Baby-Led Weaning Menu

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Enough people have asked me for it, so here it finally is! A detailed sample menu on what I usually feed my son with baby-led weaning. Before I start, I need to make several things very clear. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. I am not a pediatrician. And I am not a doctor.  I am a mom sharing what worked for her child. I based my decisions on the advice of my son’s pediatrician, a nutritionist we saw briefly, the book “Baby-Led Weaning”, the book ” My Child Won’t Eat” , advice various moms shared with me during La Leche League meetings, and my own instincts. Please talk to your doctor, do your own research, and listen to your own heart first.

So, say now you decide baby-led weaning is right for your family and your baby is ready to start (see this post on the signs of readiness). Where do you start? I had no idea! So I just started offering Jack foods that made sense to me and eventually figure out what worked for us. As he got bigger, things changed so I just went with his cues. Overall I never made him eat anything he didn’t want to. Likewise, I let him try almost anything he asked for, within reason.

I have divided things up into two menus, one for no-teeth and one for teeth. When Jack was ready for solids, he had no teeth so he didn’t like things that required a lot of hard chewing (and babies can absolutely chew with no teeth, just takes awhile). Once he got teeth, he was happier to have a bigger variety. And as he got older, he also wanted more options. I tried to keep things simple when he was first starting out so he didn’t get overwhelmed.

Both menus are not vegan, since Jack is not all vegan. But you can easily change the menu to any dietary need. Replace milk yogurt with any non-dairy yogurt. Do scrambled tofu instead of eggs. Do more beans and lentils instead of beef or ham. Vegetable soup instead of chicken soup.

image-0001No-Teeth Menu: I offered Jack three meals a day, but it was hit or miss if he would play with the food or eat it for the longest time. Overtime he started to eat more.

Breakfast:

  • Mango Slices: cut them into big wedges and you can even leave some skin on to make them easier to hold. No, they will not eat the skin. And if they try, tell your baby nicely no no no.
  • Avocado Toast: Cut a strip of toast that baby can easily hold.  You can also do just toast or just avocado as well.
  • Oatmeal and Fruit: I’m not talking that gross runny baby cereal. I mean real, stove top old fashioned oats. Add some mashed or puréed fruit instead of sugar. No need for a spoon or bowl either, just place some on tray in front of baby. They will scoop it up and eat what they want.
  • Plums: Soft, easy to chew and tasty. Just cut into smaller pieces.
  • Strawberries: Cut them up or mash them a little.
  • Bananas: Leave the peel on one side so baby can pick it up easier.
  • Scrambled Eggs: Cook them hard and don’t add salt. This is still Jack’s favorite breakfast.
  • Yogurt and fruit: Go for full fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt if you can. Add some fruit for sweetness. Then just place it front of them, let their little fingers scoop and dip to their delight.

Lunch:

  • Cucumber and hummus: Cut the cucumbers into match sticks and remove the seeds. Put some no-salt added hummus on the tray for them to dip. It may take awhile before your baby gets the dipping motion, but no worries. They will probably just eat them separately for awhile.
  • Roasted Veggies: Roast up some fresh seasonal veggies in a bit olive oil and other spices. Get them soft but firm enough to be picked up. Then let our baby gnaw and suck away.
  • Soba Noodles and Bell Pepper Sticks: Cook up some soba noodles or other whole grain pasta, coat lightly with a little sesame oil or coconut oil. Add bell pepper sticks to gnaw on too. Baby can play and slurp up the noodles and feel the contrast with the crunchy peppers. Check out my recipes here.
  • Bone Broth and Rice/Quinoa/Barley: Make your own homemade bone broth and serve it with a tasty whole grain. Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands. Or place some rice soaked in the broth on the try in front of them to pick up.
  • Smashed Sweet Potatoes: Boil or roast some sweet potatoes until they are tender. Then take a fork and lightly smash them. Not mashed into a puree, leave some chunks to grab. Add some butter, oil, or bone broth for flavor, too.
  • Beans: Cook your favorite kind of beans (we like Pinto and Kidney beans in this house). They are perfect size to pick up and and chew with no teeth

I also use some breakfast options for lunch too.

