Baby-Led Weaning with Real Food

As an advocate for real, healthy, local foods, I was dreading introducing solids to my son.  I just couldn’t imagine having his first food be processed cereal.  I’d also seen jarred baby food and was completely grossed out by it.  Nobody could tell me that those were the best choice for my son’s health; my instincts said we needed to take a different route.  After discussing the topic of introducing solids with some twitter friends, I got recommendations for two books that I love and recommend to all parents:

What I learned was basic- to allow Joshua to choose what he would eat and what he didn’t want to eat; to allow him to feed himself; to offer him plenty of healthy foods to choose from; to put away the food mill and spoon; most importantly, to relax!

Instead of giving bland cereal as a first food, I looked to the season.  Joshua turned six months in September: apple season.  It has always felt appropriate to me that Joshua was a spring baby, and it seemed fitting that Joshua’s first food was applesauce.  Homemade, chunky applesauce made from apples grown on the farm where I grew up, that I picked as I walked through the orchard with my mother and carried Joshua on my back.  While processed cereal didn’t feel right, applesauce sure did.  I spooned a small bit of applesauce into a bowl for Joshua and allowed him to squish it between his fingers to his heart’s content.  He wiped it in his hair and it got on his bib and on the floor.  Not much made it into his mouth, but that didn’t matter.  Breast milk supplies all of the nutrition he needs, and solids at six months are about learning: taste, texture, aroma and hand-eye coordination.

Cold apple slices quickly became a favorite for my teething baby.

Now nine months old, Joshua has sampled all of the following (in no particular order):

  • Fruits: apples, applesauce, banana, avocado, blueberries, raspberries, cranberry-applesauce, dried papaya
  • Veggies: butternut squash, potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, snap peas, green beans, corn, green squash, cucumber, vegetable broth, salsa, tomato sauce, (sometimes veggies were topped with olive oil or butter)
  • Meats: beef (steak, ground beef), pork (pork chop/roast, sausage), turkey (roasted and ground), chicken, salmon, haddock, scrambeled eggs
  • Dairy: cream-top yogurt (banana, blueberry and peach flavored), sour cream, cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, American cheese, cream cheese, butter
  • Bread/grains: toast, pizza crust, whole wheat tortilla, bagel, pasta with and without tomato sauce, Italian bread, pancakes, stuffing, organic puffs and teether biscuits

And most certainly other foods that I’ve forgotten to mention.  At his nine-month check-up, his doctor was impressed that we don’t buy baby food and told me to continue to introduce foods using the baby-led approach.  The doctor said most advice about solids including which foods to offer in which order are based on old wive’s tales and not on sound science, and that holding off on introducing foods such as meats can deprive babies of essential nutrients (like iron, which is more easily absorbed from breastmilk and meats than from fortified cereals).  The only foods he said to wait on are peanuts and peanut butter, honey and cow’s milk.  (For safety information on introducing solids, see the books listed above.)

Joshua loves to feed himself and while this approach is messy, it has been a perfect fit for our family.


Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, parenting

8 responses to “Baby-Led Weaning with Real Food

  1. I followed a baby-led approach with my second child, and more of a parent-led approach with my first. The baby-led approach wasn’t really widely-practiced in 2005, so I didn’t know about it then.

    Anyways, I can tell you that it’s MUCH easier and less stressful to follow the baby’s lead. I’m so glad I learned about it!

  2. Thank you so much for including the books! I’ve determined that BLW is what we are going to do with our little spring baby and I’m really looking forward to learning more about it… while I only have one child to parent, this is the perfect time for me to read up!

  3. I did similar things with both of my kids. We started with cereal with the first, but quickly dumped it. We have a tendency to make highly spiced foods , so I used to make up mashed fruits and veggies and freeze leftovers in ice cube trays. Baby food completely grosses me out, so that was never even a consideration.

  4. The pictures seem to show that he is eating solids really well! Have you read the books?

  5. With my first, I followed BLW to the letter and we loved it… it worked out really well for us. The second time around, BLW, for us, has evolved to mean just giving Stella whatever food we happen to be eating and not necessarily letting her go at it, making a mess, etc. A lot of it is just time– with a toddler running around, I just don’t have time anymore to clean up a huge mess! But either way, I love that we don’t have buy baby food or puree stuff ALL. THE. TIME. It’s kind of the same as breastfeeding– you never have to worry that your baby will go hungry!
    (Stella had peanut butter at 7 months, by accident, but since we don’t have any allergies, I didn’t worry about it! She did have dairy today for the first time, really, and spit up a ton! So, we’re pulling back on the dairy until she’s a little older.)

  6. Hi there! Love your blog. We have only done baby-led solids with our little one, too. We haven’t had a problem with peanut butter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (if you believe all they say), there’s no reason to delay foods past six months on the basis of allergies. This obviously doesn’t hold true for those with family history of allergies, etc. I find peanut butter to be a great, easy source of protein. Good luck with BLS!

  7. Jennifer Buske

    Thanks so much for the great info and your pictures are adorable- and helpful! After reading this, I want to try a “chunkier” puree for the twins. I have been buying organics in bulk and freezing the food. It’s a huge savings, esp when we are buying for twins. I too, do a lot of baking. My brother, Jamie, and I are also from a farm:) I have seen pictures of us eating this way, in our highchairs at 6 months too! One of my girls, Everlynn, is not fond of the spoon. She is all about her fingers and I am going to give into that now. I may have to be more careful about choking issues, as they are a little behind/ very premature.
    Thanks again. I will stop in often:)

    • I’m glad you found my post useful! Choking makes me very nervous, too, so I understand! I would think baby-led weaning and allowing your babies to self-feed will make it easier on you, too. I can just imagine how hard you have to work to take care of twins!

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