My 10 (straight up) Tips on Starting Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)

Since I’ve become part of the great new Baby-Led Weaning site I’ve been asked about tips on how to start Baby-Led Weaning so I thought I’d give my top 10 tips. As, what I would call, a hardcore BLW fan I hope you find these tips helpful! (WARNING: This post is straight up, I am not sugar coating anything because sugar is bad for you!)

1. Buy Gill Rapley’s book “Baby-Led Weaning- I have not been asked to promote this book but it is the best way to get started. Read it, read it again, keep it by your bed, in the bathroom, keep it where ever you do your reading!)

2. Start following the Baby-Led Weaning Blog - a new site with lots of different mothers posting about their BLW journey – see the mess, the reactions, the smiles and some more of the mess BLW entails!

Octopus Pasta BLW

BiP enjoying Octopus with rice pasta and roasted vegetables at 10months old

3. Trust your instinct - a lot of mothers cave in to baby foods because they fall prey to marketing and advice from others who believe its the only way to go. It is not. Do you eat out of a jar? If you do, then BLW is not for you.

4. Make sure your baby is READY to start BLW – your baby cannot sit upright, gags or cannot put food into its own mouth then your baby is NOT ready for solids. When was the last time you ate lying down?

5. The average age for “readiness” for solids is 6 months – OK, so we all think our baby is advanced and is a prodigy in making but when it comes the internal physical development they are all pretty much at the same age regardless of size. As the mother of a “big” baby I was told at 5 months that BiP needed more than just breast milk – luckily I knew better. This is not true, regardless of the new study published in the British Medical Journal.  Waiting until your baby is 6 months old means that most babies can eat ANYTHING, there is no need to delay the introduction of any food unless their is a family allergy. BLW expels the myth that babies need to wait 3 days between the introduction of each food (Seriously? That would take a lifetime to get everything covered).

BLW Salad Nicoise

BiP trying Salad Nicoise for the first time

6. Treat your baby as a person, not a thing or a pet – so many fail to treat their babies as the little people that they are. Many of us are guilty of making foods for our babies that we think they should have vs. what they should really have. Look at what you are eating and, provided it is unprocessed, salt and sugar free, let them try it.

7. Rethink the way YOU eat – if you want to BLW your baby you need to make sure that you, as a family, set an example. Ranging from table manners to the quality of the food on your plate. If your idea of a balanced meal is a Fried Chicken Family Bucket with coleslaw (that’s veg right?) or a microwave meal (but its says its a health food) then maybe you are better off giving baby food to your baby.  Your baby, will in time, check what is on your plate. When she sees you are eating something different it will arouse suspicion and create confusion. Oh and just in case you didn’t realise, that stuff is bad for you.

8. Be prepared for the mess – an important part of BLW is to allow your baby to put food into their mouths themselves. Now, I know that your baby is probably very advanced but even the most amazing babies WILL and I repeat, WILL drop food. A LOT of it.  They will smear it across their high chair, over their faces … absolutely EVERYWHERE … do not, ever, never ever, tell them off for this at the beginning, they are learning. There will be a whole lot of misses before there are hits! Go with it! Stock up on clothes and antibacterial wipes and consider getting a dog if you haven’t already got one. Oh and if you have beige suede chairs and a lovely cream carpet maybe you should feed your baby in the garden, garage or bathroom!

9. Be PATIENT - firstly, we all eat too fast. Your baby probably doesn’t have any teeth (not that it makes any difference) so will take a lot longer to devour that steak and roast vegetables. Allow your baby to take their time. They will make a mess but I promise, in time, they will become more efficient and tidier when it comes to meal times.

10. Keep your camera on hand – BLW is adorable – it’s fun, it’s messy and sometimes downright HILARIOUS especially when your little one has an octopus tentacle hanging out of its mouth or rice in its hair. Take photo’s, LOTS of them! Share them and rejoice in the reactions such as “Oh wow, I can’t believe you baby eats THAT!”

So, now that we got that covered, what are your BLW tips?

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36 Responses to My 10 (straight up) Tips on Starting Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)
  1. Well I love this, of course! Although I still need to know how you feed your baby octopus without being panicked about choking!

    I think it’s insane that people (doctors!) would say breast milk isn’t enough for at least the first year. I suspect that is due to formula being so prevalent – The jump from formula to cereal doesn’t seem as severe as the one from breast to cereal.

    • Anonymous

      Octopus is actually, in my opinion a safe first food if you keep the pieces big enough. Even with 6 teeth there is no way BiP can bite through it. She bites off teeny tiny chunks but usually she just chews on it like gum!

