Baby Led Weaning: the First Few Months

We started Baby Led Weaning (BLW) just shy of Baby M’s 6 month birthday. The “weaning” part of BLW doesn’t mean to wean from breast milk as the U.S. definition of weaning might suggest, rather it means to introduce supplementary foods to a baby’s diet. For the first 12 months, breast milk is best (for breastfed babies, of course.) With BLW you skip the purees, which aren’t necessary now that the AAP has issued guidelines that all healthy babies should delay all solids until at least 6 months, and head straight to the table food.

For the first month or so Baby M’s solids diet consisted of occasional “meals” where he’d sit in his highchair and we’d give him bits of this and that from the fridge. His very first solid food was half of an apple, which he creatively used his bib to hold in his mouth.

Contrary to my intuition, big pieces of food worked best in the early stages. Babies don’t have a pincher grasp at 6 months nor can they open and close their fists to shovel food into their mouth; so food that’s big enough to stick outside of both sides of their fist and firm enough not to get crushed works best in the early stages of BLW.

Some of our early successes included toast fingers (a slice of oatmeal bread – you want to avoid super high fiber grains as they can hinder absorption of nutrients), toasted and cut into three slices, roasted sweet potato rounds, halves of ripe fruit with the skin on, and bananas with a bit of the skin left on to act as a handle.

With all fruits make sure to scrub them very well before serving – including melons, mangoes and other things you cut or peel since salmonella can contaminate your knife or peeler.

After a few weeks of BLW we discovered that Baby M had a possible gluten allergy. The AAP doesn’t recommend delaying most foods unless you have a family history of food allergies and we do not. There are early studies that show delaying food could result in more allergies! However, never give babies honey before age 1. Not raw, not baked, not cooked. Honey can contain botulism spores that are fatal for babies; heat doesn’t always kill the spores. Also, avoid whole nuts as they are a choking hazard, and minimize salt as much as possible. Babies’ kidneys aren’t developed enough to handle a lot of sodium so keep their intake below 200mg a day – it’s very, very little, so make sure you read labels.

Around 6.5 months we started to do breakfast every day and at 7 months Baby M really started to consume his foods as evidenced by his diapers. His pincher grasp developed around 7 months too, which opened up a whole new world of food. The blueberry obsession started right around this time as did the one for fresh mozzarella cheese.

I started to get really adventurous with food this summer, offering different textures and flavors. It turns out Baby M likes his food spicy! Puffs dipped in salsa? Yes please! Curry lentil? Spicier the better!

