BABY LED WEANING(FEEDING)-WHY, HOW TO, PROS + CONS
I loved these photos from Jeanna Helwig’s blog I just made a couple modifications to make them appropriate for a vegan blog.
I’m so excited to share our experience with Baby Led Weaning (Feeding) for the second time around. To preface this blog post as always I will disclose that I am not a professional in this area. Always talk to your doctor or health care provider prior to introducing solids. I did my final focus in Public Health where I did educate mothers on introducing solids at 6 months but this was the super basics of feeding and not Baby Led Weaning (Feeding). I highly encourage you to see a Registered Dietician if you aren’t comfortable with the resources you find online.
I have found most of my information from some online resources from educated professionals in the area. Two good spots are: Here and Here.
What is it? Baby Led Weaning is an informed choice to skip purees and spoon feeding all together and allow your baby to feed themselves from their first introduction to solids though some babies can start later on. There isn’t actually any weaning taking place and a babies primary nutrition must be breast milk or formula for the first year of life. Baby Led Feeding isn’t for everyone and if it isn’t for you that is completely acceptable and this post is just sharing our personal experience, why we chose it and the pros and cons. Just like breast feeding vs formula feeding my personal belief is you do what is best for you and your family.
When I first looked into Baby Led Weaning I was really caught off guard with how long the pieces are. I was completely petrified she was going to choke and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I decided to turn to trusty old YouTube and watched about 100 other people’s babies eat their first foods first to see how it worked, what to expect and hopefully reduce my motherly anxiety. When starting you begin with longer pieces about the size of your pinky finger, and soft enough that if you press it with your tongue to the roof of your mouth the piece of food would squish easily. Once babies skills develop (ie: pincer grasp usually around 7+ months though they will not refine this until later) you are able to introduce smaller sized pieces. It is VERY important to know that not all foods are considered safe and you must educate yourself on what is a YES food.
+ Soft enough that when pressed between tongue and roof of mouth it squishes.
+ Food is cut into the shape and size of pinky finger.
+ Smash berries completely and avoid cutting lengthwise in quarters until older.
Another thing that was important for me to understand before starting was that gagging is completely normal and equally as scary. I highly recommend you guys watch this video here where you can see a baby experiencing a very normal gag reflex that is in place to prevent babies from choking. This will not last forever and will slowly diminish.
Pros to BLW(Feeding):
+ Enables baby to explore different foods and textures.
+ Potentially reduces the chance of having a “picky eater”.
+ Baby is more likely to eat a wide variety of foods from an early age.
+ Baby is leading their hunger cues and potentially reduce over eating (no more one more bite). Babies are built to know when they are hungry and when they are full. Self feeding allows them to listen to their bodies.
+ Eating meals as a family is more practical as no one is needing to feed the baby.
+ Less prep work for parents. Baby is eating what you’re eating from day one.
Cons to BLW(Feeding):
First feeds can be overwhelming (for the parents).
Messy (Arrow is WAY less messy than Harlow was–each child is so different)
Not as common so less familiar with others (aka. prepare your parents!)
Can be dangerous if you DO NOT follow proper safety guides and recommendations for proper BLW.
Safe First Foods:
+ Steamed carrots
+ Steamed broccoli
+ Steamed or roasted yams
+ Avocados (you can keep the peel on part of it to help with holding)
+ Bananas (again you can keep the peel on and just cut the top portion off where they are eating)
+ Roasted or boiled squash/zucchini
+ Soft baked homemade lentil/bean patties cut into finger sized strips
Making a very soft patty to start is a good way to get iron in since plant-based babies will not have animal sources of iron/protein. I will mash all the ingredients together to make sure they are small and soft enough for baby then make them into a vegan patty with a flax egg and bake. Add in a sweet potato or some squash for increased absorbency. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron.
Iron rich or iron sources of plant based foods:
Things you should do:
+ Always nurse / bottle feed 20 minutes before solids. BM/Formula should be the primary source of nutrition until one.
+ Make sure baby is ready.
+ Baby must be able to sit up on his/her own with very little support.
+ Always be with baby when they are eating.
+ Take a infant CPR Course / Become familiar with it online (ALL PARENTS should do this).
