The day has come, our youngest have reached a proud age of about six months and are showing they are ready for their first solid foods. Many mothers are now feeding all sorts of porridge, bought or homemade, in a classic and well-tried way. But there is another way – without porridge. But the first questions already arise. Can my little baby really eat alone? Does it get full in the process? Can it not swallow? Which foods and recipes should I start with?
In this article I would like to answer these and other questions and continue to offer valuable tips and a few initial, quick recipe suggestions for an easy start to the Baby Lead Weaning adventure.
We started slowly introducing our first solid foods to our children when they were about six months old. Before that, they were still fully breastfed and even from that point on, I still did not intend to replace individual breastfeeding meals with supplementary meals.
Curiously, none of our three children liked the classic porridge, neither bought versions nor puréed. As a family with a Moroccan background, we traditionally eat our food quite often with our fingers, or with pita bread – to be exact, we only use the three fingers (thumb, index finger and middle finger) of our right hand. In the classic way, we usually serve a large „family plate“, from which the whole family is at the table.
So it was quite natural for us that our little ones, who were sitting on their laps at the table anyway as soon as they showed interest, could simply and uncomplicatedly eat along, sometimes a piece of potato crushed with their fingers, sometimes a piece of lamb dipped in a sauce. For example, if there were chickpeas, then we put a few of them in front of our little ones so that he could explore and eat them. Mixer and blender remained unused in the cupboard, at least for the production of specially made baby porridge.
So our children learned to eat alone from the first day of the introduction. The time of the introduction of the food supplement took place three times very relaxed and without any problems and I would like to share my experiences with you in this article…and don’t worry, you don’t have to switch to Moroccan table manners for that.
The principle of Baby Led Weaning?
With the Baby Led Weaning (BLW) concept, the baby learns from the beginning to actively discover the exciting world of nutrition with all its senses and to be able to eat independently. It actively grasps the food in front of it, feels it, discovers it, actively leads it to the mouth. It can decide for itself whether to put it in its mouth, chew it, swallow it or perhaps just explore its consistency. So the first meals already become tactile experiences, at the same time it trains the eye-hand coordination and the tweezer grip. The baby experiences pleasurable experiences of success instead of being passively dependent on what is pushed into his mouth.
Baby Led Weaning is basically very similar to breastfeeding. You offer it to the baby and it does the rest. This already gives the baby the opportunity and the responsibility to decide for himself what and how much he wants to eat. This is a significant difference to the classic spoon feeding, where you have to guess for yourself when your baby is full.
You may wonder if your baby can’t swallow and suffocate on the pieces. This is no more likely than feeding with a spoon. In the beginning it may happen that your baby might choke – and scare you away from continuing with the introduction of a free diet. However, it will not be able to move the food to the back of the mouth until it has learned to chew. The choking is just a sign that your baby is learning to use his tongue to move the food.
The Right Time – At What Age To Start With Baby Led Weaning?
As soon as your baby is able to sit on his own, grab food and lead it to his mouth, and shows a clear interest in eating, he is ready for his first complementary meal. This is usually around the sixth month of life. These abilities are the important signs of the complementary food strip, for which you should wait with the complementary food introduction, be it porridge or porridge-free.
Which foods are suitable for the Baby Led Weaning Start?
Fruits and vegetables are ideal starters. For example, you can offer cooked or boiled carrots or steamed apples or pear pieces. However, it should not be overcooked and therefore the consistency should be so muddy that your baby can no longer grasp the pieces. But also the avocado is basically the perfect BLW starter fruit. It is very rich in nutrients and vitamins, rich in content and contains important, healthy fatty acids. The avocado is neither too hard nor too muddy, the best thing to try is the small black Hass avocado, because it is milder and nuttier in taste.
Baby Led Weaning Recipes – What can I offer?
Here is a brief overview of the ideal Baby Led Weaning recipes for getting started:
Ripe pear, avocado and bananas cut into slices and slices
Slightly steamed green beans, these already have the perfect size for the Baby Led Weaning Start
Lightly steamed carrot sticks, pumpkin sticks or broccoli florets with handle as handle
Cooked, steamed or baked sweet potato sticks
Omelette cut into strips
Long strips of chicken or red meat – more for sucking and gnawing than for eating in the beginning
Soft boiled whole grain noodles, such as spiral noodles, Farfalle or Penne
Cooked potato sticks (in french fries form)
Watermelon, honeydew melon and other varieties cut into sticks (ideal in summer)
I would, however, recommend that, right from the start, we always import one food after another and not several at a time. Because if your sweetheart shows an allergic reaction, flatulence or other intolerances, you know directly which fruit or vegetable it does not tolerate. Later, of course, you can combine all the foods your baby can tolerate. Furthermore, it is best to use seasonal and regional products.
Which foods should I better avoid when starting Baby Led Weaning?
Flatulent foods, such as cabbage or legumes
Hard to digest wholemeal bread
peppers, as they are difficult to digest in the beginning as well
lettuces, as they could stick to the palate
Nuts, due to danger of swallowing
Too much salt or spices
berries, grapes and the like in the beginning because of danger of swallowing also only in pressed form (simply crush once briefly between the fingers)
It depends on the shape
It’s easy to find the right size of food that you can offer to your mouth. For example, if you cook potatoes, courgettes or carrots, you cut them into thick sticks that look like french fries. If your baby grabs the piece with his fist and sees another piece out of his fist, it’s the perfect size to start with. You shouldn’t cut the food into very small pieces.
In the beginning your baby will drop almost everything and more food will land on the floor or on the clothes than in the mouth. However, this will change as the motor skills of your little treasure improve. As time goes by, it can coordinate all the bites into its mouth. Even then, the portions it squeezes are likely to be minimal.
Don’t be surprised and don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure to replace an entire breastfeeding or bottle meal. Really see it as a supplement, as a supplementary food, and not as a substitute meal. Such an expectation would only unnecessarily burden your pulp-free start. With us it took weeks and months until the porridge-free breakfast not only supplemented the morning breastfeeding meal, but replaced it. It’s quite normal for your baby to want to be breastfed after his pap-free finger food snack. Don’t refuse him, he wants to make sure that everything is still the same and that the warm milk is still waiting for him.
As long as you continue to breastfeed or bottle feed, you don’t have to worry about whether your baby is getting enough or not. It still gets all the nutrients and energy it needs from breast or premilk.
My best advice for a successful Baby Led Weaning Start
Offer food repeatedly
It is quite normal that your child always rejects certain foods and does not want to eat them. This is absolutely normal. Nevertheless, offer them these foods regularly. It can take more than dozens of times for the baby to realize that it likes food.
Offer water – your baby will be thirsty
Even if they are still minimal portions, your baby will get thirsty from his first small meals. He may want to be breastfed more, as he now knows that his first breast milk is thin and thirst-quenching. So as long as you breastfeed it as needed, you don’t have to worry. Of course you can also offer him some water to drink now that he is starting to eat solid food. If you feed with the bottle, you should definitely add water to the food, because it does not have the possibility to quench its thirst by breastfeeding.
An important tip for the baby Led Weaning
It is very important that you only let your baby eat in an upright position. So either sitting on your lap or upright in a high chair.
It should never eat in a seesaw or similar lying or semi-lying position. In a lying position your baby can easily swallow and even suffocate. Therefore please always sit upright when eating.
Remember – Under one it’s just for fun! So don’t put yourself and your baby under unnecessary pressure. Especially if you are still breastfeeding, you don’t have to worry at all, your baby still gets all the necessary nutrients and everything it needs for its growth, development and prosperity through breast milk. Under one year she can explore and discover the new world of food and tastes in an informal way.