Baby M's first tooth just popped through, but having no teeth never seems to get in the way of his little vacuum cleaner belly. Here are some of the things we’ve tried during his first few months of BLW:
  • Apples, halved – these work best when zapped in the microwave for a few seconds to soften them up. Make sure to cool them well before serving, or prepare the night before and store in the fridge overnight
  • Ripe peaches, plums, pears, etc. – I quarter them for him and sometimes remove the skins. If you keep the skins on, just watch for when most of the flesh of the fruit is gone and then take the skin away. I’ve found that he’s really good at spitting out the skin when he’s done with the fruit
  • Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries – I crush the blueberries slightly to break the skin and have only used frozen blackberries and raspberries so they’re already soft
  • Cherries – pitted and quartered
  • Melon – very ripe and cut into big wedges, not cubes
  • Mango – very ripe, peeled and cut into strips
  • Prunes – chopped into several small pieces – Baby M has two prunes every day
  • Oranges, quartered
  • Strawberries – I waited until he had a pincher grasp and cut them into very small pieces – watch for a reaction from strawberries and tomato
  • Tomatoes – again, like strawberries I cut these into little pieces. Baby M spit up after having a lot of tomato once and I haven’t given them in large quantities since – mostly because I hoard tomatoes for myself. Selfish mommy.
  • Sweet potatoes – cut in rounds, drizzled with olive oil and cracked pepper, roasted at 350 until soft, still firm enough to grasp. French fry / “finger”size pieces work well too
  • Avocado – cut into wedges – at first we gave them to him with the skin on so he’d have something to “grip” and now he eats them without skins
  • Mashed potatoes – I mash ours with a touch of cow’s milk and add spices
  • Turnips – mashed
  • Squash – mashed with spices
  • Grilled salmon – a huge hit and great brain food! Baby M has salmon once a week
  • Turkey meatballs
  • Pasta - we chose a gluten free variety for Baby M
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese – I cut off a 1oz round from a log of mozzarella and cut it into chunks – mozzarella is one of our go-to proteins in the morning
  • Pancakes – try a whole grain variety instead of white flour and try adding ground flax to the mix
  • Waffles – ditto whole grain pancakes
  • Breakfast sausage – remove the casings before offering sausage and watch the sodium levels of the rest of the day’s food
  • Smoke salmon – also watch the sodium levels
  • Hummus – Baby M likes his hummus on puffs – he’s a big fan of zesty lemon flavor
  • Yogurt – whole milk yogurt is great for babies because their developing brains need more fat than we do – I load the spoon for Baby M and let him hold it
  • Applesauce – unsweetened – yummy, but messy
  • Chicken – strips are easier to grasp and suck on – Baby M isn’t a huge rotisserie chicken fan, but he does like chicken in curry
  • Lentils – we make curried lentils and let Baby M go to town with his hands. It’s messy, but he shovels every last bit into his mouth!
  • Chickpeas – straight from can (rinsed well) and crushed a little to take the “round” out of them. Sometimes I crush them in my hand, sometimes with the back of a fork
  • Steamed Broccoli – broccoli is one of the only things Baby M isn’t interested in eating. I imagine if I put spices on it, he’d like it
  • Zucchini – cut into thick rounds, drizzled with olive oil and sautéed with onions and garlic
  • Corn, lima beans, peas – fresh or frozen – avoid canned because of extra sodium
  • Watermelon – cut into a wedge – Watermelon is one of the only things Baby M had trouble eating. He gags a lot with it no matter how I cut it, so I’ve taken off the menu this year. I think he likes it so much that he eats it too quickly and doesn’t mash it around in his mouth enough before swallowing. However, friends in my due date group say their babies have no problems with watermelon
  • Eggs – We started whole eggs early, but Baby M didn’t start to love them until 8 months. Make sure the yolks are cooked through
  • Rice crackers – we spread them with hummus or sunbutter (like peanut butter but made from sunflower seeds)
  • Lobster – in tiny pieces since it’s a little hard to chew
  • Steak – cut into strips – it’s hard to chew, but the flavor is there. I have minced it into little pieces, which Baby M was able to consume a bit better
  • Ribs – Baby M really liked ribs. I tore the meat off the bone and shredded it from one rib and then let him gnaw on the second. Super treat!
  • Oatmeal – I cook ours with raisins or craisins and share with him – of course he usually ends up eating most of it and I’m left hungry!
  • French toast – served without syrup for baby, but with syrup for mommy ;)
I also bake things like oatmeal "cake" and pumpkin oatmeal flax pancakes that I keep on hand in the freezer for days when we have little leftover from the previous night’s dinner to offer him.

At 9.5 months old we’re still doing one meal a day together at breakfast and breast milk for the rest of the day. Baby M is smaller but still sticking to his growth curve and sleeps really well at night, so we’re sticking with that routine for now. However, very occasionally we’ll offer a snack, if we’re eating out at lunch or S and I are having our dinner early, before Baby M goes to bed. On hand we have the following commercial “baby” snack foods:
We love Baby Led Weaning and can’t imagine having gone the traditional puree route; Baby M hasn't eaten anything I haven't eaten and enjoyed myself and trust me, I'd never eat meat in a jar. He continues to surprise me with the variety and quantity of foods he enjoys every day. And a big bonus is that BLW has pushed S and me to vary our dinners so that we can encourage Baby M to try new foods in the morning.

What have been some of your baby’s favorite early foods?

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  1. I always find interest the way solid food are incorporated in babies diets in other countries (I live in Argentina). When I was six months old the first solid my mum feed me was pan rosted beef tenderloin, rubbed with garlic and cut into stripes, and that was 27 years ago! Most of children eat that same way, also fruit, boiled "al dente" veggies, ripe fruits, peppers, avocado, pan seared fish, de-bone olives, good quality chocolate, raw olive oil (over a piece of bread), citrus juice, cream cheese and, yes, spices.
    Can you imagine how BORING must be for the kiddos to eat those bland purees?

