Baby Led Weaning: A Different Approach to Feeding Solids

I don’t know about most moms, but I was really excited and anxious to start feeding Porter solids. I don’t know why, but I thought it would be fun, and I imagined that he was going to be a wonderful little eater and that we would have no problems whatsoever. I guess I’m naive and I’m still so starstruck by my own child that I anticipate him being perfect in every way. Well, as you can probably see where this is going, this didn’t happen for us.

We waited until Porter was 6 months old until we started solids. I considered starting a little earlier (the recommended time is between 4 and 6 months) but when we went to Porter’s 4 month check up, the doctor didn’t see any need to start then and said to wait until he was 6 months old. Part of me was disappointed. Ha! How stupid I was! I should have been thankful. Looking back, I realize it’s so much easier to nurse Porter for his meals instead of figuring out what solid food he is going to eat.

We started with a little bit of rice cereal. We started on a Sunday, because I wanted David to be able to witness this milestone. We busted out the camera and the video camera and were convinced to document Porter’s first time eating solids–surely this would result in adorable pictures and videos that we would look at and admire in years to come.

So we stuck Porter in his Mama & Papa chair, mixed up a little bit of cereal with some breast milk and attempted to feed it to him. Simply put, the experience was a complete and utter failure. Porter did not like the cereal. At all. Almost immediately he cried, arched his back away from the spoon, and turned his head. We tried a few more times and then accepted the fact it wasn’t going to happen…at least not that day.


I love how you can see Porter’s ultrasound pictures in the background still hanging on the side of our fridge. July2013-2July2013-6July2013-12July2013-15July2013-16

We have a video, too, but I didn’t want to torture you with that.

The following day I tried again, and the same exact thing happened. I knew that maybe Porter just wasn’t ready, but I decided to try a little bit of the rice cereal to see what it tasted like. After tasting it, I knew why Porter didn’t want to eat the cereal. It’s not that it was bland and didn’t taste like anything. Because it did taste like something–something bad. It was gross! I know I could have tried a different cereal, tried making it with water instead of breast milk or tried adding a bit of fruit to sweeten it up. However, I vowed to not give him rice cereal again, and I decided to try avocado the next day.  I wasn’t too worried about making this decision. Many people skip cereal altogether to begin with because it is more for practice anyway (with the added bonus of some iron.)

Since I was moving on to “purees, ” I dutifully made a few different purees that night after Porter went to bed. I made pureed apples, carrots, avocados, pears, and sweet potatoes. I had done some research on some good “first purees” and I also had a few books, so I went to grocery store to purchase fresh produce earlier that afternoon.  I froze all the purees and felt prepared for this next adventure.

The next day I attempted to give Porter some pureed avocado. He took a bite, but the experience wasn’t much better than the rice cereal. I didn’t think too much of it. From my reading I knew that it could take several times for a baby to try a food before liking it. I also knew that it was recommended that you give the same food for 3-4 days in a row, in case any allergic reaction were to occur. Then you would know which food was likely the culprit. Since I had made several different purees, I felt prepared and ready for that.

So, the following day I gave him avocado again, and again for two more days after that. Each day was like the first. He had no interest and did not like spoons coming at his face filled with things he didn’t know. For about two weeks I tried giving him the different purees I had made (as well as bananas, but I just mashed those) and I always adhered to the 3-4 day rule. Each experience was like the last. Sometimes he would take a bite or two, but he never expressed much interest for any of it. Sometimes there would be crying, but always, ALWAYS our attempt resulted in a huge mess. I began to stress about the fact that he wasn’t eating, even though I knew he was receiving all the nutrition he needed from breast milk. I also stressed about what food I should try to feed him next. Throughout this trial-and-error process, I made some discoveries. I noticed that it wasn’t that Porter didn’t like spoons (because that would be a weird fear), but that he wanted to be in control of the spoon. If I gave him an empty spoon, he would immediately put it in his mouth. I tried putting a bit of puree on a spoon and giving it to him a few times, but that always resulted in pureed whatever in his hair, on the wall, or on the floor (which Maggie always appreciated.)

When Porter was only a few months old, I read an article in a parenting magazine that suggested skipping purees altogether and moving straight to finger foods. It sounded crazy, like nutso I am a careless mom and I’m going to let my kid choke on a carrot crazy. I understood the claims of the article, but I brushed it aside and never thought about it again. Until now.