      • I guess that makes sense, if they are really big pieces – Probably feels great on gums!

  2. Elizabeth

    I agree 100% with everything you wrote. My only additional tip is to trust your baby. Most (ok, all) moms worry about choking and going the BLW route puts all of your trust in your baby. I can’t tell you how many times I had to literally sit on my hands while Emerson had his meals. I always worried he was choking or about to choke or could choke. But he never even came close to it. He always knew exactly what he was doing and what could and could not be swallowed and how much mashing he had to do on his gums. It really amazed me and I have relaxed a lot! I see moms with babies a lot older than mine cutting food into itty bitty tiny pieces as I hand over a whole apple to my son. Mother nature is a lot smarter than we give her credit for and if all the rules are followed you’d be amazed at how capable a 6mo old babe is!

    • Anonymous

      You are right – TRUST is incredibly important! I was never concerned about choking but I’ve had others share their concerns quite loudly!

      I totally agree that Mother Nature knows best (although arrogance of man teaches us otherwise)

  3. Hi :)

    I’ve been following the new site on facebook…love reading the stories. I’m trying it out with my 9 month old. Its going slowly because he has a very strong gag reflex, so we’re still doing some soft foods too, like organic applesauce and yogurt. Any suggestions for kids with a strong gag reflex…I don’t want to give up and he LOVES trying new things :)

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jessica, Thanks for your comment and great to hear you are following us all on http://www.babyledweaningblog.com

      I would probably let your little one figure things out for himself. Perhaps you can put things like applesauce or yogurt in a bowl and give him dippers like bread, rice crackers etc that he can dip and then put in his own mouth, he may even enjoy using the spoon.

      Keep offering different foods – one day he will surprise you and take a big bite of something, chew and swallow … you will be amazed.

      Gagging is often nothing to worry about – I’ve seen BiP gag before, admittedly it was when we got started. She would gag and spit out what was in her mouth because it was clearly too much for her to swallow. Through gagging they often learn how much they can bite off and enjoy!

      Good luck and keep us posted!

      • Hi there!

        We’re continuing everyday to try new foods…and Brady (my 9 month old) is LOVING it and so are we. Even my husband has been really enjoying watching the progress and our baby’s enjoyment in BLW. He’s still gagging a little bit…but the vomitting has pretty much stopped. I’m going to donate the babyfood I have in our cabinet, its all organic, but I’m not turning back now!!
        Your tip about giving the baby a spoon loaded up with food was awesome, I was amazed to see my baby eating on his own and then “telling” me he was done when he had had enough.
        My favorite experience so far was when my little guy ate 4 leaves of baby spinach, whole…chewed them to smitherines and then swallowed!!!

        thanks so much for the encouragement. I really enjoy your blog :0)

        • That’s WONDERFUL!!! Thank you so much for updating me! I am delighted that Brady is enjoying his food! Sometimes they just need to be allowed to judge how much they put their mouths for themselves. GO BRADY! Good job mama! Enjoy and make sure you take lots of pictures! :)

  4. Candace

    My tip would be to trust that your baby knows what, and how much, they need to eat – or not eat. This is one thing that I struggle with more and more as my baby gets older and right now he is not all that interested in eating. If he was spoon-fed, it would be that much easier to cajole that extra bite into his mouth, but with BLW he eats only what he wants to. I’m glad to not have the fight over each bite of food – that was one of the definite attractions of BLW for me, but I still have that feeling that he MUST EAT. I just have to keep reminding myself that baby definitely knows better than I do if he is hungry, or not, and what he is hungry for!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Candace, you are so right. Some days baby is hungry, some days they are not. Like us. All too often parents get hung up on having to get X amount “into” their baby each day – BiP sometimes eats more than I do in a day and some days its just a nibble here and there.

      Perhaps one the most useful ways of looking at baby nutrition is to look at it over the course of a WEEK not a day. Helps a lot!

  5. Elizabeth

    My tip would be to RELAX and have FUN with it! Teach your baby that eating is a social activity, that should be enjoyed. Stressing over what and how much your baby eats is no fun for anyone and can make mealtimes very unpleasant!

    Also, remember to ignore the Debbie Downers. In my experience, some people will be impressed at what you can give your baby to eat, and some people will try to make you feel bad for doing things out of the “norm”. Remember that you are doing what you think is best for YOUR baby :)

    • Anonymous

      Great tips Elizabeth! Thank you for sharing!