    Lovely blog, by the way. And sorry for the rusty english, it is not my birth language :)

    1. I'm not sure I'm ready to share my chocolate with Maddox, but I bet he'd love it! I agree, purees are boooooring, bring on the spice!

  2. Wow!!! So impressive you actually typed up a list of all the foods!!!!

    I looooove doing BLW as well... sounds like more and more folks are doing it. The nanny was nervous at first, but she's a convert now and thinks its the best thing since sliced bread. We've actually been already doing 3 meals a day (well, the nanny does lunch), and the kiddo can pack it away.

    Just wondering if M is picky about his veggies at all??? K will definitely go for carbs and fruit first, and sometimes looks at her veggies rather dubiously. Usually she'll at least taste them (and then drop them) or eat a bit at the end of the meal, but 'green things' tend to be what we find in her bib the most. Just wondering if you've had the same experience?

    1. Isn't it great!? In re: veggies, actually he loves them and goes for them first. Lima beans are the current obsession. I don't know if it's the color or how they feel in his mouth, but he shovels in fistfuls at a time! However, if I only put one thing on his plate to start - like a slice of mango - while I fix whatever else he's getting, then he'll start to whine and demand something else. Usually "something else" is mozzarella cheese. I think the only thing he hasn't been into is broccoli. It was interesting, but he didn't devour it.

  3. I've been enjoying reading about your adventures as we're getting ready to start solids as well. One thing that caught my eye was the high hair in your first photo; we've been on the lookout for a "classic modern" wood one, but haven't found any we like. Do you mind sharing where you found it?

  4. Anonymous10/05/2012

    Wow!!! I am impressed! Thanks for the info. I definitely need to expand Nolan's menu!! I love the idea of Salmon, haven't tried that yet but will this weekend. Go baby M!!!

  5. I've been enjoying reading about your adventures as we're getting ready to start solids as well. One thing that caught my eye was the high hair in your first photo; we've been on the lookout for a "classic modern" wood one, but haven't found any we like. Do you mind sharing where you found it?

    1. Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for reading along! The highchair is the Keekaroo Right Height chair with the infant insert. It was a very expensive chair and while I loved the way it looked and that it worked quite well, I didn't love it more than the $30 fisher price booster that we used at my parents' house this summer. When we returned home in September, we got rid of our beautiful Keekaroo and replaced it with the fisher price booster. It makes me sad because it was such a nice highchair, but it took up a lot of space and I could not justify that it cost $250 more than the one that frankly, worked better. First time mom - live and learn!

      Good luck with your decision :)

  6. Been reading your blog for a while now and my little one has reached the age where we're starting solids. I've been doing the puree route, but the way my LO acts, I think he would rather be eating (or at least eating what we're eating). I've been trying to sort out what to give him first and how. I see y'all started with a half an apple, what else out of the list were beginner foods. I know this is an old post, but I'm hoping you can help me out! So far this post has been a great help so thank you! Oh, I'm just so darn nervous about him choking!

    1. Hey Ash, I'm sorry for the delayed response, your message got filtered as spam. Weird. I think the easiest things really early on were roasted sweet potato rounds, the banana with a handle, fresh mozzarella cheese, really ripe peaches, grilled salmon in flakes, avocado wedges, oatmeal and toast sticks (although M has a gluten sensitivity which we discovered really early on, so that is not on the menu anymore).

      By 7.5m he had a pincher grip and pretty much everything on the list became standard. It just developed out of the blue one day and he was able to grab foods and basically shove them in his mouth.

      The choking v. gagging thing is kind of scary. But gagging is benign, while choking obviously is not. It took a lot of sitting on my hands and very calmly saying "work it out, work it out" to M when he gagged. I stopped giving him watermelon chunks because he constantly gagged on it, ditto melon chunks. By 9 months he wasn't gagging much anymore. From what I've read, if you start with purees you should expect to see some gagging at first because they're used to just slurping stuff back. Most of the babies in M's Dec 2011 due date group were on to solid finger food by 8 months so it seemed like purees are pretty short lived for a lot of babies.

      Good luck! BLW worked out really well for us. There isn't anything M won't eat!

  7. Such brilliant pictures and tips - great advertisement for BLW.

    Would love for you to link this up at the Friday Baby Shower link party - we're focused on weaning this week, Alice x


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