Hi there, thanks for finding me…
My name is Rachael and this is my family, my world. My hubby Paul and my gorgeous happy little eater Ava (who I refer to as bub for all my instagram followers) at 6mo, when we started our Baby Led Weaning (BLW) journey. Thank you for visiting my blog, you may have landed on my page because you’re about to commence your BLW journey with your bub, you have no idea where or how to start, you are just interested in BLW because a friend or relative raves on about how amazing their baby eats or you may be after some healthy, suitable recipes for your 6mo+ babyledweaner. Either way or all ways…welcome!
I’d love to get to know a bit about you and your bub, but firstly you might like to know a bit about myself, why I chose BLW? what were our first foods? was I scared about choking? what gagging is? and how I knew when to start solids? (when I talk about solids I mean ‘real’ solids not purees or mush;)
To be honest I was scared of doing baby led weaning in the first few weeks, I thought, as most do, the only way was purees. Just like our mums and grandmas did… but looking back now and seeing how much Ava enjoys her food and what a non-fussy eater she is – I would 100% recommend BLW as the best way of introducing solids to your baby. It is is just so natural, less time consuming, no mush, no pureeing, no blenders, just straight up family food. It has been the most beautiful, fun and transforming experience I have ever been through.
Mums and dads just starting out with BLW, keep it up, be patient, do your research, check out my starter tips and lastly relax and enjoy being part of your babies ‘introduction to food journey’.
Why we chose Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
I knew I wanted to start solids around 6mo, had not a clue how to start. I was scared and there was little information out there. My husband suggested we should try ‘BLW’ (a term I had never heard of before) and that his friend from the UK BLW’d both of their kids and told him it teaches babies to enjoy their food, be less fussy eaters, and puts less pressure on meal times. To be honest I had never heard of BLW until then, my health care nurse also suggested it to me AND then I found out my cousin was doing it as well. My cousin told me to read ‘BLW’ by Gill Rapley, once I read this book I WAS CONVINCED this was the way we were going to introduce foods to Ava and now at 21mo we haven’t looked back!
How did we prepare ourselves for BLW?
Between 4-6mo there was a lot of pressure out there by family/friends/health care nurses to start Ava on purees/mush and that I ‘should’ spoon feed my baby ‘processed baby cereal?!’ – which I personally was not comfortable at all, she was such a fresh bubba! It just didn’t feel right forcing a spoon into bubs mouth, when I was still breastfeeding her and it made me really think about the days of ‘no baby cereal’ – the days of ‘no blenders’ – the days of ‘no nothing’ just man-made shelter, food from the land and human existence (deep I know! but having a baby makes you think about existence and what human bodies actually do need to survive?). So I did my own research about absorption of iron in breast milk, babies and iron, the latest advice (from the World Health Organisation and health authorities around the world) about when to introduce solid foods (surprisingly around 6mo when showing readiness signs, not 4mo!), what were the readiness signs, and my options on feeding methods out there. After finding all this information out we then started to prepare ourselves for our ‘Baby led Weaning’ Journey ahead! These were the exact steps we took:
- Read the book Baby led Weaning by Gill Raply – fundamental knowledge and a great read! I still refer to this book at 12mo. I also bought Baby led weaning by Gill Raply cookbook, great recipes and introduction.
- Both my husband and I completed a Baby First Aid Course – which made both of us A LOT more confident and helped eased our nerves about how to approach an unlikely situation of ‘choking’, and to trust the BLW process.
- Purchased an Ikea high chair. The BEST highchair for cleaning and has a great reach distance for bub to pick up food. All the other highchairs I found were too bulky and hard for bub to reach her food. Don’t both getting the padding or anything, its just something else you will need to clean.
- Purchased a Ikea full length bib: was great for the first couple of month of BLW as it fitted bub around the neck and helped with the mess!
- Purchased 2x Explora Bibs (AA-MAZING) have been using these since 7m+, we are now at 12mo and I still take them out with me if we lunch out, they are so easy to clean, roll up and pack in our bag.
- Purchased a Phillips Steamer/blender: I did a lot of research into steamers that are BPA FREE and appropriate for steaming veg and meats etc and this was the best machine out there. It is so compact, I take this away with us when we go on holidays, I can leave the steamer on when I am busy with bub around the house, there is a safety switch and beeps once completed. It saves me so much time and preparation for lunches, dinners, preparing food for the week etc I mainly use the steamer, however I also use the blender to make nut butters, sauces etc
- Purchased the Munchkin sippy cup: (to put cooled boiled water in to offer at meal times OR even breastmilk) – I swear by this cup! I did plenty of research and have spent a fortune trying to find the best cup out there! We decided at 6m to forget starting bottles, straws, spouts etc we just wanted an easy leak free cup. This cup is brilliant, can take out and about and no leaks, dental approved and bub gets use to the tilting of a cup. We started with the ‘trainer cup’ with handles at 6mo, now we have moved onto the same cup but with no handles, here.
