Our Baby Led Weaning (BLW) Journey - 6 months in

This blog post was originally called BLW the first three months, but life with a baby seemed to take over and i've not blogged in yonks, so here we are, just over 6 months in with lots of ramblings ready to be shared! I really wanted to write about our journey as i for one didn't realise how those first few months of baby moving to solids could be so daunting, it wasn't exactly as id expected it to be and i wish someone had told me a bit more about it before we embarked on the journey. 

I firstly want to say that, of course every parent wants to do the best for their baby, whether traditional weaning (TW) and going the purees route or baby led weaning (BLW) and skipping purees, everyone wants the best outcome, a nourished happy baby. I know people that have done both and some a mix of the two, this is just our journey, why we went this route, how we found the whole process and how i bent the 'rules' slightly to come to a place that worked for us. 

 

Baby led weaning Spanish omlette

Mama bear, Papa bear and Baby bears Spanish omlette

So what is baby led weaning and why is it different to traditional weaning?

Unlike traditional weaning where food is blended and spoon fed to babies, BLW babies eat what the rest of the family eat, nothing is blended and baby feeds themselves from the beginning. 

The main motto behind BLW is that food before one is just for fun and the baby still gets all of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula until they are one years old or until they start to reduce the milk in preference of food themselves. 

Baby eats with everyone at the table and is included in meal times, food is introduced to help baby explore the idea of eating, experimenting with different tastes and textures and learning how to eat food themselves rather than being spoon fed blended food. Food is offered in easy to pick up pieces (We cut everything into finger shapes and over cooked most things so it was super soft).

Baby led weaning

 A Tofu feast at 8 months old 

So before we decided to go the BLW route i did heaps of research, watched lots of videos, read blogs and bought the BLW cookbook to confirm that this was the journey i wanted to take with Eve. The BLW cook book by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett has a good list of key benefits. i've listed them below....

Key benefits of BLW

  • Allows baby to move onto solids at the right time and pace for her/his developing body and ensures that her important milk feeds are not cut out too early. 
  • Allows baby to explore the taste, texture, colour and smell of individual foods
  • Helps to develop babys hand-eye coordination, dexterity and chewing skills
  • Allows baby to eat as much as she needs, in her own time, so establishing good eating habits that may last a lifetime.
  • Makes picky eaters and meal time battles less likely as no pressure on babies to eat. 
  • Encourages confidence at mealtimes and enjoyment of a wide variety of food
  • Means baby can be part of family meal times from the beginning

 

Our BLW journey - the first three months

By the time Eve was 9 months she was eating three meals a day and snacks, but i always also offered milk first so that she was still getting all the nutrients she needed if she didn't eat the food i served. By 9 months old i felt super confident with her eating and loved watching her eat a variety of different foods, she had learnt to chew well (even though she still only had two teeth) and she really enjoyed meal times. However it didn't come easy and the first few months were pretty hard (Mainly for me, not her).

We didn't follow all the 'BLW rules', but we did what worked for us and i think thats the key with anything, see whats recommended and then do what works for you and your mama intuition. For the first month or so i tried to do everything by the book and i ended up an anxious mess. I decided to bend the rules slightly and this made our journey a lot more enjoyable. 

The first food

At 6 months old, after doing tons of research, we offered Eve her first solids - some pieces of Avocado, Banana and cucumber (We tried to eat similar ourselves, minus the cucumber). 

We built up to the big day quite a lot, prepped all morning, put her at the table with us, set up the video camera, had our breakfast in front of us too and put the food on her little sticky plate at the table. We then sat in sheer panic every-time she put the food near her mouth worried she was going to choke, and so my meal time anxiety began. 

Things you need to know before you start BLW  - Gagging is not choking. If baby is coughing and making noise they are gagging and this is nothing to worry about, do not pat their back or try to remove food from their mouth, leave them to work it out themselves and act calm and reassuring for them. 

No matter how many times you reassure yourself with this knowledge, you still feel like your gonna have a heart attack when your baby gags. and they probably will gag! Writing this now, 6 months later i can tell you that it does get easier and with time they gag a lot less, if at all.  (Side note. Many babies gag when they are learning to manage solid foods in their mouths, this is a way of them learning to eat food safely, by teaching them not to over fill their mouths or push food too far back before they've chewed it. The babies gag reflex is much further forward than an adults, and whether a babies starts on solids at 6 months or 9 months there is more than likely going to be some gagging to some extent.)

I'd like to say it got easier after that first time but for a while it didn't. The first few weeks were actually really hard for me and I felt pretty nauseous whenever i put food in front of Eve. Not only was it nerve wracking watching her eat and worrying about her choking, it was also quite draining to spend time thinking of meals that were suitable for both me and her, cooking these from scratch so that they was super healthy and didn't contain any nasty ingredients (so that we were eating the same thing as the book tlls you too) and then sitting and watching her have one bite and throw the rest on the floor..... three times a day!

