Now that Oliver is officially one year old, I feel like I can talk more confidently about our baby led weaning experience and share some meal planning ideas for the 1st year. We knew since before we had Oliver that we wanted to all be able to experience mealtime together and felt that self-feeding and BLW (baby led weaning) might be a good option for our family. I was a little confused at first and didn’t know where to turn to get started, so I followed along with @feedinglittles and @kidseatincolor for some inspiration. Feeding Littles also has an e-course with some great reference sheets for when you’re getting started with baby led weaning.
What is baby led weaning?
If your baby is sitting up on their own and looks interested in your food during meal time, it might be time to switch to solids. Definitely talk to your doctor before switching to solids. I’m just sharing our experience and what has worked for us. The goal of baby led weaning is to expose your child to real food in a natural state from an early age vs pureed foods. Giving your child the opportunity to pick up food from their plate instead of spoon feeding them helps them form good associations with food.
Gagging vs Choking
Won’t my baby choke if I give them solid foods? Aren’t you afraid he’s going to choke? I feel like those are two things family and friends said to us constantly when beginning our baby led weaning journey. Gagging and choking are two very different things. Chances are your kid is going to gag in the beginning. If you are prepared for it, it won’t be that bad. Oliver did a great job working the food up when he took too big of a bite. One thing I read that helped me the most was that there are different signs for choking than there are for gagging. For example, turning red or coughing aren’t signs of choking. Those are signs of gagging. If they can’t make any sounds and are turning purple, that’s obviously when you need to worry. Now I know that also sounds so scary, but preparing the food in a safe way was extremely helpful at preventing any choking. So here’s how we got started. (**Reminder: I am not a health professional – these were just tips that helped me feel calm when starting our BLW journey.)
Starter Foods / Easy Finger Foods for Baby Led Weaning
We started baby led weaning when Oliver was between 5 and 6 months old. We started off with foods that were mushy but not pureed; things like softened/steamed carrots, bananas, steam sweet potato and zucchini spears/sticks. He immediately took to the food and loved it! As he got a little older, we introduced several different options on the plate at a time, so that he could pick up and choose his favorites. The idea of giving children options is my favorite part about baby led weaning. This helps prevent picky eaters and so far so good. We always make sure Oliver has a protein, a vegetable, fruit, cheese and grain on his dish, but don’t feel like you need to do this right away. Starting with one food at a time is a great way to start your BLW journey. Some easy foods to try in the beginning are:
-cherry tomatoes (I cut these up and still half them now at a year old)
….basically anything you eat that isn’t an allergy concern.
Plates and Utensils we’ve loved for Baby Led Weaning
When I was still pregnant, we purchased the silicone dish trays from Stokee baby that go with the highchair, but we rarely use the tray so we’re in need of some new dishes. The silicone ones are great in the beginning and it has prevented any dish flips, as they stick to our dining table so well. We also have used a mini cup for Oliver since introducing him to solids. We never used a sippy cup or one with handles. Stainless steel cups have been a favorite and this ceramic cup was a special gift for Oliver from a friend. He loves both. Also, MontiKids has a great feeding set up in their Level 3 Kit, which includes a placemat, dish, metal spoon and fork, along with a small stainless steel cup. If you want to try out MontiKids (can’t love them more!), click HERE for $60 off your first order. The stainless steel utensils from the kit are the ones Oliver uses everyday and the quality is really beautiful.
I recently purchased a set of these metal spoons and forks, along with these clear glass drinking cups that look like our everyday ones. I’m working on a functional Montessori style kitchen for Oliver, so I will keep you all updated on it. The idea is, he will have his utensils and plates in the mini kitchen cabinets for him to take out before meal time. Speaking of plates, small desert plates work great for kids too!
Meal Ideas for Baby Led Weaning
Once Oliver started eating more, we started to prepare more meals that we could all eat together vs just one food in his dish. Now at 13 months, Ollie eats everything we eat these days. We share the same food at every mealtime, which makes things much easier! One meal prep and I think he’s really developing a palette for a ton of different foods. We recently read that exposing children to any many different foods as possible before 18 months can be super beneficial for preventing picky easters and developing their palette. Here are a few meals that he has loved recently…
BLW Breakfast Ideas
-blueberry muffins with yogurt and bananas
-waffles with avocado and berries on the side
-scrambled eggs with cheese + orange and apple slices
-toast with hummus, cheese, and berries
-pancakes with blueberries and cheese strips on the side
-hard boiled egg with toast and jelly
-Dr.Praeger’s Oaties sticks with bananas on the side
BLW Lunch Ideas
-sweet red pepper strips with beans and tortillas + hummus to dip
-cheese tortellini with broccoli and tomatoes on the side
-mini bagel with hummus and carrots and avocado
-Mac and cheese with peas and fruit on the side
-egg and cheese quesadilla with grapes on the side
-peanut butter and banana sandwich with fruit salad and cheese
BLW Dinner Ideas
-bean burritos with rice and avocado on the side
-salmon with rice, broccoli and sweet potatoes
-pasta with red sauce and a “salad” on the side: cucumbers, olives, tomatoes + you can add a protein too (we eat mostly veggie, but grilled chicken or Dr.Praeger’s veggie “chicken” bites are great on the side)
-grilled shrimp with rice, green beans, carrots and corn
-broccoli and quinoa bites with sweet potatos and salad on the side
-spinach and cheese ravioli with fish or chicken on the side
-pasta salad + veggie burgers
Tips for Baby Led Weaning
It’s going to get MESSY with baby led weaning. Don’t fight it! Once you accept that, it will be a lot easier. I love the Gathre tablecloths and under the highchair mats for easy clean up. We also keep wipes and reusable dishcloths nearby. One of the best things we have done with baby led weaning is give Oliver the opportunity to play with his food, touch and feel all the textures, squeeze things in his hands, etc. I’ve learned if you don’t fight it, it is usually pretty short lived and they move on. We’ve also tried not to make a big deal when things get messy or when he gagged on a food in the beginning. I feel like if we don’t make a big deal, offer a calm response or redirection, it’s easier to move on and less likely to happen again.
Below, we rounded up some of our favorite BLW items. Some are more Montessori based, but I figured I’d share what we have loved. 🙂
1. easy to hold cup | 2. silicone placemat | 3. mini sized silverware | 4. Swedish dishcloths | 5. silicone bib with pocket | 6. reusable dishtowels | 7. small “unbreakable” glass cups (this is what Oliver currently uses) | 8. Tripp Trap highchair | 9. stainless steel cups – this is what we started off with for Oliver | 10. Montessori style placemat | 11. small dishes that mimic your own dinnerware | 12. bamboo bowl with dividers | 13. Gathre mat for use under highchair or as tablecloth | 14. simple bamboo toddler plates | 15. easy grip bamboo utensils | 16. stainless steel bowls