Dinner:

  • Chicken and Brown Rice: Make your favorite chicken recipe for dinner and cut off some small chunks with no skin or bones for baby. And make a flavorful rice dish on the side, or just serve some plain rice.  Just go easy on the salt and hot spices.  Your baby might not be able to chew the chicken all the way at first, but they can suck the juices out of the meat easily.
  • Ham and Green Beans: Make a nice ham steak and some tasty pan-fried green beans (easy on the salt). Just like the chicken, baby can either chew or suck on the meat. And green beans are already the perfect sized stick for baby to pick up!
  • Lentil Soup: I either make classic lentil soup and veggies in a tomato broth, or Indian dhal. Jack loves both! Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands.
  • Beef Stew: I make my a nice pot of beef stew (seitan stew for me) with carrots, potatoes, celery, and peas. Throw it in the slow-cookers in the morning and it’s ready for dinner. The meat is tender enough for baby to chew or suck on. The veggies are soft enough to eat but still be picked up.

I also use some lunch options for diner.

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Teeth Menu: Once Jack got some teeth, I noticed a big difference in what he wanted to eat. He started to eat close to three meals a day and wanted more complex foods. I could also serve foods on plates and bowls without him flipping them over. He also slowly developed more dexterity and could use a spoon or fork. He still liked some of the simper foods from the no-teeth list, too.

Breakfast

  • Nut Butter Toast: My nutritionist said unless you have a family history of nut allergies, then you are okay to give a younger child nuts. That being said, please ask your pediatrician first. I waited until Jack could communicate better  (a few words and signs) to me before I offered any to him. I tried peanut butter, cashew, and almond. He loved them all. I cut the toast into strips like with the avocado toast.
  • Mango and Strawberries: No need to mash up the berries anymore. And I started to cut bigger wedges of mango since he could actually bite into them now.
  • Pancakes and Bacon: I make whole wheat silver dollar pancakes. Sometimes I use fruit puree or jam as syrup. And he loves sharing bacon with daddy. Already comes in a strip form too! At first he just sucked it, now he can eat a whole piece on his own. I buy organic and nitrate-free.
  • Waffles Dippers: Make normal waffles and cut them into strips. Offer some yogurt, jams, or nut butter to dip.
  • Cereal and Milk:  Buy some no-sugar, whole grain organic cereal and non-dairy milk.  At firs they may just scoop the cereal out with their hands, but eventually they will get how to do the spoon.

Lunch:

  • Mac N Cheese with veggies: Make your favorite mac and cheese (try mine), then add some frozen veggies. We like Amy’s Cheddar and Shells with frozen peas and carrots.
  • Fried Rice: Take left over rice, add some veggies and chicken or tofu. Lightly season with soy sauce. For fun, add some pineapple.
  • Fish Cakes: We were on WIC for awhile and got a crazy amount of canned fish each month. So I made from salmon or tuna cakes with grated carrots, panko, and eggs. I popped them in the freezer for an easy lunch whenever we were busy. I made them small so Jack could pick them up easily and bite them.
  • Sandwich: Turkey and Swiss, Ham and cheddar, grill cheese, avocado and tomato, PB&J… you get the idea. I made little fingers sandwiches so he didn’t get overwhelmed. He still usually deconstructs them though, but gets the general idea.
  • Veggies Pancakes: Similar to Fish cakes. I grated up carrots, radishes, parsnips.  I added cornmeal and eggs to make little pancakes. I froze them and used them when we were too busy to cook.
  • Pasta Salad: I like to use spiral pasta since it’s easy for them to grab. Add some black olive slices, cut up artichoke hearts, grated carrots, haled cherry tomatoes, and dress with some olive oil and spices. Easy to make and tasty for everyone.
  • Chicken Nuggets: I buy organic, all white meat nuggets (sometimes I make my own if I have time). I give him either no-sugar added ketchup or hummus to dip them in. Easy and already bite-sized.
  • Hot Dogs and Celery: I get nitrate-free organic hot dogs and cut them into pieces and cut the pieces in half (so they aren’t circular to choke on). I cut the celery into short sticks for him to munch on (great for teething!).
  • String Cheese, Crackers, and Turkey slices: Easy lunch on the go. String cheese is easy to hold and eat. Get some whole-grain, no salt crackers that are easy for baby to pick up. And cut up some turkey or other meat slices.
  • Quesadillas:  Cheese and whole wheat tortilla, and some mild salsa to dip. Cut into wedges to make it easier to pick up.
  • Chicken Soup: Add some bone broth, veggies, and chicken to a pot. Cook until veggies are tender and season lightly. Make some noodles or rice. Either let baby scoop the soup out by hand or try a spoon. Messy but usually a hit with every baby! This is our fall back when Jack is cranky and refuses other foods.
  • Curry Noodles: Check out my recipe. Easy and a great way to introduce spices to your baby.