  6. We are a veg family, so no octopus for us, but these tips were spot on! I second the suggestion that ‘trust your baby’ be added to the list. It took my partner and I awhile to learn to trust our son, but once we did, it was amazing to see all that he can eat! He just finished up eating a big plate of lentils rice, and curry. Before we started BLW, I would have called you a crazy person if you suggested that my son would be eating curry at 7 months, but now it is just one of the myriad of foods he enjoys with us, even “spicy” foods, which surprised me at first. Now if I could only get the grandparents to trust our son as much as we do. My mom literally spends every meal with us fretting over the baby and opening his mouth to check if he’s choked…

    Great post!

    • Thanks so much for sharing! Yes, curry is a family favourite too! BiP LOVES it and it is so great for their them to discover new taste sensations! Keep us posted on your BLW adventures!

  7. #7 is terrific!! I personally have changed how I eat in the last 6 weeks since we started BLW. Not that I ate terribly before, I am just more conscious now of the ‘extras’ that are mostly empty calories. And…BLW has provided some of my favorite pics this month!! :)

    • mummyinprovence

      Thanks Abbi! It’s great how BLW can help us all clean up our diets. I remember reading when I was pregnant that mothers have to avoid finishing their babies plates to avoid gaining weight – with BLW the choices are usually so healthy that it doesn’t matter if I finish off that extra broccoli floret or carrot stick!

      Keep taking those pics – I LOVE our BLW pics – they are priceless!

  8. My daughter is almost 7 months old and still isn’t really ready for solids. We’ve been offering her mushy things and also things she can sort of pick up and get in her mouth, but she gags and sometimes needs rescued :(. So, we’re just taking it slowly.

    The girl is off the charts for weight (all breastfed!) and I know she’s not starving. She’s apparently just not quite ready for solids in a substantial way yet.

    • mummyinprovence

      Sounds like you are doing the right thing Kacie – let her decide. She’ll eventually realise that food fills her tummy (around 9-11 months) … breastmilk is an incredible superfood which she is clearly benefiting from!!!

      Keep offering foods and one day she will surprise you by demolishing a broccoli floret or a strip of steak!

      • The other reason that I’m not rushing foods with her — she’s still toothless. Her brother didn’t get his first tooth until around 12 months and if she follows his teething timetable, it’s just going to take awhile before she can eat some things.

        Yeah, she’ll be able to mash some things around. Her gums are pretty strong, yow! But she’ll get it figured out when she’s ready :)

  9. I really wanted to do BLW with my daughter (now almost 14 mo.) I senced, however, BLW was not a good fit for her. She has a SUPER strong gag reflex, and would gag and vomit if I put anything in her mouth that wasn’t the consistency of apple sauce. This gagging / vomiting continued on until she was about 11 months.
    Do you (or readers) have any tips / tricks for a child like this with a strong gag reflex?
    What I ended up doing was pureeing table foods – beef stew, gazpacho, green curry, baingan bharta and the like, and offering that. She eats mostly everything that we eat now, sometimes pureed, sometimes not depending on the consistency, and is a super adventurous baby who loves spicy food.
    Would you have taken a different approach? I’m interested to know for next time!

  10. May

    Hi there, I really want to try BLW but my now 9 month old DD has been spoon fed up until this point. My question is, is it safe after a baby has been spoon fed for 3 months?

    • Ameena Falchetto

      Hi May,

      I’d say YES. Make sure the pieces of food are large enough so your baby can’t choke on it. Cut larger strips of meat, veges etc … let your baby work out how big a bite is required. Trust your baby – offer a spoon for more liquid things (load it up if needed) Keep me posted!

  11. Jill Potter

    Hi, I Really want to do baby led solids (weaning-just don’t like the word :).
    Does baby need to fully sit on their own? My son is 5 days shy of 7 months and holds himself upright but still has to be balanced/held on to. Should we stop and wait?
    I’m SO scared Liam will choke! It terrifies me. But, I do want to do it. How do I get past that?
    How do I know I’m giving him the right size piece of avacado, etc.?
    We’ve just started a couple of days ago…can you give me a boost till I can get the book? ;-)
    Thanks so much in advance.

    • According to the book yes, they should be able to sit up unassisted – was your son born early? The 6 month age is based on a gestation of 40 weeks so if your son was born at 37 weeks he might not be ready until 6 months + 3weeks if that makes sense?

      In terms of making sure it’s a big enough piece it should be able to fit into his fist and have enough of it sticking out for him to gum/put into this mouth!

      Hope that helps! (and good luck!)

  12. Jill Potter

    Me again. He was born at 39 weeks, and will be 7 months old in 6 days… I don’t have a problem waiting if we need to. I just hate to stop letting him explore with us at the dinner table. What do you think about the mesh teether/feeders?

