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Baby Led Weaning: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents

Your baby has finally made it to that magical point in life where table foods are fair game. Woohoo!! Congratulations! As a seasoned mom, I can tell you that this is an exciting moment. But if you're asking yourself.. "what do I do now?" You're not alone. 

Navigating the world of infant feeding can be overwhelming, especially for plant-based families. However, one approach gaining popularity is baby-led weaning (BLW). BLW empowers babies to explore and self-feed solid foods from the get-go, promoting independence and a fun, exploratory relationship with what's on their plate. Here's how to embrace BLW and create a positive first-foods experience for everyone.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning is a feeding approach where babies are introduced to solid foods at around six months of age, skipping the purees and letting them feed themselves from the family table. This method encourages babies to explore various tastes, textures, and flavors at their own pace, fostering a positive relationship with food from the start.

Is Baby Led Weaning safe for plant-based infants?

BLW aligns well with plant-based principles, emphasizing whole, unprocessed foods and encouraging babies to enjoy the same meals as the rest of the family. By introducing a variety of plant-based foods early on, you're laying the foundation for lifelong healthy eating habits.

Baby Led Weaning Tips for Success:

1. Start with Soft, Easy-to-Hold Foods:

Offer cooked vegetables like sweet potato sticks, broccoli florets, or avocado slices. Soft fruits like bananas, ripe pear, and steamed apple are also great options. Make sure that whatever you offer is soft enough that you can squish it between your thumb and index finger.


2. Offer a Variety of Textures:

Introduce foods with different textures to help develop your baby's chewing skills. Cooked grains like quinoa or oats, soft beans, and tofu are excellent choices.


3. Encourage Self-Feeding:

Allow your baby to explore foods with their hands, promoting independence and fine motor skills development. PSA: they will make a mess! Its OK! This is part of the process and necessary for them to feel at ease at the table. Save any wiping, interrupting and cleanup for the very end. 


4. Be Mindful of Allergens:

Introduce common allergens like nuts, seeds, and soy gradually and one at a time, watching for any adverse reactions. Call your pediatrician if concerns arise or dial 911 if you are worried about a serious allergic reaction. 


5. Make Mealtime Enjoyable:

Sit together as a family during meals, modeling healthy eating habits and creating a positive mealtime environment. Do not focus on how your child is doing, whether they are eating, dropping food on the floor, or putting guacamole on in their hair. Instead, model the behavior of sitting, chatting and connecting as a family. This is what matters most. 

 

Are there any downsides to Baby Led Weaning?

While BLW offers numerous benefits, it's essential to be aware of potential challenges. Some babies may initially struggle with gagging as they learn to manage solid foods. However, this is a normal part of the learning process and usually diminishes with time as their gag reflex moves further back in their mouth. Additionally, it's crucial to ensure your baby is getting enough iron and other essential nutrients through a varied plant-based diet. 

For this reason, if may be helpful to offer BLW in addition to pureed foods, as your baby is more likely to actually take in more purees at first. 

Here are my top 10 baby led weaning foods to offer.

Start by offering one per day... and let the experiment begin!

 

1. Steamed sweet potato (peeled and sliced into strips)

2. Avocado (sliced and rolled in ground flax seeds or nutritional yeast to make it easier to grip)

2. Bananas

4. Steamed baby carrots

5. Fresh mango (peeled and sliced into strips)

6. Raspberries

7. Polenta fries

8. Noodles (experiment with shapes and sizes!)

9. Refried beans

10. Steamed broccoli

 

In conclusion, baby-led weaning is a natural and intuitive way to introduce solid foods to your little one, and is completely doable within a plant-based lifestyle. By offering a diverse array of nutrient-rich plant foods and allowing your baby to explore at their own pace, you're setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Embrace the journey, celebrate their discoveries, and enjoy nourishing your baby with the goodness of plant-based foods.

Ready to plan an entire week of plant based meals your kids will actually eat?

Check out my Meal Planning Guide!

Let's go!