tips for baby led weaning

Tips for Baby Led Weaning


When my first, Andreas, was starting on solids at 6 months, I learned about Baby Led Weaning (BLW) a practice that was first introduced in the UK by Gill Rapely in 2005. Baby Led Weaning is a feeding approach where babies jump straight to feeding themselves finger food, instead of being spoon fed purees.

The benefits of BLW include:

  • healthy eating habits
  • increased dexterity 
  • decrease in picky eating
  • hand-eye coordination
  • ease of preparation 
  • oral motor development

What to keep in mind when you start BLW:

  • It is important your baby is able to sit up unsupported in a high chair
  • Your baby likely won't eat much and that's okay because they are still getting most of their nutrients from breastmilk or formula. 
  • Don't force your baby to eat more when they show signs of being finished
  • Introduce a variety of textures, early exposure is important.
  • It's going to get messy and that's okay!
  • From 6-7 months food should be presented in strips, once they have mastered the pincer grasp, food can be cut into small pieces.
  • Keep a sippy cup with water on their tray

Foods to Introduce:

  • Remember that when introducing a food to your baby to do it one food at a time. You want to introduce a new food every 3 to 5 days. This insures that if your little one has a reaction to something they ate, you know what it was. 
  • Iron rich foods are important to growth and brain development, so beginning with food high in iron gives your baby a great start. These include: beans and legumes, tofu, eggs, cereal fortified with iron, fish, and most meat. 
  • Present foods in finger sized strips. Foods like sweet potato, avocado, banana, or broccoli are great to start with. When food is presented this way, it's easier for babies to hold on to. It should also be soft enough that you can easily mash it in between your fingers. 

Foods to Avoid:

  • Processed food
  • Added salt or sugar - they just don't need it
  • Sticky, hard or crunchy foods - they're not safe 
  • Cows milk - babies can be introduced to this after 12 months
  • Slippery foods - this can discourage them, mango is delish but a pain to hold on too!

Choking vs. Gagging:

This is likely the most common question parents ask when deciding whether to spoon feed, or try BLW, "won't my baby choke?" I asked it and so did my husband when we tried it on our second and he would gag! There is a difference between choking and gagging (although you may not be able to work through it like me). According to those who practice BLW, gagging is your baby learning to move food around their mouth. There is also no more risk of BLW than spoon feeding when it comes to choking. 


With our kids, we tried a combination of BLW and spoon feeding. I wasn't entirely comfortable with this method, so I would put soft food on a spoon and let my kids navigate feeding themselves. I would also look for their cues that they were done eating and tried not to force more food into them. Ultimately, whichever method works for you, the most important part to keep in mind is the introduction of healthy whole foods. Don't give up if your baby refuses a certain food, it can take 10 to 15 times of being given a food until your baby likes it!

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