Our Baby led weaning Journey
"Baby-led weaning (often also referred to as BLW) is a method of adding complementary foods to a baby's diet of breastmilk or formula. A method of food progression, BLW facilitates the development of age appropriate oral motor control while maintaining eating as a positive, interactive experience. Baby-led weaning allows babies to control their solid food consumption by "self-feeding" from the very beginning of their experiences with food"
I decided to use the Baby led weaning method on Ottilie after watching how successful it was for my niece and nephew. Below are a timeline of photos from Ottilies first tastes to where we are now.
I read the Baby led weaning book by Gill Rapley before I begun on our journey. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of using this method. Not only for the tips and tricks but to fully understand the benefits this can have for our little ones.
When Ottilie turned 4 months I began by giving Ottilie a taste of carrot through a typical spoon and pouch method in order to let her have a taste for the first time.
I then bought the Hipp Organic baby rice which I mixed with her Hipp Organic formula. As you can see from the photos below I simply gave it to her in a bowl with a spoon. The bowl pictured was amazing as you put hot water in the inside of it and it keeps the food nice and warm – this is especially useful in the early months when they are just testing it which can take quite a long time. Ottilie wasn’t overly keen on the baby rice but I kept making it each morning to create a routine around food – often adding plain apple puree to add a bit of texture and taste.
Around 5 months I started using a ‘nuby nibbler’ with fresh fruit inside such as watermelon and banana so she could begin to suck on the fruits without getting and big lumps or pieces while still getting a feel for the juice and textures. I found this little net so useful as I could take it out and about with me and just fill it with whatever was on offer. The nets themselves can often get a bit discoloured from the fruits but I just put ours in the washing machine every once in a while.
Hand tip – Freeze the fruit inside the net and it is a great natural teether
At 6 months, often the recommended weaning age, I introduced more solid food. I started with overcooked broccoli, carrot, soft rice and yoghurt. Ottilie had already been feeding herself through the net so was confident picking the food and very good at getting it into her mouth – this is one of the big benefits with the BLW method as they learn the age appropriate oral motor movement skills.
Toast was also a really good first food for her to chew munch and crunch on. I simply buttered initially and then slowly started adding thin layers of cream cheese or homemade jam. Ottilie loved sucking the topping off and as a result eating the disintegrated toast.
I have always been incredibly OCD and pregnancy made it 100% worse so you can imagine how difficult the baby led method was for me originally. I have tried all sorts of cleaning methods over the course of our journey including killing a poor hoover through getting it so suck up her dinner each day. I find the best way is to just let them make the mess and use a dustpan and brush along with a cloth to clear it up after. Baby wipes are also very good at getting the tough (broccoli in particular) off the floors, tables and highchairs.
I was given a lovely highchair from my sister as a welcome to the world present and it has been perfect for the Baby led method – It has a tray on top which was great for removing after the meal and simply wiping down as well as being able to place the food on the tray instead of using a bowl or plate which at this stage would simply end up on the floor.
Above Ottilie is trying low sugar baked beans for the first time. They are a nice food to have every known and again to perfect the gripping motion with their fingers as they can be quite fiddly and slippery. There have been plenty of foods that Ottilie has not liked the first time but I have always stuck to the 7 tries before giving up rule and so far so good as she seems to need time to get used to some foods before fully enjoying them – fish being a prime example.
I also found that Ottilie was more likely to eat well and spend time on the food when she was already full from her milk. At the beginning they aren’t eating to fill up so a hungry baby can make a frustrated one which isn’t always best when you want them to show interest and try new foods.
I began introducing different flavours and textures into her meals quite early on. The photos above are Ottilie at 8 months having some broccoli with creme fraiche. Doing the majority of our messy weaning during the summer months was definitely a bonus as she would often just eat in a nappy and I could rinse her down in the sink afterwards!
When the English weather allowed we also ate outside quite a lot – for some reason she seems to eat 10x as much as soon as we eat alfresco!
Ottilie loves using her fingers and getting messy with the food – thats one of the reasons I love this method. It seems so much more natural for her to feed herself and decide what she would like to try and determine when she has had enough without me telling her. I believe it creates a sense of control for them which builds their independence naturally. She has also been introduced to textures, smells and colours from a very early age so there is nothing she will not try or touch.
Around 10 months I started making Ottilie snack plates for breakfast and dinner. I like the idea of her having choice over what she wants to eat and in what order. I have never told her to eat the savoury first or that sweet is a treat. It may massively backfire on me one day when she only wants pudding but for now I dont think there is anything wrong with her eating her fruit and yoghurt before her rice and veg. Most foods I make fresh for her but due to early starts I often batch make plain pancakes and freeze so I can defrost them each morning to have a pre made breakfast sorted.
People have often shown concern for this method when they see Ottilie eating as they worry she will choke on pieces she is given. I have always followed one rule which is to cut the food in big pieces making them too large to choke on. She has often gagged on food but that has been more often than not due to the texture being new or strange or shoving too much in in one go – something she still does when faced with all her favourite snacks! One thing sure to make her gag is my homemade mashed potato – much to my disappointment!
I was worried just before Ottilie turned a year old as she was still nibbling on food and not tucking in and I wasn’t sure how I was every going to wean her off milk and onto solely solids. However almost exactly on her first birthday she decided to double her intake and portions and found a complete love for snacks. She also starting using a spoon and fork properly and using her already very good motor skills with the new tools.
The perks of this method are that when you are out and about you don’t need to pack a million pouches, jars or tubs of homemade bits. They can simply eat whatever is available given it isn’t crazy high in salt or sugar. When we went to Mexico Ottilie simply ate what was on offer – Most fresh fruit yoghurt and steamed veg with the odd bit of quesadilla or rice and pasta.
I really enjoy it when Ottilie simply has the same meal as us. It may mean nothing to her but to me its involving her in what we do and eat. If she sees us eating the same as what is on offer to her she will have no issues trying or eating it either. They are mini versions of us and little sponges to what they see – therefore If we eat well and the right foods, so will she.
"According to one theory, the baby will choose foods with the nutrients she might be slightly lacking, guided by taste The baby learns most effectively by watching and imitating others, and allowing her to eat the same food at the same time as the rest of the family contributes to a positive weaning experience"
The basic principles of baby-led weaning are:
- At the start of the process the baby is allowed to reject food, and it may be offered again at a later date.
- The child is allowed to decide how much it wants to eat. No “fill-ups” are to be offered at the end of the meal with a spoon.
- The meals should not be hurried.
- Sips of water are offered with meals.
- Initially, soft fruits and vegetables are given. Harder foods are lightly cooked to make them soft enough to chew on even with bare gums.
- Foods with clear danger, such as peanuts, are not offered.
- Non-finger-foods, such as oatmeal and yogurt, may be offered with a spoon so the baby can learn to self-feed with a spoon.