Dinner:

  • Rice Pilaf, Veggies, and Chicken: A step-up from plain chicken and rice. Make your favorite pilaf recipe, chicken recipe, and roasted veggies. Just go easy on the salt. Cut the chicken into reasonable-sized pieces. If they are going to use a fork, make them smaller. Pick them up, a little bigger.
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs: Get your favorite space pasta, sauce, and meatball recipe. Cut the meatballs into half or quarters. You may want to noodles in half if they long, but usually they figure out how to slurp it up anyways. No fork needed, let them have fun!
  • Tacos: Meat, beans, tortilla, cheese and some mild salsa. At first I made deconstructed ones, now he gets built ones (that he deconstructs on his own). Who doesn’t love tacos?
  • Pizza: We usually have pizza every Friday, so check out one of my recipes here. Mostly homemade, sometimes who buy it. At first I took the toppings off,  pulled the cheese into pieces, and  cut the crust into pieces. Then let Jack pick what he wanted. Now he likes his own small slice to pick up. He likes Hawaiian pizza, but try whatever pizza you like.
  • Lentil Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries: Check out my recipe here. I usually just offer him a mini patty, sugar-free ketchup, and a few fries. Easy to pick up and packed with nutrients.
  • Enchiladas: Make a low-salt version of your favorite recipe. I like either white enchiladas with white beans or smokey red sauce with sweet potatoes. Again messy, but a usually a big hit.
  • Stir Fry with Brown Rice: Clear out all the veggies in your fridge and freezer. Add some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Throw some tofu or chicken in, too. Make some brown rice and enjoy an easy dinner. Just make sure everything is bite-sized and no round so baby can choke.
  • Ravioli: Make your favorite frozen ravioli (or make your own if you can) and your favorite sauce. You may want to cut the noodles in half if they are big, but another easy but big hit dinner.
  • Barley Vegetable Soup: Check out my recipes here. Like I said, soup is usually a big hit and easy to make.
  • Lasagna: Easy to make and very versatile. Meat or all veggies. Cheese or no cheese. Red or white sauce. And fun for baby to take apart and eat.
  • Chili and Corn Bread: Throw beans, spices, tomato paste and water into a slow-cooker in the morning. Make some corn bread in the afternoon. Easy and fun to eat.
  • Tamales: I suck at making tamales (see here), I opt to buy them fresh if I can. But they are small enough to pick up, but big enough to bite into easily. And a variety of filings for a fun surprise for baby.

I hope this helps you and your baby on your own baby-led weaning journey! Feel free to comment with your own suggestions as well, I’m always looking for new toddler food ideas!

