Baby led weaning (BLW) is a slightly odd phrase I’ve never gotten over but it basically refers to letting your baby (6 months + but please talk to your pediatrician for individualized recommendations) eat solids right away. You side-step the puree phase. It’s baby-led eating versus a parent using a spoon to feed the baby.
For expert advice on this subject, refer to this excellent book on baby led weaning* (aka baby led solids) by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. I re-read it often, and find the photos and other practical advice to be invaluable.My daughter gagged a few times but never even got close to choking. I understand it is a valid concern for those new to BLW, though. Another way to gain confidence with this method is to take a baby CPR or safety class. While it is a safe way for baby to learn to eat, you have to be comfortable with it in order to be successful. You do you!
In order to feed my baby and toddler and reduce my household garbage at the same time, I rely on zero waste shopping techniques including:
- Visiting the farmer’s market and buying as much food locally as I can to avoid excess shipping and packaging.
- Utilizing the bulk/loose ingredient sections of my local grocery stores – I scoop the amount of the item I need into my cloth bag and note the bin number to tell the cashier at checkout. They then weigh my bag/the item inside and charge me according to the price per pound of that particular product.
- Buy in larger containers/quantities. If I can’t find something package-free, I buy a large container of it so that the product-to-packaging ratio is low.
- Make my own! Making crackers from scratch using ingredients I can find in the bulk section is simple, quick and I’ll avoid the box and plastic bag from a package of crackers I can buy at the store. Plus I know exactly the ingredients inside and can control the salt/sugar/etc.
If you have questions about my experience with baby led weaning or zero waste, feel free to leave them in the comments or chat with me on Instagram!
My first daughter took to BLW right off the bat – pulling food off my plate and shoveling it into her mouth. Her first food was not planned. A few days shy of turning six months she was sitting on my lap and grabbed a fist-full of shredded barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes. The rest was history.
She eats what we eat. So really any recipe can be a “baby led weaning” recipe. If we have an egg frittata (aka quiche without a crust) with broccoli, cauliflower, sausage and onions for breakfast, she has a slice too. If we have shredded chicken and potatoes for lunch, she has chicken and potatoes. And so on. She may not eat every single thing that we put in front of her but we don’t prepare that much special food for her, and we encourage her to try lots of different flavors. We did try out those mesh feeders * but found that they were incredibly difficult to clean, plus our girl missed out a bit on the texture of food. We ended up using them only for ice/frozen fruit during difficult bouts of teething.
While we don’t typically prepare specific meals for my daughter that are different from ours (that’s one of the absolute joys of choosing baby-led solids!), I do prepare things for the baby to nosh on between meals because they are on the move and eats throughout the day.
Here are the zero-waste snacks I have on hand that are perfect for toddlers and babies (over 6 months!) to nosh on:
- Hard cooked eggs – stored in a glass container in the fridge. Mash with avocado or homemade mayo. Or serve them spears or slices. Fried eggs cut into slices are also fun for babies to grab and eat.
- Sliced or cubed roasted potato (sweet or white) – stored in a glass container in the fridge
- Gluten free cereals and other snacks from the bulk bins – stored in a glass jar in the pantry – probably best for 1 year+
- Home made crackers (I like the recipes from Elana’s Pantry) – stored in a glass jar in the pantry
- Bananas – they ALWAYS come with huge stickers and sometimes that weird blue tape but since bananas are healthy and a baby/toddler favorite, we continue to buy them every. single. day. Cut into spears for younger babies.
- Other fruit – Apples, pears, mango, etc. cut into spears so they’re easy for baby to grasp. Store in a glass container in the fridge.
- Cooked or blanched carrot spears – not mushy but not hard, carrots are a slightly sweet treat that babies love!
- Chia pudding – There are lots of recipes out there. I use coconut milk and vanilla extract. Sometimes honey or maple syrup. Or jam. Note: do not sweeten with honey for babies under 1 year
- Beans – Favorites here are garbanzo/chick pea and black beans. Buy in the bulk/loose section and cook up a small amount to keep in the fridge or freezer.
- And my favorite… Leftovers! A spear of last nights steak or chicken, meatloaf, a dollop of mashed potatoes, or some crusty bread can be baby food! Don’t overthink it.
One of my favorite things about BLW is that it’s also a baby activity – playing with food by smearing it around on their plate/mat, sucking on food, even if they don’t actually swallow a lot of it is a great play time for babies. While I monitor my kids meal and snack time carefully, I don’t have to actually sit and spoon food into their mouth, either. I can just hang out and enjoy the time spent together versus having the “job” of feeding.
I love this image of first foods for baby from Cup of Jo:
Hey-o, here’s an important disclosure: I am not a doctor and this should not be considered expert advice on baby led weaning. Consult your pediatrician before you start to feed your baby solid foods. Babies should be fed exclusively breastmilk until 6 months.
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