  13. Emma

    Hi there,
    I’ve had to start BLW as my baby simply refuses to be spoon fed (literally turns his head away when a spoonful of puree comes his way – I did try to continue with it though for about 7 weeks until I concluded he wasn’t going to give up and just wanted to try things on his own). I’ve read the book and was really happy to see that when I put food in front of him he goes to put it straight into his mouth and actually looks like he’s enjoying his time in his highchair – but he’s 8 months old next week, and I think he’s still playing with the food mostly. Do you know when most babies start to ‘swallow’ the food purposefully? (We started with BLW almost 4 weeks ago). The main reason I ask is because he used to be a great sleeper but now wakes in the night for food – and I’m worried that it’s because he’s not getting enough solids in the day. I’m not sure how I get around this either, as he won’t take foods any other way?
    Thanks

    • mummyinprovence

      Hi Emma,
      I’ve given my BLW book to a friend but I think it said that 9 months was when they really started to swallow food … is your baby breast or bottle fed? Also, the 9 month mark is based on a 40 week gestation so if your baby was born early it will happen later, and similarly, if late they will do it sooner – I know BiP was a week late and started really swallowing food around 7-7.5m … as for sleep – personally I don’t think night waking is to do with hunger – I know many disagree but from my experience (with a chunky kid) night waking was more to do with the need for comfort vs. hunger.
      Good luck!

  14. Celine

    Ameena!

    Wow, wow, wow. I’ve just read this post and it’s the first time I’ve heard of BLW and it sounds like something I would love to introduce to my little one! She just turned 6 months and I’ve started her on purees and rice cereal. But being a foodie myself, I would much rather her be gnawing on octopus or steak! Going to download Rapley’s book right now.

    Thanks a million!

    • mummyinprovence

      YAY! It’s so much fun and you’ll both LOVE it – it’s so much fun 2 years on seeing BiP be so adventurous with food! If you need any tips give me a shout!

  15. shruti

    hi,
    i have been feeding my little one with a spoon. She sits on my lap while eating. Lately she’s started fussing with the spoon feeding purees so i’d like to give blw a shot. She can’t sit up on her own yet, but she’s fine with support.

    i hope blw is still possible inspite of her not being able to sit up.

  16. Cheree

    We have decided to do BLW and when speaking to fellow mums about our excitement and how we were going to wean baby, I was surprised to hear how many couldn’t get over the no purée thing. I even had one mum say to me once I told her what foods my cherub had tried “so now are you gong to start on purée?”… Um no! So I agree with Elizabeth, ignore those who think it’s weird and odd. It’s perfectly healthy and encouraging your child’s curiosity. And it’s strange how much you change in your own life once you become a mum!

  17. Alisha

    Sometimes discovered undigested food in the baby’s poo. Is is ok? Offering them chunks of food, would it be a burden to the baby’s little digestive system?

  18. Maria

    Hi. My son was born at 32 weeks and now he is 9 months. I started him on solids around 2 months ago bits here bits there. He loves when I put food in his mouth, whatever we are having. Sometimes he accepts the spoon too and sometimes he just hates it. I try to give him mostly what we have. I’ve tried putting him on his throne with pieces of the food that we are having but it will take it 5 min to get bored and start to cry. If I then take him out of his chair and sit him on my lap and continue giving him food directly in his mouth, he will still receive it. I am confused as I don’t know what to do. Should I keep putting food in his mouth with my hands? Should I keep trying putting him on his throne with pieces of food? If so, why does he cries? I like blw but if he doesn’t like his throne and wants me to put food in his mouth how am I going to do it?

  19. Nati

    Hi, I am very interested in BLW. My daughter is 7 months and 1 week old. She is bottle feed and have been eating jar food since 4 months old but I do not trust what is inside…the main reason I want to try it is my 4yo. We have a serious issue with her eating…I still feed her!!! Doctors already are searching and doing tests for her. I am really tired feeding her and fighting for every spoon. She just does not like eating and this is how she was since born.Some saying babies will not starve them self but she would! She is 4 yo and eats baby portions, she is size of 2,5 yo child and weight just 2 stones! I really don’t want this to happen with my second daughter but is it not too late to start?as she have been fed by spoon for 3 months. She can’t sit herself without assistance…

  20. Tara

    Is it ever too late to start BLW? My son is 14 mo. and proving to be an incredibly picky eater. He never liked purees so we’ve served him “real people” food all along, but there are few foods he’ll really eat. We do a mixture of self-feeding and spoon feeding, but I wonder if going all in on self-feeding might improve his eating habits. He’s got other digestive issues so is still drinking 4 bottles a day. I imagine that might make it easier for me to start “late”?

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