Here are a few more suggestions as well:

Baby-Led Weaning Essentials

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Jack has been eating solids now for 6 months (and still nursing like crazy too). He is a very adventurous eater, willing to try almost anything. He has clear favorites (cheese, chicken nuggets, blackberries and noodles soup). And clear dislikes (tofu, peaches, oatmeal, and bananas). Well atleast for this week, it changes all the time. For a good month he LOVES oatmeal. Now he gets mad if I even suggest it.

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He wasn’t too into food this day.

Some days he eats me out of house and home. Seriously, one day I had run to the store to by him snacks because he signing “eat” and I had nothing to give him! Some days he only wants breast milk and refuses anything I give him. But, most days he likes one big meal (usually lunch) and just snacks the rest of the day.

Here is a list of items I found crucial for our baby-led weaning success. Nothing too complicated, but the right stuff makes it easier on you and your baby.

Essential Baby-Led  Weaning Products:

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  • Simple High Chair—I can’t stress the simple part enough. You want a very basic high chair that comes apart easily to clean. Your baby is going to make a big mess for awhile and it is a pain to clean one of those big fancy high chairs. We had a second-hand one that was very nice, but it was so hard to keep clean. I felt like I was washing the entire thing 3 times a day and Michael still had to go hose it off outside once a week. Even with it being free, it was not worth the effort. We bought a Summer Infant Deluxe Comfort Booster for Thanksgiving at a relative’s house and instantly saw how much easier it was to use. No crevasses for food to hide and no fabric to get dirty. Just wash the tray in the sink and give the rest a quick wipe down after each meal. And I stick it in the shower once a week for a deeper clean. Plus it’s portable, and can sit on the floor if you want to have a living room picnic. Don’t waste your money (or effort) on a big high chair.

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  • Silicon Mat—Most restaurants have a high chair you can use (note it’s a simple one, they know cleaning a big one is not worth it!), but your baby needs something to eat on. A plate is too distracting for most babies for quite awhile. Jack is 11-months and still gets overwhelmed with a plate and plays with it instead of eating. And who knows how clean that table actually is or if your baby are going to make a giant mess. Get a reusable, washable silicon mat they can eat off of safely and safe you the hassle of clean-up.  I got a Kiddopotamus Tinydiner Placemat and it works great. I leave it in the diaper bag rolled up, stick it to the table when we go out. Jack can focus on his food and I don’t have to clean up a giant table mess afterwards. I just wipe it off at the restaurant, and wash it when I get home.

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  • Good Spoons—I bought this little dinky colorful spoon thinking Jack will only take little bites and smaller will help him until he gets more dexterity. Wrong. They are too small for him to scoop up anything, and not long enough for him to turn around to get into his mouth. It didn’t take too long for me to realize he hated them. He would try,  then struggle too much, and throw it. Then reach for my spoon or fork. When I did give him mine, he did pretty well with it. Then we bought him these bigger and wider Borja spoons from Ikea and it was a whole new ball game. He can actually use utensils now and even asks for them. He’s bad at it still, but it’s a big improvement. Bigger is better in this case, for sure.

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  • Reusable Pouches-— The few times I tried to feed Jack purees, he was not having it. He is totally cool with me handing him pre-loaded spoons of soup, stew, oatmeal, rice & etc. But once and awhile I want him to have a few more fruits and veggies, so I tried purees. He would smack the spoon away from me. I don’t know if it the texture or what, but he refuses. I’ve tried a several flavor combinations, no-go each time. But one day when I was in line at Starbucks, he pointed a squeeze pouch and signed “give me”. So I bought him it, beet and berry flavor. He INHALED it. Light bulb! So I ordered some Squooshi pouches off Amazon because they had good reviews. They are a HUGE hit. He will inhale anything I put in them. He especially loves greek yogurt and pineapple puree. They are easy to fill, easy to wash (right in the dishwasher) and a great price. Right now Jack is sick with a sore throat and only wants soft food, so he’s loving his Squooshis. When he wants one he points at the drawer where I keep them!
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“All done already?”

