on how we approach food with our family and especially our son. My son was born with a cleft lip and palate and feeding is an issue that we have struggled with. He’s a good eater but trying to find healthy ways to accomodate his issues has always been tough. So many people have the mindset of you have to do this or your child will suffer but in all of your topics you inform and encourage people to explore options and that any change is for the better. I love to read your blog because it is about real families and real food. Thank you.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Oh, thanks so much, Rachel. We can only do the best that we can do. Keep with it – sounds like you are doing a great job!!

  42. You mention in your post to start children with appropriately sized bites, and suggest 1 inch cubes in the recipe. However, this is actually another area where baby led weaning differs from the norm. Young babies are started with larger pieces of food that they can easily hold (a chicken leg, a whole carrot, a banana) and take bites from that. They graduate to smaller “bite sized” pieces as their motor skills & eating skills develop.

    1. Good point! One inch cubes always worked for us, I would often just break off a piece with my finger if she wanted a smaller piece. So I would recommend just following your babies cues, because they all develop fine motor skills at different rates. Also, some kids really like the feel and texture of bigger pieces of food in their mouth, because it gives them the oral-motor neural feedback they need to be able to process the act of chewing/swallowing, etc.

  43. I did BLW with my daughter and loved it! I did it intentionally after researching the method and buying the book. I usually refer to it as “baby led solids” because in the US we associate the term weaning with the process of stopping nursing. The book was written by British folks and they use the term weaning in the book to refer to the introduction of solids. My daughter loved it and I loved that she was able to go at her own pace. We started giving her the option to try food at around 7-8 months and she would try a bite of pretty much anything we gave her, but she didn’t really start eating a significant amount of anything until she was around 13 months. I didn’t worry because I was breastfeeding so she got the nutrition she needed and she was able to decide when she wanted to really start eating. She is almost 2 now and is still a healthy eater. We’ll see if that continues into toddlerhood. :)

  44. I also, didn’t realize this way of feeding babies had a name.

    I did it with my first son because we were living in Hong Kong when he was born and the selection of baby food (in jars) was extremely small … one shelf … and pretty much limited to the ones that even I wouldn’t eat! I started him on avocados and sweet potatoes and then pretty much fed him whatever we were eating. Saved a lot of time and money also. I fed my second son the same way.

    This is just my opinion, but I kind of believe/think that this is how children were fed in the first half of the 1900’s (and before)… at least children raised in small towns and in the countryside. I don’t think jarred food was readily available and I doubt that busy farm families, or any busy family, took the time to puree food for their infants. They did not have microwaves and many of the small appliances that make our lives so much easier nowadays. Again, this is just my opinion and I pretty much base it on what my older relatives have told me about their childhoods. :) Families living in big cities might have had more access to jarred foods, but I’m not really sure about that.

    1. Right?! It’s kind of just common sense, it’s what moms have been doing since the beginning of time, but we all just kind of got lost and/or forgot about it.

  45. I do agree that Baby led weaning is a good way to start babies on solid food. I do not agree that the Irish stew with beer is not appropriate for babies.You say that “2 cups of gluten free beer, divided (the alcohol will boil off during cooking).” Alcohol will not boil off in a closed container.

    1. The ratio of beer to food really makes it very minute, but this recipe tastes good with beef stock swaped out for the beer.
      Also, for the record, this is the only recipe of mine that has beer in it. :)

  46. Mom of a 9 month old

    My son just turned 9 months yesterday. He was exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, only occasionally receiving a bottle of pumped milk when I was away from him at an appt or something. At 6 months he started to shows signs of interest when we were eating by chomping his mouth. I homemade him both pureed and smashed foods as his first foods so he would get the hang of chewing and tastes, plus his grasping wasn’t very good at the time. His first foods were avocados, sweet potatoes, and bananas. At 7 months we gave him finger foods in the appropriate size and softness. He only eats real, organic, natural food that I prepare for him. It is so easy to make the food for him and so much cheaper than the packaged stuff, plus I know exactly what he is eating! He is a great eater! He still nurses 5x a day and has 3 solid meals and a snack.

    My MIL has tried multiple times to feed him food that we don’t even eat ourselves, including rootbeer float at 7 months(!) and lemon meringue pie at 8 months. Its very frustrating especially when we have explained to her how we and why we choose to eat a certain way and she still does it. My husband recently spoke to her again after she tried to feed him strawberry shortcake and I think she finally understood this time…hopefully!