When did we start BLW? Readiness signs?
We started just shy of 6mo. Ava was sitting up (we did have a few towels supporting
her a little and for padding, as she was so little), she had a strong neck hold, she showed great interest in food, her tongue thrust was gone and she was putting most things in her mouth.
What were our BLW first foods?
Our first food was boiled broccoli – she now can’t live without broccoli! Here are some example first foods we offered during the first month (alongside family meals which I just avoided salt, sugar or processed sauces):
- Vegetables: boiled, steamed or roasted: pumpkin, carrots, potato, zucchini, sweet potato, squash, spinach, broccoli, eggplant, capsicum, cauliflower, spinach, brussel sprouts.
- Fruit: avocado, banana, steamed apple, mango, kiwi, dragon fruit, rock melon, honeydew, pear, the middle of the cucumber, tomato, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, papaya, orange.
- Protein (including eggs and fish): Steamed or roasted chicken, roasted pork, beef mince, meat balls (turkey, beef, pork), homemade chicken nuggets, salmon steak, lamb shank bone with some meat juices on it, lamb cutlets, roasted chicken, canned tuna light, eggs…
- Dairy: full-fat greek yogurt, cheeses (watch for salt content)
- Nut Butters and almond meal: 100% peanut paste (butter), 100% almond butter, 100% cashew butter, I make my own cheaper and easy! See recipes
- Rice, whole oats, pasta, spaghetti, flour, grains, lentils: home-made wholemeal toast (which she mainly sucked on), red lentils, risotto, spaghetti, plain flour in a pancakes I made for her.
- Herbs and Spices: rosemary, oregano, basil, curry powder, italian herbs, cumin, cinnamon, mixed spice…
How many meals a day did I start to offer with BLW?
When Ava was showing readiness signs she was nearly 6mo, we started with bits and pieces of food here and there, once or twice a day as we were travelling at the time. After coming back from holidays, in our own home we started offering Ava 3x meals a day (b’fast, lunch and dinner) to give her practice (I kept this up so she got plenty of practice, as I really wanted her to get over ‘the gagging stage’). When I say ‘a meal’, this means maybe a few trees of ‘steamed broccoli, lunch could be big strips of chicken, or even a lamb cutlet which she mainly sucked on to start. I believed the more she practiced with different textures and foods the quicker she will get to grips with food. Even though she wasn’t eating much at all in the first couple of months, she was having fun squishing, playing (throwing!) and tasting bits and pieces.
What was Ava’s first meal/food experience like? and the first month of BLW? (6mo)
Excited, worried, nervous, scary, fun, slow, messy and felt like we weren’t really getting anywhere with food intake. To be honest these were the exact feelings I felt in the first month of BLW.
First food experience:
The build up to offering bubs first food of broccoli was fun but realistically scary as hell and a bit of an anti-climax. She picked it up and sucked on it (I was so proud of her) but then a little chunk went in her mouth, I was so nervous as she started coughing everywhere I thought she was choking… this first food/meal only lasted no more than 5minutes. Why? We were at my parents house and everyone was watching Ava eat her first food, there was soooo much pressure I just couldn’t cope with it especially when I thought my baby was choking when she was actually gagging!
After offering Ava her first food at my parents house, I said to my husband that we are only going to offer Ava her food at home in a relaxed environment with no pressure just for the first few weeks of BLW… BEST DECISION WE MADE!
Personally I was the problem… I needed to trust Ava, trust the BLW process and let bub be in complete control of her food in a calm environment. I was the one making the environment uncomfortable so I kept referring back to Gill Raply’s book and kept calm when we started to offer Ava more food within the first month. It took me a few goes, testing different foods for her to see what she foods she could handle and what foods she gagged more on…
What to expect in the first month of BLW:
There was A LOT of gagging!!! A LOT of mess!!! and lots of playing with food, not much eating at all!!!
What was month two like? (7mo)
I had a bit more confidence in the process as Ava would eat little bits here and there. I got more confident hearing and seeing a gag and learning to stay calm. I was now offering 3x meals per day, mainly steamed vegetables and fresh fruit. She would swallow little bits here and there (how I knew? her poo has little bits of food in it! OMG I have never been so excited about seeing poo in my life!)
8-9mo, when did bub start eating more more than little bits of food?