Otherwise all you need is good food, some patience,and camera to capture all those cute messy faces! I hope these suggestions help your baby on their weaning journey. Comment with your own too!

Two Months of Baby-Led Weaning

It’s been two months since Jack start eating solid food using the Baby-led Weaning method. I’ve gotten lots of questions from people, so I thought I would do an update. First of all, I just want to say it’s been going great! Jack is slowly learning to feed himself well and it’s be wonderful to watch him learn. He will try almost anything we put in front of him, and is starting to eat a good amount too. Last night he ate all his dinner and wanted a little bit more! I was shocked, who knew a 7-month -old would devour 5 layer dip and lil smokies?

Bean dip, a tortilla chip, and 2 lil smokies. 99% actually
went in him and he looked around for a little more.

I want to stress that this didn’t happen over night and he doesn’t always eat everything we give up. It’s a learning curve and he’s just now is on the upward slope. So don’t panic if your baby doesn’t clean their plate right away.

I also want to address some of the questions I’ve been getting lately too. I have to say everyone has been super supportive of our choice to feed Jack this way, but they still have a lot of questions. But questions are good, it’s how everyone learns. Here are the most common ones and some answers:

Baby-Led Weaning Questions:

    • What does he eat?
      • Jack eats almost everything we eat. This morning I had toast with avocado spread on it, and Jack had the same thing. This does require me to meal plan and make sure that we are eating nutritious with little sodium and sugar—which is not a bad thing at all! I try to make sure we offer him one protein and one fruit/veggie every meal. And one or two starches/carbs a day. I will post a meal planner next week so you get some ideas. I also want to state that Jack totally know when we are eating something different. If he likes what we offered him, he will glance at our food but not care. However, if he decides our food likes better, he will demand it. Like hands out and screaming until we give it to him. So don’t eat thing in front of your baby that you don’t want them to have.
    • How many meals a day does he get?
Gave him a lick of frozen yogurt,
he wasn’t too impressed.
      • Before I answer, I want to stress that this varies from baby to baby. So what works for Jack and our family, might not work for you. We offer Jack three meals a day—breakfast, lunch and dinner. But this is not a strict rule. Someday if he wakes up late, I skip breakfast for him.Or if we are out on the weekends and are too busy to sit down a for a real meal, nothing bad happens. And he often takes long naps right through dinnertime too. We just make sure he has all the milk he wants and that he’s happy. Likewise, he can have more if he wants. If I am munching on a snack in between meals and he seems interested, I will offer him some. I was eating mango on a hike a few weeks ago and Jack was all over it. He ate a big wedge and still wanted dinner a few ours later.
        He eventually ate that entire wedge of mango–and
        almost threw my keys into the ocean.
    • Does he use utensils?
      • He can use a spoon, but not that well yet. He manages well without it, even with liquidy things.
        Yogurt, no problem. I’ll just lick my finger.

        I try handing him a pre-loaded spoon, but I think he gets too excited and becomes too distracted. I will carefully give him a bite off my fork on occasion, but I’m holding off on giving him his own fork until he masters the spoon. But once again, this is just my baby. Maybe your baby will be a pro with utensils right from the start.

        He was so excited when I gave the spoon,
        he totally forgot about the yogurt.
    • Do you serve his food on a plate?
No plate needed for now.
    • I’ve tried a few times, but he gets too distracted. He either chews or throws them (along with all the food). I usually just place his food right on the tray for his highchair. If we don’t have the highchair, I place the food on a small plate and hold it down so he can’t grab it. Or I just put the food in my hand and let him grab what he wants. According the the advice I’ve read off the Baby-Led Weaning Facebook page, around 9 to 11 months babies tend to ignore the plate, so I will try again later.
  • How does he chew, he has no teeth?

