Silver Lining: baby-led weaning: how we never bought or made baby food

March 24, 2017

baby-led weaning: how we never bought or made baby food

When my oldest was six months old, I hadn't done much research on feeding babies, so I did what I kind of assumed you were supposed to do: baby oatmeal cereal added into formula or breastmilk, and then months and months of store-bought (and a few homemade) purees. And every single time I fed my baby, I thought, "This is so gross."

Have you ever tried baby food? Never. Taste. Them. (Although my baby was used to drinking formula, so I guess anything's an upgrade from that.) Plus they're super processed, they're not like real food humans eat, they are dang expensive, and they don't teach your baby what real food feels or tastes like. But I thought it was just what you had to do, so I did it.

Then, when my baby was nine months old, I heard about baby-led weaning, and since the day I researched it, two more kids later, I have yet to buy another puree, puff or yogurt melt.

If traditional pureed baby food is what works for you and your baby, absolutely go for it. But here's what has been a much better fit for our family.

B A B Y - L E D   W E A N I N G

In a phrase, baby-led weaning is all about babies feeding themselves real food.

Instead of buying or making pureed foods, give them real foods. Instead of spooning bites into their mouth, put the food on the tray and let them feed themselves. It's that simple.

When I first heard about baby-led weaning, I was feeding my daughter a tupperware full of sweet potato puree with one hand while also scrolling through a friend's blog post about this "babies feed themselves" crazy talk. I put down the phone and opened the fridge to see what I could experiment with. I found an avocado, cut a big slice, and put the whole slice on her tray. You guys, she was SO happy, and the entire thing disappeared in about 30 seconds flat. (In fact, she ate it so quickly I was convinced she was choking.) (She wasn't.) The next food I introduced was a third of a banana, and then a steamed baby carrot.

With my younger babies, I've been doing the same thing. We start with avocado, and then gradually increase to other foods, and all three of my babies have been quite enthusiastic. They all got into it at slightly different ages, but once they were interested in real food (aka once they started dive bombing for whatever food I was eating), they've all done great.


+ Your child gets exposed to more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed food.

+ Your child gets used to different textures and flavors early, and lots of studies have suggested this makes them less picky eaters.

+ It's much cheaper because you don't have to buy baby food.

+ The prep time is practically nothing because you don't have to make baby food; your child literally just eats what you're already eating.

+ Your child learns better hand/eye coordination and fine motor "pincer grasp" control.

+ Eating becomes something your whole family does together. There's no kid food vs adult food, there's just food.

+ It's easier to go places, because you don't have to pack up special food for the baby in addition to whatever you're already bringing or buying for yourself.


+ Your baby will sometimes gag when they're just starting. Gagging is different from choking, and babies actually gag as a way to move food around in their mouth. It's totally fine and normal, and gagging is what helps their gag reflex develop normally. Obviously you have to be watching your children when they eat no matter what, and I don't give large whole grapes, or any other food that's a choking hazard in the beginning.

+ Usually, with baby-led weaning, you start at around 6 months old, when your baby is better at sitting up unassisted and picking things up by themselves. Sometimes, with purees, you can start as early as 4 months, so if you're super anxious to have your kitchen be a disaster every time the baby eats, I guess it's a con that you have to wait a month or two. (I get it, as an excited new parent it's sometimes hard to wait for the next milestone.)

+ It is MESSY in the beginning. Brace yourself that at least 50% of the food will end up on the floor or smushed into your baby's hair in the beginning. But I promise it gets a lot better very quickly; these babies really do pick up this whole "eating real food" thing faster than you'd think.

GOOD FOODS TO START: (anything 2-3 inches long and fairly soft is great to start)

+ fresh vegetables: avocado, peeled cucumber
+ fresh fruits: banana, strawberries, apple, pear, mango
+ steamed vegetables: carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, green beans, zucchini
+ protein/ dairy: scrambled eggs, black beans, turkey, chicken
+ puree-like real foods: applesauce, yogurt (I'll sometimes break my own rule and spoon feed these to my babies to avoid a mess)
+ grains: crackers, whole-grain cereal, veggie straws, bread, pasta

The other day we were FaceTiming with some family during dinner, and they were like, "AH! Addison got her hands on a a huge thing of broccoli! Help her!" It was a nice, soft piece I purposely picked out from our meal to give to her. I explained she's eaten broccoli before, and then naturally we spent the next five minutes watching her gnaw on it and grin and drool green drool everywhere until the whole thing was gone. (Family: the only people who are remotely interested in watching your daughter eat broccoli.) 

See the baby-led weaning website here, or just google for more people's experiences and ideas of first foods. We love these cover-all bibs and also these easy-wipedown silicon bibs to help contain the mess. Everyone alive recommends these super cheap IKEA high chairs (which sadly are permanently out of stock at my local IKEA), so we have these ones that attach to a chair instead. They're also cheap, and I love that the tray can go straight into the dishwasher.


That's been our family's experience with baby-led weaning.
Easy, cheap, no prep, and everyone eats together as a family.
Any other fans of baby-led weaning out there?

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