Baby led weaning recipe ideas

 Veggie burger and sweet potato fries
(Eves burgers were rice cakes with mashed avocado)

Things the hardcore BLW followers will tell you you need to do, but really you don't....

Baby always eats what you/the family eat - Hmmmm, yes, to an extent! We eat pretty healthy most of the time but i still didn't feel that everything we ate was suitable for Eve whilst she was still so young. I joined a BLW for beginners facebook group (i've linked to it as it was a great place to ask questions but there are some real sticklers for the process on there) and saw people feeding their 6 month old babies pieces of steak and tacos and it just didn't sit well with me. So we picked the healthy bits from our meals and let her try these. Mostly veggies that could be cut into finger shapes. Sometimes she would eat them, sometimes she wouldn't, but there was no pressure for her to actually eat as she was still having all the milk she needed. Its only recently, now she's a year that i truly let her eat ANYTHING that i eat (not including salty / sugary things). I'll admit there were many time when i gave her something completely different to what we ate. because it was healthier, or softer or just easier for her to chew. At first i felt like we were breaking the rules and that avoiding certain foods and textures would delay her eating development, but in the end, giving her food i felt comfortable with, made for a much happier meal time for all of us.

 

So how much did Eve eat for the first few months?

I've mentioned these BLW groups and how i was seeing 6/7 month old babies eating three meals a day, but this just didn't work for us, mainly due to her nap schedules and our lunch / dinner times. Also for my sanity i needed to stop thinking i needed to cook three meals a day for her only to watch it all go on the floor. So after a few stressful weeks, we decided to just do breakfast for a while, until we got into our eating groove and this worked so well for us, she was usually either napping or in bed for lunch or dinner, so rather then me trying to change meal times to fit Eves naps, i just decided that for a few weeks we'd just do breakfast. Breakfast was easy - oaty porridge on loaded spoons that she fed herself or toast fingers with peanut butter - these were food i felt super confident feeding her. We also all had breakfast before my partner Ed went to work so we could sit around the table as a family, which made me feel much more confident. Just doing breakfast for a few weeks gave me the confidence i needed to then start to introduce more foods again. Roll on a few months and she was eating 3 meals per day and was basically eating/ tasting most things we ate. Her nap schedule changed meaning she could join us for all three meals ( we brought dinner forward for a while so we could do this) and all of a sudden, everything just seemed to click into place. I felt so much more confident with her eating a variety of foods and she had gradually learnt how to eat lots of different tastes and textures. 

So, my overall review of BLW is that initially i found it quite hard, but the benefits really do out-weight those few weeks of feeling anxious, which i'm sure every parent gets when introducing solids to their little ones at any age. I'm so glad we started her with solids young and i'm now able to watch her enjoy and love food just as much as i do :)

Alfresco brekkie in the Black Forest

Heres a list of some of my top tips for BLW

  • Stick with foods that you feel comfortable feeding, each time i gave her something i wasn't comfortable with, i didn't enjoy the mealtime experience and was on the edge of my seat just waiting for her to gag. Gradually over time i offered more options, but it doesn't have to be anything and everything from the start. 
  • Don't feel like you have to start cooking three meals a day specifically for them when they turn 6 months. Most of it will probably go on the floor for a while so just pick the healthy bits out of your meal and let them try that. If you're having a takeaway or something not suitable for baby then give them something different - my go to was slices of avocado.... she's still an avocado monster now and if i'm stuck for a snack she'll polish off half of one. 
  • Heaped spoons - Eve uses her spoon like a champion and has for a few month. We started by giving her heaped spoons that she fed herself from 6 months and she then in time started to fill the spoons herself,  her cutlery skills are amazing (most of the time, albeit still pretty messy ;))
  • Don't feel like you have to do everything by the book. We taught Eve to feed herself but if on the odd day she cant be bothered and she wants us to fill her spoon up for her or even feed her then we do, and thats ok! She lets us know what she wants.
  • Know that it gets easier. It took me 2-3 months to feel super confident with her eating but all of a sudden it just clicked and i realised that i wasn't worried anymore. 
  • The most important tip of all..... Buy a plastic table cloth and place it on the floor under baby's highchair. When babies feed themselves its always going to be messy!

 

The reason i wanted to write this blog is because those first few weeks / months were really hard for me. I remember asking in the facebook group, 'Does it get easier' and now i can say it does. I LOVE meal times now, i smile everyday watching Eve eat, she's a confident eater and she loves her food. So if you're at the start of your journey and your feeling a little anxious or out of your depth, then know that soon your babies will be eating like champions and you wont remember what it was like before they could polish off a full plate of food.

So i'm now a total advocate for BLW, it was definitely the right journey for us to take.

Did you go the BLW route? How did your find it? I'd love to hear your stories, so please do comment below. 

And if you got this far well done. i told you there would be a lot of rambling :)

Lauranza x     


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