+ Be mindful of iron. Food before one is NOT just for fun. Babies need iron and it is important they are getting iron rich foods at
this age (see list above of plant based options)
+ Have fun with it! BLW(F) is so fun. Add a slab of hummus or bean dip to their tray and see what they do with it.
+ No honey before the age of one if you aren’t vegan a lot of people do not know this.
+ Try to avoid sticky foods that can increase risk of choking. I defintly introduce peanut butter at 6 months but I’ll water it down
to make it way less sticky.
+ No salt addd to babies food before the age of one (I remove their serving before I add salt).
+ Never do BLW in a car, stroller, etc.
+ Stay off of BLW groups/sites/etc if they are a negative space and listen to your mom heart. I was part of a baby led weaning
group on facebook to hopefully learn more and it really made it a very negative experience so I quickly left. As long as baby is
safe, you are following the guides on what safe foods are, how to prepare foods safely etc. you have to do what is best for you and
QUESTIONS FROM YOU!
Did you ever give Arrow or Harlow cereal to start? We did not. The reason we decided against it because it isn’t nutritionally required as long as baby is getting other iron sources of food. Cereals are often fortified with iron in order to ensure iron requirements are met.
How do you manage / deal with the mess? It’s part of the process and the fun. I always tell Harlow to make a mess, because this means they are learning and doing and being and a mess can always be cleaned.
My baby is still gagging after multiple days of feedings, any suggestions? Watch this video. Honestly, I TOTALLY get it and it is so scary while you’re getting used to it but this does go away eventually. Also, some babies aren’t ready till a little bit older.
I’m scared to try / I’m petrified of choking. Advice? 100% can relate to this as I was in your shoes too. My best advice is to do as much research as you can before getting started, look for support within your community and trust your mom gut. BLW might not be for everyone. Once I watched the videos and understood gagging was completely normal I just trusted myself and my babies because I was following what foods were considered safe and cooking them appropriately.
Did you follow the guideline to never put food in the babies mouth? I definitely let them guide themselves so they can get used to learning how to grab the foods and feeding themselves. I won’t say I NEVER put food in their mouths but I for sure let them do almost all of their feeding. I also fed Harlow her soups until she got better with a spoon because she was not very good at this, or I would make them more like stew so she could just grab it with her hands.
I’m mainly concerned about choking, I have an 8 month old boy. Any Tips? Totally a valid feeling! By seven months babies should develop a pincer grasp which at this point you want to ensure pieces of food are cut very small (approximately the size of a chickpea) in order to prevent choking.
My baby still doesn’t have teeth, can I still do BLW? Yes. BLW works perfectly for babies without teeth just make sure you are following the safety guidelines. Harlow didn’t get her first tooth until 16.5 months and ate everything we ate that age (Other than raw veggies and uncut leafy greens).
Did you offer any vitamins? We didn’t give Harlow any supplements other than vitamin D until 2 years old. Mostly because our doctor told us with her eating and drinking habits she didn’t need it. As a vegan baby she did require B12 in addition to all the other nutrients she required so we focused on giving her green smoothies with a unsweetened fortified plant milk and nutritional yeast sprinkled on veggies and dishes.
When did you first offer water? We started offering water at 6 months to get baby used to the flavour and drinking it.
What highchair do you use? Just the Ikea high chair with the insert. Works perfect, easy to clean. Still have no idea how to remove the tray though so we just leave it on. I mean, I’ve watched YouTube videos of people ninja kicking it off so if you have any advice…
What foods did you introduce first? I did answer this above but I really like to start with veggies first because obviously fruits are a lot better tasting to us all. But anything that can be made really, really soft is a go for us!
Do you have to wait to introduce a different food every three days? With Baby Led Weaning it is based on the concept that you are making this easier for you so they don’t recommend waiting to introduce a new food but making sure to watch for reactions etc. They suggest a couple hours so give one thing in the morning, one thing in the afternoon etc. I’ve seen different theories on this and I didn’t wait with Harlow or Arrow so it depends what you’re comfortable doing.
Here are some of our MUST have Baby Led Weaning(Feeding) items. Just a note the BLW books are not super vegan friendly but help with the general idea: