For each of my 3 kids, I’ve always wondered how I would know when they were ready for solid food. Each baby has been interested at different times but all have given me the same clues as to when. Since they have all been breastfed I also wanted to know that the food they started with was nutritious since it’s replacing a part of that “liquid gold” also known as breastmilk! See what baby led weaning foods we have used and how to know if your baby is ready.
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What’s the deal with baby led weaning?
To me, it’s the most chill approach!
While it may be a new hip term, this has been going on for ages. The idea is to allow your baby to start feeding themselves soft solid foods (so skipping purees) when they show signs of readiness.
And to ultimately feed themselves, which means being able to pick up little soft foods. We have used a bit of a hybrid of baby led weaning with common sense, which I define as offering my baby little bits of chewed up foods when he seems interested until he can pick up and swallow other soft food on his own. And then eventually food he can chew. It’s low pressure because most of his nutrition is still coming from breastmilk, and I’m happy he is getting to try so many new things!
He just turned one yesterday, and because we have chewed up so many things for him that we eat, he has already had things like chicken, steak, beans, fresh fruits and steamed veggies, rice, curries, and much much more! As he has gotten teeth and a better ability to swallow, he can now snack on things I used to be afraid to give him like cereals or our favorite on the go Gerber snacks
How we have started solids differently with each of our 3 kids
Each baby has been different and I was a more confident mom with each. I had no idea I had even tried the method “baby led weaning” until reading about it… I think it’s a pretty natural and normal progression.
Kid 1: I tried so hard to start rice cereal mixed with breast milk with him in hopes that he would sleep longer because I was SO SO tired and he was a huge baby waking up every 2 hours for like 6 months. But he wasn’t ready for even that, only wanted mamas milk, and his natural reflexes just made it so he pushed it out with his tongue every time.
We switched to Gerber fruit and vegetable purees later once he was interested (I can’t remember how old). And eventually chunkier soft foods like sweet potato and avocados. We did not technically do “baby led weaning” here as I was feeding him purees with a spoon, rather than him feeding himself at a later time. But this worked really well for us, and allowed me to nurse a lot less during the day.
Kid 2: She had no interest in pureed food. Or rice cereals. They just wouldn’t go down. She would turn her head away and spit it out. She is still my pickiest eater 😉 So we breastfed until she was ready for the softer food we ate at the table, which she clued us in when she wanted. Her first food was really chewed up meat, which is a fabulous first food actually to replace decreasing amounts of iron carried in breastmilk. It was obvious because she was reaching for it and making grunting noises and could bring her hands to her mouth. This is more my first baby led weaning experience.
Kid 3: I had no time, nor interest in making pureed baby foods with 3 under 5. It wasn’t until I felt this busy that I realized how unnecessary pureed foods are when I could just chew up foods I’m already eating. (unless your baby enjoys it and you enjoy it too)!
At first I just started offering him little flavor nibbles from my plate after he turned 6 months. Like a tiny crumb of pancake with syrup or a tiny, tiny chewed up piece of my meat. He would make a weird face like “what was that?!” After a while he learned how to swallow better and then I’d try a tad bigger chewed chunk. It certainly made me try to eat healthier foods so I’m not chewing up junk food.
Pre-chewing their food at meal times
Whatever food I fed him at first was chewed up so that it could slide down his throat with a tiny bit of effort with little or no gagging at all. At first, I’d just put a tiny bit in their mouth to see if he would keep it in there and swallow it. This is the least messy way to feed a baby I’ve found, and got them eating what I had already made and exposed them to tons of new flavors! When he got a little older and could pick things up, I’d put it on his high chair.
I was so paranoid about choking that I made everything really small and very well chewed up. Baby led weaning doesn’t officially call for pre-chewing food, unless you put it on their plate for them to pick up.
Now prechewing regular table food isn’t as glamorous as whipping out purees, but guess what? It made it so that my baby could eat other nutritious food like meat or vegetable soup I made without needing a blender and without worrying about choking. And as my baby got better at swallowing, I could put soft foods on his tray rather than chewing anything up. And no extra work for me! (I love that!).
Every baby is different but sometime between 6-9 months you will see them interested in table food, and that’s a great sign to start offering things.
Signs your baby may be ready to try solids
It’s recommended by the World Health Organization to not introduce solids before 6 months, and then to start incorporating table foods while still breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
Reaching for what you have.
Interested in being in a high chair at the table.
Can sit up on their own.
New teeth, although tons of babies without teeth are interested in soft solids.
Grunting every time they see you eating and not sharing.
You have tried putting something pre-chewed and tiny in their cheek and they are able to swallow it.
Baby led weaning foods and snacks we love
Here, at meals, my baby gets whatever we make for dinner and if needed I chew it up a bit and put it on his plate. So tonight, that was rice, steamed broccoli, and chicken that I had to chew up a little for him first. He still nurses a lot so snacks are mostly for when we go out places.
In addition to the balls of prechewed goodness I put in his mouth or on the plate, I try and carry some good for you nutritious snack options for outings. Especially like at church or the park when I could tell he was getting hungry but didn’t want to breastfeed right then and there.
One easy and nutritious choice I found for on the go were snacks like Gerber Puffs, Yogurt Melts and Lil’ Crunchies! They have a huge variety to keep babies happy and snacking smart. With babies and toddlers every little bite counts and plays a meaningful role in their nutrition as well as being able to self-feed. Gerber has good-for-you ingredients like whole grains, real fruit and yogurt, with none of the “bad stuff” like artificial flavors and synthetic colors. Plus they are easy for my boy to grab and also to chew on with his 4 teeth. And I have to say I tried them all and no wonder babies love them, I would too!
Did you know:
- Little ones 8-24 months get about 25-30% of their daily calories from snacks.
- 1/3 of 8-24 month olds are not eating whole grains on a given day.
- 90% of 2 and 3 year olds fall short on MyPlate recommendations for whole grains.
Like cut up bananas, chewed up pieces of apple, cut up strawberries, blueberries. It will depend on what your baby is able to mouth without gagging. There’s no set age I’ve found as every baby seems ready on their own time sometime between 6-12 months usually.
We steam broccoli, carrots, tomatoes from soups I make. Now that my son has 4 teeth I can give him little pieces of soft veggies and he can chew it or gum it, but when he was first starting solid foods I chewed everything really well before putting it in his mouth and I think that helped him learn to swallow with pretty much no incidents of choking/gagging.
If we make some these are easy to give him pieces of!
Don’t forget to grab your printable coupon before getting your own. They are sold in the baby isle at most main grocery stores!