    1. Holy MIL! That is awful. So sorry you have to deal with that. Hopefully she wakes up soon! You just keep on protecting your baby and setting strong boundaries.

    2. My MIL was just like yours… it was flat coke that she tried to give one of our kids (out of a baby-bottle – EEK!).

      From that point on we made sure she never had the kids overnight and was never left unsupervised with them.

      I didn’t worry so much about FIL bringing Cadbury’s chocolate buttons for the kids when they visited – he only gave them one or two because he ate the rest of the packet himself! OK they are not ideal, but I would much rather they had some chocolate than coke!

    3. My in-laws used to do that with my kids (now adults). In the end, I decided not to worry about it. They were still with me more than their grandparents and the grandparents might not do exactly what I wanted, but they would never intentionally do anything to hurt the kids. Plus, they raised a bunch of healthy kids doing exactly the same thing they were doing with my kids.

  47. I did this with all of my kids not knowing that there was a name for it! The reason…simply because my kids didn’t like purees. I started them all on them because they say that you should. But after a very short period of time they refused to eat them any more. Even my 4th whom we got a Baby Bullet to make our food with didn’t eat purees for long. They just don’t get the same satisfaction in eating that they do when they get to hold something in their hands, explore it, taste it (or not!). I love having our babies at the table with us…it helps feel like we’re more complete at meal times. Our youngest just turned a year and this kid gets so excited when you put him in the high chair. He’s learned good things are about to come his way!!

    1. Yes! I only have one child, and I loved being able to have “family meals” very early on. Everyone at the dinner table at the same time is so sacred and beautiful.

  48. I’m a huge advocate of baby led weaning! I used it with my daughter and now at 22 months old she is an adventurous, healthy eater.

    I actually host a monthly link up (called Munchkin Meals) that started after I blogged about BLW and what I feed my daughter. Now other moms come and link up to share what they are feeding their kids. It’s a great resource for finding new meal and snack ideas for babies, toddlers and kids!

  49. Disclosure: I raised 3 children, using only one or 2 bottles of formula ever, and perhaps 3 jars of baby food… and I had to return to work very early on with each one. My nickname at work for the last one was “Earth Mother::

    This wasn’t exactly the meaning I attached to Baby Led Weaning… and yet it is very similar to the recommendations of La Leche League from the 1970’s. My 3 (now 28 to 34 years old) all decided when to stop nursing (that means 17, 18 and 22 months); We started with mushy bananas; then mushed bananas mixed with mushed steamed chicken livers (Not nearly as gross as it sounds – I know, I sampled it); but, the bananas were soon small chunks to be fed to themselves, followed by various veggies from the regular table… so, I guess I did this. So much easier than bought “baby food.”

    I think it is still wise to watch out for some of the problematic foods. Shellfish would be an unwise thing for a small one to sample; One of the last things I introduced was grains/bread/crackers. I, personally, have a great number of allergies and was advised to hold off on the grains – even rice.

    1. Good for you to hold off on grains! Traditional cultures and wisdom says that you should hold off introducing grains till the second year molars are in, because babies do not have the digestive enzyme to digest them properly till then. I personally think, that was true up till about 50 years ago, and I think our digestions are so poor in general that we should stay away from grains and glutens as much as possible period, moms and babies!

      And good for you for giving your baby chicken livers! Some of the most nourishing food you can give a growing baby.

      1. Liver is actually not recommended for kids under 3 years of age. Liver is rich in vitamins and minerals, but it is also a detoxifying organ and hence accumulates too many toxins. In addition, its high content of Vitamin A can pose a problem for infants and pregnant women.

      2. That’s only true for grain fed, industrialized liver meat, if a person uses pastured, organic liver meat, it is not only safe, but highly nutritious. Current research has updated the amount of Vitamin A that is needed for infants and pregnant women, it’s far more than previously thought. Liver is known around the world as a sacred fertility food, if it comes from a good source.

      3. I disagree. You have to distinguish between Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene. The last one is converted in the human body into Vitamin A. You can not overdose on that. But Vitamin A can be overdosed, and an overdose of Vitamin A is linked to birth defects. I would also be careful with small children.

  50. Great post! You may want to correct the first ingredient item, it says “beet” and at first I thought it was talking about some kind of beets!

  51. As a Child Development specialist I would also add that allowing children to choose their own small bites of food not only gives them appropriate ways to become good decision makers, it also is a GREAT way to support and stregthen small muscle development…something I notice is severely lacking in the high school students I teach.

