I get a lot of parenting questions sent my way (which I find highly amusing, because, um, hi, I’m totally clueless), but none more than the volume of questions I get about baby led weaning.
Baby led weaning (or BLW for those in the know) is an alternative method of introducing solids to babies. Instead of doing the more traditional baby food/pureed food step, you skip that entirely and start off your baby with “real” food with modifications—pieces that are large enough to not be a choking hazard, food that is soft enough to get “chewed” by gums, skipping family allergens. More or less, you and your baby are eating the same foods at each meal time.
There is a great book out there that gives you the run down of why BLW is a good option to consider (although, it’s important to note, BLW isn’t for every family or every baby), so I won’t rehash that here. I will tell you why we decided to do BLW—we’re lazy. Ha! Not having to prepare or buy separate baby food really appealed to me. And it’s been so wonderful to just be able to make Juniper’s meals at the exact same time I’m doing ours. It also just felt more natural to me, you know? I highly doubt parents in the olden days were whipping out their blender to puree sweet potatoes and chicken together. Or running to Whole Foods to grab jars of organic baby food. They probably fed their kids the same food they ate. Baby led weaning just felt “right” for us.
We started BLW about a week after Juniper turned six months old (back in December), and her first taste of food that wasn’t breastmilk was a strip of cucumber. She put it in her mouth, chewed on it a little, and then threw it on the floor. And this was how BLW continued for months. We kept offering her food, and she kept showing little to no interest in it. But slowly, she started to find some foods that she enjoyed (both eating and playing with), and now, at almost 11 months old, she’s an eating rockstar. She has enough teeth and enough eating skills now that she pretty much can eat anything—and does. For the most part, we’re past the choking stage, she has five teeth and has gotten the hang of chewing, but we are still modifying her foods to mostly be choking hazard-free just to be safe.
When we first started BLW, I really struggled with figuring out exactly how to modify what we were eating to give to Juniper. All the books and blogs say, “just give them what you are eating,” and that’s true to a certain extent. But I’m, obviously, not going to give my six month old a bowl of piping hot soup, you know? So now that we’re more well-versed in the day-to-day of BLW, I thought I’d share some of our favorite meal ideas. My plan is to do a post for each of the meals in a day, we’re going to start with the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Juniper always nurses when she first wakes up, and then within the hour, she eats breakfast. Here’s some of our favorites:
Quick and Easy
Mommy and Daddy /// Whole Wheat Banana Muffin, hard-boiled egg, strawberries, green smoothie
Baby /// Whole Wheat Banana Muffin, banana (with half the peel left on for easy grabbing), whole milk yogurt with unsweetened applesauce, hemp seeds, and strawberries
One of the biggest benefits we’ve seen with BLW is a really remarkable increase in her motor skills related to eating tasks. She’s been using a spoon to scoop up yogurt for months now. And she’s developed an excellent pincer skill (the ability to pick things up between your thumb and finger).
Bananas can be super slippery, so leaving on half the peel is a great way to make it grab-able for little fingers. It took Juniper a few bites of the wrong side to realize it wasn’t yummy, but she learned quickly! If you don’t normally buy organic bananas, I would recommend getting organic ones until your baby gets the hang of the fact that the peel side isn’t for eating.
Sunday Morning Pancakes
Mommy and Daddy /// Whole wheat pancakes with strawberry rhubarb sauce, strawberries
Baby /// Mini whole wheat pancakes, strawberries and kiwi
Juniper is a huge, giant, massive fan of anything carb-y (pancakes, bread, pasta, etc.). That’s my girl! Sometimes we serve her pancakes with something for dipping in and sometimes we don’t—it really depends on how much we are willing to clean up after breakfast. This time, we skipped the dip and gave her some fresh fruit to eat on the side.
Mommy and Daddy /// Whole wheat pitas with scrambled eggs, black beans, cheese, salsa, avocado and cilantro
Baby /// Scrambled eggs, avocado pieces, black beans
One of my most favorite things about BLW is that there really isn’t very much that is off-limits for babies. We’ve been conditioned that babies should eat bland, mild, boring food until they are older. But there is no reason for them not to eat the same foods we have—babies like flavor, too! Juniper has eaten étouffée and chili and everything in between. She loves it all! We gave her some salsa to go along with her breakfast here—a deconstructed breakfast burrito.
Other Breakfast Ideas
Here are a few other breakfast ideas that we have a lot in our house:
Oatmeal /// Baby and parents have pretty much have the exact same thing on oatmeal mornings. We just leave any nuts out of Juniper’s bowl (a choking hazard and big allergen) and skip honey (botulism risk), but she eats pretty much the same bowls we have. We give her a spoon and let her have fun.
Toast and Fruit /// We eat a lot of toast in our house! Mommy and Daddy normally have toast with peanut butter and spreadable fruit, but we normally just butter Juniper’s toast (or add some jam or fruit butter) and give her fruit on the side. This girl loves her carbs! Sodium content in store-bought bread can be an issue for small babies, so we try to mostly feed her bread we make at home, so we can control the salt.
Yogurt Bowls /// Similar to oatmeal, we make yogurt bowls that are pretty much the same for Mommy and Daddy and for baby. We try to not use a lot of added sugar with Juniper, so usually we sweeten her plain yogurt with unsweetened applesauce. Works like a charm! It’s a ton of messy fun.
In case you were curious, we use the Becothings Bamboo Baby Feeding Set and OXO Tot Feeding Spoons. We love them both! We’ve been using them for five months now everyday, and they’ve held up wonderfully. We also use the Abiie Beyond high chair, which we for the most part, really love (I really like that it grows with her—even turning into an adult chair), but I could do without the white pads—seriously, who makes high chair pads white? They are already so stained from spaghetti sauce and beet fingers!
The low pressure style of BLW really works with our family. Mealtimes are so much fun for us! No stressing about how much food Juniper is taking in or what kinds of foods she’s eating. We know she’s experiencing a ton of variety of different tastes and textures, all while still getting all the nutrients she needs from nursing. I’ll be back in a few weeks with some lunch ideas!