I did some more research, ran the idea by David, borrowed a book from my friend Megan and decided to give it a go. At first I was convinced that my child would never eat real food, because it didn’t go well when we first began. The first several foods I tried ended up on the floor and while a few food items went up to his mouth, he didn’t actually eat anything for a long time. This went on for about two weeks, and I began to get really frustrated. In those two weeks, I think he took one bite of steamed carrots. Nevertheless, I kept trying. Most days he would play with the food and not eat it.

Then one weekend we went to go visit my sister in Indy. It was the same trip as the teething incident. We had tacos for dinner and as we were eating, I decided to plop some refried beans on the tray of his Mama & Papa chair. He immediately put his hands in it–and I knew he would–but it didn’t take him long to put those hands into his mouth, and he LOVED them. It probably wasn’t the best “first real food” for him, but it was the only food that he took more than one bite of in the past few weeks. Ever since then, he’s been a pretty good eater, and he eats a large variety of food.

And it’s easy. Oh my gosh is it easy.

Instead of making and pureeing my own food for him, we literally just give him bits and pieces of whatever we’re eating (within reason) and of course we’re steering clear from the traditional foods that a baby shouldn’t have under one year of age (peanut butter, egg whites, honey, nuts, etc.) Sometimes he still eats some pureed stuff (I had a bunch in the freezer after all! He loves carrots+apples and avocados+bananas!), but for the most part, we don’t have to worry about what he’s going to eat, and we don’t have to worry about the infamous “3 day rule.” I know there is still a chance that he could have an allergic reaction to something and we wouldn’t know exactly what caused it, but the chances are slim, and the research I did said that most babies have mature enough stomachs at 6 months to handle a variety of foods. {Please keep in mind that I am no doctor nor do I have any sort of medical background. Plus, while I did read a book on Baby Led Weaning, I also did a lot of my research on good old Google.}

And it’s amazing to watch him eat. Even when his teeth were just coming in and barely there, he could chew! He would grab the food himself and literally take a bite. He would chew that one bite for a long time and sometimes half of it came back out of his mouth, but he was definitely eating.

Beware though: if you try the Baby Led Weaning approach, some people might call you crazy. Mothers, sisters, other family members, and even strangers will cringe and tell you that your baby is going to choke or that whatever you are feeding him is too large or too hard. Trust your instincts and talk to your doctor, but above all, watch and learn from your baby. After a few weeks, I knew that this was the best choice for us.

If you attempt Baby Led Weaning, keep in mind that your baby will gag, and you may think he/she is choking. However, there is a huge difference between gagging and choking (as much of my research explained to me.) For babies, their gag reflex is so close to the tip of their tongue (until it gradually moves back to where it is for adults). This means that they gag very easily, but that’s okay. Gagging does not equal choking. With gagging, babies make noise; choking is silent. Don’t get me wrong–it’s still scary, especially at first, but your baby will learn and adjust and once he/she gets accustomed to more foods and textures, he/she will gag less.

We’ve been feeding Porter with the Baby Led Weaning approach for a little over two months now, and he’s tried a lot of foods. There have been plenty of things he hasn’t liked (he still isn’t a fan of carrots by themselves) but there are so many things that he likes that I never thought an 8 month old would. He loves meat (chicken is his favorite, but he tried some pork tenderloin the other night and he couldn’t get it into his mouth fast enough!) He loves watermelon, grilled cheese, and yogurt. He likes a lot of fruits and veggies, too. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going, and I see him developing into a very good eater. When it comes time for baby number two, and when it’s time to start feeding baby number two solids, I will not hesitate to try the Baby Led Weaning approach again.

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8 thoughts on “Baby Led Weaning: A Different Approach to Feeding Solids”

  1. It was my great cooking that got him started 😉 I take all the credit lol! He really is such a great eater. You guys have done such a great job. I am def afraid of him chocking but I always will be :) Love you guys!

  2. This is exactly what I needed to read today. After two weeks of struggling with my otherwise “easy” baby to get him to eat I have been feeling so frustrated. I recently thought to try the BLW way and he still only plays with the food. You have given me hope! :) I will keep trying and I guess he will eat it when he is ready. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Anna! I’m so glad you found this helpful. I remember how frustrated I was with feeding, so I can definitely relate. Let me know if you have any questions, and keep me updated! :)

  3. Hey there, You’ve done a wonderful task. I will certainly delicious the idea and also professionally recommend in order to my girlfriends. We’re assured they shall be benefited from this site.

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