    1. Yes! They get all kinds of fine motor muscle devlopment and mouth/jaw muscle developement and get introduced to more textures and smells earlier on to help neural brain pathway development.

  52. I guess I did a combo Traditional/BLW as well without trying. I distinctly remember a day when I was having a bagel with cream cheese, tomatoes and capers while holding my son on my lap. All of a sudden he went for a caper. At first I thought “oh sweetie, your not going to like that” but to my surprise, he loved the salty briny little ball! At 8-years old he still loves them – Chicken Piccata is one of his favorite dinners. For his 2nd or 3rd birthday we had build-your-own sandwiches of his favorites, and well, tuna salad with capers was on the table! Today he’s still a great eater. Does he love everything … No. But he has a much wider palate than most kids. Was it because I did some BLW even though I didn’t know what that was? Probably not. My husband is a trained chef and we both love to cook and experiment in cooking. I think that might be the answer to not getting a picker eater. (Thought not a fail-safe. I have a friend whose son is much like mine … eats everything but her daughter for quite some time wanted nothing bu milk and bacon. In the same house exposed to the same variety … Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.)

  53. BLW was definitely the right thing for us- I recommend it to all new moms, not just because it’s truly easier, but because it also means your baby starts participating sooner and can explore so much more.

  54. I too can be super lazy, so when I first read about BLW, I was sold. We hit the ground running with my son, and never looked back. He started out with whole carrots, pears, strawberries, and pork. Seriously, he got whole pieces of everything. For the most part, he did just gum the meats for a few months, but before we knew it, my little toothless wonder was attacking meat like he had been doing it forever. He even had salsa before he was a year old. We first started BLW a few weeks before Thanksgiving, so we had already gotten used to his occasional “gagging”, but it was completely shocking to the family we had over for the holiday. That day he ate a little bit of everything that we had. This has been the way that he has been eating since that first day. I don’t know what type of eater my son would have been if we had done regular baby food, but instead of begging him to eat a few bites more, or having him feel he needs to clean his plate, he stops eating when he is done, and is always willing to try something new every day. I cannot say enough great things about this practice.

    1. Lol at your son attacking the meat…

      I remember a sunday dinner where I gave one daughter her food – veggies, potatoes and lamb… she ate all the lamb, looked around for more and her face just crumpled…
      She burst in to tears while I was frantically cutting up more lamb for her!

  55. I think the key with these things, honestly, is to do what’s easiest for the parent. The one thing I don’t like about blw adherents (at least some of the more passionate ones) is how hard core they are about insisting that purees will cause kids to be bad eaters. Simply not true. We did a mix and our daughter is an excellent eater. I don’t personally believe that you can overfeed a baby by giving them purees. If my dd didn’t want to eat she was fully capable of not doing so either by not opening her mouth, turning her head or spitting food out. Most of the time, though, her mouth was open wide by the time my spoon made it back to the jar!

  56. I used to joke that I breastfed and did BLW because I was the world’s laziest mother. I know some people love puréeing and freezing but I didnt have the patience. It is so much easier to nurse until they have a pincher grasp and can put small pieces of soft fruit or cooked veggies in their mouths on their own. Instead of freezing (and storing and transporting) food, it is so much easier to just mash a small amount of sweet potato with a fork and hand your child a spoon. It takes a little planning while out and about to choose a restaurant that has real, healthy food, but the whole family benefits by having better choices. It always amazed me how often people would act like I was insane for giving my toddler a pile of cooked peas then whip out a jar of “toddler” peas. Like they are totally different and the actual peas were going to kill my child.

    1. I’m with you, Jane. Although I didn’t know there was a name for my approach to feeding my children, I breastfed directly to solid foods, simply because it was the easiest, especially by baby #4.

    2. Um, that is exactly why I did baby led weaning. I was a nanny for many years before I became a mother and I knew there had to be an easier way than spoon feeding a baby. It’s like Chinese water torture to me!
      It is SUCH a time saver.

  57. I did some BLW with my daughter starting after 6 months of age. We did it in combination with some organic purees. With my son I started out with BLW at 6 months again and he has done awesome with it. I think the hardest part for parents is the gagging (not choking) that they do at first while they figure out how to move the food around in their mouths. He was so happy to sit with a peeled peach or banana. I do break up his food now (10 months) since he thinks he can cram it all in at once, but by 8 months old he was eating table foods 3 times a day like a champ. I feed him mostly what we eat, but he does get one organic pouch of food a day just for ease of use.

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