Month 8. A lot of BLW mums I speak to say between 8-9mo bubs start to eat more assuming that you purely started BLW from 6mo (no pureeing beforehand). Also in month 8 Ava discovered her pincer grip which means she could start to pick up smaller items of food i.e. peas, rice, lentils, beans etc so i started to chop her foods a little smaller for her as she LOVED the challenge and fun of picking up a little piece of food and placing it into her mouth. It all clicked then as well… I kept seeing all these blogs of mums who BLW and their foods always looked so small? I didn’t understand why, but now I do.
TIP – THINK for younger bubs cut BIG chunks of food (i.e. BIG sticks of food approx 5cm long) so they can hold it in their little hand and use it as a handle AND LITTLE FOODS for older (approx 9mo) bubs! When your bub starts to practice and develop more skills with their hands they will discover their pincer grip around 7-9mo. This means they can open up their fist, eat the food inside their hand now and pick up little items of food with the thumb and index finger. It is so much fun watching your baby do this
10mo, When did bub start to eat A LOT more food and pick and choose what she wanted to eat?
Month 10. Its unbelievable! Other mums that spoon feed their baby watched Ava in complete amazement! Ava now picks and chooses what she wants to eat and how much of it. Some meals I just don’t know how she fits all her dinner in her tummy.
What meal does Ava eat the most of?
I would say lunch and dinner. She tends to only eat a little bit at breakfast (still now at 12mo) I put it down to the fact its the start of the day and she is a little tired from her big overnight sleep.
When do I offer Ava her meals/food?
When she is HAPPY not tired, not hungry (has had milk feed).
Any tips for other BLWer mums/dads?
BE PATIENT and don’t give up – the benefits will pay off. Learn to put up with the mess and practice practice practice… offer 3x meals a day i.e. a meal could be a couple of trees of broccoli… let bub play with it and discover what food is all about. Trust bub and trust the BLW process of food discovery and skill development.
Gagging Vs choking: If I had to look back on our BLW journey what would you do differently?
I would have relaxed more in the first month or two and stopped worrying about choking and trust the BLW process. However I think I had to go through the first couple of months to understand there is a MAJOR difference between gagging and choking. Choking is silent — we have NEVER (touchwood) encountered any choking experience in the whole BLW journey, then there is gagging which is coughing, spluttering, coughing up food falling or vomitting out of bub’s mouth — we have however experienced so many gags I can’t count, there are bad gags (which are pretty scary but all good in the end) and there are little gags where bub would cough out the food then eat it up again.
Am I breastfeeding? Has my milk feeds dropped at all?
Yes I have always fully breast fed Ava, as its her primary nutrition in the first year of life. Food comes second. We are now at 12mo even though Ava is eating SO much more food than what she was at 6 months, I am still feeding her approx 3 times a day. I could probably say that the ‘snack milk feeds’ have dropped and she is still wanting morning, lunch and dinner milk feeds. Saying this, if she gets a little thirsty she may have a quick snack here and there – its really up to her!
Why I wanted to share our BLW experience and journey with other people?
Ava is now 12 months old (Oct 2016) and I wanted to share our experience with other mums, dads, grandparents, child carers, baby-sitters, doctors, paeditritions or anyone out there who is interested in BLW and want to hear the success and amazement of Baby Led Weaning. I understand how tough the first few months of BLW were, especially when there was very little support out there at all (except the Gill Rapley book). Yes I was a nervous mum but I trusted the philosophy of BLW… Yes I was worried about choking (which actually turned out to be a lot of gagging in the first few months) and getting use to mess, however all the positives (skill development, baby learns self control, non-fussy eater, less likely to choke than on purees: as bub learns how to chew from the get-go rather than suck and swallow, fun and educational discovery of all food textures from 6mo, learns to chew and swallow, aids physical development, its natural) weighed up all my concerns. Yes family and friends thought we were crazy for feeding our baby real solid food, but I trusted the process as it felt very natural.
We are very lucky, 6 months into our journey we have such a happy, non-fussy fabulous eater who will pretty much eat anything we put in front of her. Good luck with your journey too.
Where to go for BLW Support & Ideas forum from other BLWer Mums & Dads?
Please join my support group Facebook group ‘Baby led weaning support & ideas group’, I created this group for mum, dads, grandparents, caregivers, childcare workers etc to have somewhere for BLW support. The group has hundreds of mums/dad etc seeking support and can ask the other members questions about BLW to help each other out, post photos, encouragement and motivation along their BLWing journey and food discovery. This group does not provide professional advise its just a forum for sharing experiences. Please consult your paeditrition and speak with your health visitor or doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s eating. Many health centres offer weaning ‘clinics’ and advice on different meal options.