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.
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.
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.
105 thoughts on “What Is Baby Led Weaning?”
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!!!
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
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.
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!!
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! ;)
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…
If I don’t freeze it first will there be a shorter cooking time?
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?
While I have not tried this, I am assuming the cook time would be 3-4 hours on high.
If I don’t freeze it first is there a shorter cooking time?
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?
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 :(
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!
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Any substitutions for the gluten-free beer if we cannot use the beer?
Hi Jane. You could use a broth instead. ~Amy
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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!
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!
Yes, you could sub a bone broth/stock instead. The flavor will not be the same as the original recipe, but it will taste great!
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.
Yes, you could sub a bone broth/stock instead. The flavor will not be the same as the original recipe, but it will taste great!
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?
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.
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.
What foods do you recommend for babies? When do you suggest introdcing grains? (Noodles, toast, rice) and dairy?
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.
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!
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.