All about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), Part 4: Starting with BLW - When & What

Playing with spoons

Playing with spoons

Readiness Signs

With BLW, solid feeding starts at any point after six months of age when babies demonstrate readiness and interest. Some babies may seem ready at 5½ months, while others may not appear ready until 7-8 months. True readiness signs include: sitting up with little or no support, reaching out to grab things and taking them to her mouth quickly and accurately, and gnawing on toys and making chewing movements; however, the very best sign is when she starts to put food in her mouth herself, if given the opportunity (Rapley & Murkett, 8-9).

When and what should I feed my baby?

Showing he's ready! Just kidding. ;) 

Showing he's ready! Just kidding. ;) 

Offer your baby solids when he's not hungry; breast milk or formula is still his main food source and should be offered before meals. (For example, my son now has breakfast and lunch about an hour after his 7 AM and 11 AM breast milk feedings, respectively; he has dinner around 5:30 PM, between his 3 PM and 7 PM breast milk feedings.) Sitting down to eat solids while hungry might be frustrating if a baby lacks the skills to feed himself or eat the food in front of him. Conversely, if he has had a recent milk feeding, he will be satiated and able to explore and enjoy solids.

There is no need to restrict the variety of food given to your baby. He can have any food except honey (due to the risk of botulism) before he is one year old. Just make sure the food is fresh, nutritious, unprocessed and without added salt or sugar*.

        *Babies’ bodies cannot tolerate more than tiny amounts of salt because their kidneys cannot process a lot of salt. Babies should not have more than one gram of salt (0.4 grams of sodium) per day. Sugar is bad in general, as it only provides empty calories and can damage teeth. (The last post in this series will provide more information about foods to avoid.)

Herbs, oils and seasonings are great! My son loves a plethora of flavors. I’ve used spices such as garlic powder, ground ginger, ground coriander and cumin in his food. His absolute favorite is cinnamon. I’ve also used fresh and dried herbs like basil, mint, Italian seasoning and parsley, as well as oils like coconut, olive, sesame, peanut and vegetable.

Note: If you have a family history of certain food allergies, you may want to consider limiting those respective allergenic foods. Keep in mind, however, that recent research shows that early exposure to allergenic foods often decreases the incidence of food allergies. It could be worth exposing your baby to allergenic foods to see how it goes. Always consult your doctor and/or nutritionist, of course.

We started with one meal (dinner) in my son’s 6th month, a second meal (lunch) in his 7th month, and then a third meal (breakfast) in his 8th month. This slow approach has worked well for us. My philosophy was: why do three meals a day before you really have to? However, some people, including several close friends of mine, immediately started with 2-3 meals a day. It’s up to you how you want to go about it. There is no one right way. Since babies don’t need solids in the beginning, it isn’t necessary to start with three meals a day.

Works Cited
Rapley, Gill, and Murkett, Tracey. Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater. The Experiment, New York: 2008, 2010.