Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) uses no baby food, no spoons, no feeding. We loved baby-led weaning because our daughter now eats everything, has increased dexterity, and stops when she’s full. See the 10 amazing benefits of baby-led weaning that you’ll see immediately!
It’s important to me to teach my daughter to make healthy eating choices. Similarly, one of the things that stresses me out the most is the idea of fighting with her over food.
I hate cooking enough as it is, and I really don’t want dinnertime to become a battle every single night.
I want Evelyn to love a variety of foods. I want to make only one meal for our whole family, not separate meals for me and Nick, and an individual meal for Evelyn because she won’t eat what I cook. I want to enjoy family mealtimes.
Enter baby-led weaning (BLW).
Baby-led weaning is a way of starting your baby on solids where you skip purees altogether and give your baby finger foods from the start.
Instead of feeding your baby with a spoon, babies feed themselves with fry-like shaped foods that they can hold in their fist. Foods that can be squished with your index finger and thumb are a good consistency so baby can gum at the foods and safely eat them.
Baby learns to explore food and self feed from the start. You don’t have to eventually transition away from finger foods because you started with them in the first place!
You can learn more about baby led weaning vs purees and see which one is right for your family!
When to Start Baby-Led Weaning?
Your baby is ready to start baby-led weaning around six months old at minimum.
Some signs of readiness for baby led weaning include baby is sitting up on their own and have good head control.
Your baby should also show an interest in food and no longer have the tongue thrust reflex. Check with your doctor if you think your baby is ready to start baby led weaning!
Why We Chose (And Loved) Baby-Led Weaning
I’d heard of baby led weaning from friends who loved the method of feeding their babies. No baby food. No purees. No slowly introducing solid foods one at a time. No eating the same food over and over.
Baby eats what mom and dad eat (within reason) from day one, around six months old. It sounded perfect for us!
I have also heard that doing baby led weaning can help prevent picky eating down the road. That was a huge benefit of doing baby led weaning for me!
There were so many other benefits I had heard of from baby led weaning.
First, I am lazy. Let’s be real. I didn’t want to make my own baby food. I didn’t want to spend nap times cooking and pureeing and freezing. I didn’t want to spoon-feed.
Then we had dinner with my friend Cori, her husband Ryan, and their 1 1/2 year old twins. We were fascinated by how their BLW twins ate pretty much everything that was on their tray. Their dexterity in picking up small pieces was incredible. And they were so happy.
We were sold! In November, when Evelyn was six months old and showed the signs of readiness, she had her first BLW foods—cucumber spears and avocado. And she hasn’t looked back since. Warning: many cute photos of my baby covered in food ahead!
If you’re thinking of trying BLW, here are ten awesome benefits of baby-led weaning. I will say that starting solids with Evelyn was one of the easiest parts of parenting to date! She is two years old now and continues to be a great eater and enjoys many types of foods!
Baby-Led Weaning Meal Plan
If you’re looking to get started with baby-led weaning, grab the family meal plan from Family Style Nutrition. It has meals you can make for your family while following the BLW principles!
10 Awesome Benefits of Baby-led Weaning
1. It’s sooooo easy!
Like I said above, I didn’t want to deal with everything that goes into spoon feeding a baby. BLW is so easy! Offer your baby some food. Eat it. Clean up. She eats what we eat, so I never have to make a different meal for her. It’s so easy! This was the biggest benefit for me by far.
2. It’s cheaper than traditional weaning
Baby food is expensive! Those packets of fruit and vegetable slurry are like a buck and a half a pop. It’s so much cheaper to just feed Evelyn what we are already eating. As she ate more and more, I did have to increase my grocery budget, but it just meant more food for the family overall.
You don’t need a lot of stuff to get started either, just a few simple baby led weaning supplies will do the trick.
3. Combat Picky Eating
While she has her good days and bad days (hey, she’s two now), Evelyn is NOT picky.
Here’s a sample of things she’s eaten in the last month: salsa verde enchiladas, red quinoa, black beans, string cheese, baked salmon with dill, broccoli, pickles, eggs, spaghetti, greek yogurt, sweet potatoes, tri-tip, baked chicken, a hamburger, corn on the cob, grilled cheese, and asparagus.
Her favorite food at the moment is raspberries and bell peppers. She will eat a bell pepper like it is an apple. Crunch!
4. She enjoys eating
Food is FUN! She loves exploring the textures of food with her hands and mouth. She is almost always happy at the table. (Unless we’re not getting food to her fast enough!)
Oh, and we totally enjoy watching her. She was so entertaining when she first started exploring food!
5. She is a part of our meal
While it doesn’t always happen, we try to have most of our meals with Evelyn. I usually eat eggs and fruit in the morning with her, and we try to eat as a family for dinner together. Lunch is hit or miss, but we try.
We don’t feed her and then eat our dinner separately. We all eat together. We’re teaching her that family meals at the table together are valuable to us.
6. She learns to clear stuck food
One of the biggest reasons people avoid BLW is because they are afraid their baby will choke. It’s definitely something that has crossed my mind more than once when Evelyn has gagged on something.
But gagging is not choking. Every single thing she’s gagged on, she’s managed to clear herself (usually followed by a huge grin).
She is learning to chew, then swallow. With purees, it’s swallow, then later learn to chew. The choking hazard can actually be greater when you introduce solids to a baby after the’ve already learned to swallow whatever you put in their mouths.
Learn more about baby led weaning and choking in this post.
7. She is learning to self regulate
I want to teach Evelyn to be an intuitive eater and enjoy nutritious foods. I don’t want to sit there with a spoon and cajole her into taking one more bite. And I really don’t want to use food as a reward or a punishment down the line. With BLW, she learns to eat her fill and stop when she’s full.
8. Less risk of allergies
New research suggests that introducing solids to kids at a younger age actually lowers rates of food allergies. In years past, moms waited to introduce “allergy” foods, but now the recommendations have changed.
Evelyn has had eggs, wheat, peanuts, almond butter, strawberries, dairy of all sorts, and soy (tofu).
She did have a reaction to shrimp but I am glad we found it sooner rather than later. I know this is different for every child and allergies can develop later, but it was good to get an all-clear on some of the major foods for now.
9. She will learn to appreciate different foods (I hope).
When everything is a puree, it’s hard for babies to distinguish different foods, and often they develop issues with textures once solid food is introduced. I am hoping that BLW will give Evelyn an appreciation for all types of food as she gets older. We’re two years in and so far she loves a variety of foods.
10. She’s learning!
Baby-led weaning is good for your little babe’s hand/eye coordination, dexterity, chewing skills, and helping them develop the pincer grasp.
As your baby picks up food and brings it to their mouth they are developing important skills! Just by eating, which we do all the time anyway, she was able to practice these important skills.
We loved baby-led weaning as a way to start solids and totally recommend it! Two years later I still see so many benefits of doing it. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about baby-led weaning. Just leave them in the comments and I’ll respond!