    He was determined to eat that broccoli…
    There’s a video on Instagram too.
    • When we started with solids two months ago,  Jack had no teeth in site. The book said teeth were not necessary and I could still offer him normal, not pureed foods. This honestly confused me, but I decided to give it a try. At first  made sure the foods I offered him we soft enough to be gummed or sucked. Like raw cucumber sticks and chicken chunks. And it worked! After a month he did get the hang of the chewing motion. It takes him forever to actually break down the food, but he does. One day he totally demolished the top of a steamed broccoli floret (though it took 15 minutes). Now he is on the verge of his bottom central incisors cutting through. Then I will start offering him slightly harder things. He really loves roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes, but he usually just sucks them down to mush. I think he will love to actually take a bite and taste the flavor.
  • Aren’t you afraid he will choke?!?!

    Bigger than choking size and smaller than choking size offered.
    • This is the question I get asked the most. Of course I am worried he will choke! I would be worried about it even if we did pureed foods! I’m his mom, I worry about everything that could possible happen to him! The key to not stressing over Baby-Led Weaning is trust. I trust that Jack has natural instincts to survive. I trust that he will try to gum/suck/chew his food as best he can before swallowing. I trust he will know when it’s okay to swallow and when he needs to spit it back out. I trust that if he gags on something caught in his throat, he will cough it back up. And most of all, I trust myself to know when to intervene if this all goes wrong. You also need to understand the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is when something gets caught or tickles your esophagus, causing your gag reflex to react and cough up what you swallowed. It’s a normal survive instinct and it is important that babies learn this—as scary as it might be for you to watch. Choking is when something gets lodged in your windpipe and you cannot breath. Your gag reflex will react and you may be able to get it out quickly on your own, but probably will need assistance to clear it. I make sure I offer him foods larger than or smaller than choking size. Either small pieces about the size of a dime that he can chew, or chunks the size of his fist he can suck. Matchstick shapes are a great shape and size to start out with. I also make sure that I don’t give him really hard foods that he can’t breakdown in his mouth first, like raw carrots.
      He shoved the whole pancake in his mouth,
      but spit out what he couldn’t swallow.

      You also should NEVER leave your baby alone when they are eating, in case something does go wrong.  That being said, Jack has not yet choked on food. But he has gagged on his food several times—and yes it scared me a little. The first time was on a slice of steamed zucchini. Michael, his parents, and brother-in-law were all over for dinner. We were chatting and eating, Jack all happy to have company. He was sitting on my lap chomping away on the zucchini when suddenly he cough forcefully several times. I quickly put my hand up to see if I could open his mouth when he suddenly coughed it up into my hand. He fussed a little because he was scared, but  reached for some noodles off my plate when he calmed down. I didn’t panic and trust he knew how to save himself. And if he didn’t get it up quickly, I was totally ready to intervene with the Heimlich and CPR if needed. Yesterday he also gagged on the tortilla chip (he ate it too quickly). He got it out quickly and threw up some too. He cried a bit because he was scared again. But after a sip of water and some reassurance from us, he went on to finish his whole plate like I said before. He’s learning to slow down and chew his food properly.

  • How do you know he’s getting enough food?

    More on him than in him, and no idea how much
    actually went in but he had two helpings offered.
    • If you are type-A, controlling person this answer might drive you nuts: I have no idea how much he actually eats. I let him decide. I just make sure I offer him a reasonable amount each meal and he can eat as much or as little as he wants. Some days he eats with gusto like he’s never been fed before—and still tries to steal my food. Other days he screams the minute he gets in the highchair, claps his mouth shut and throws his food at me in. Most of the time he takes a few bites and plays with the rest. All of this is normal. At this age, babies only need around an extra 200 calories from solids (data from my local La Leche League meeting), which is the equivalent to snack for adults.. And their tummies are still small you can’t just expect them to eat 200 calories at once either.
      He spent 30 mins pushing the oatmeal around then wanted out.

      He knows his body better than I do. I just offer him healthy, nutrient-dense foods each meal. Maybe he wants 50 calories for breakfast, 100 at lunch and 100 at dinner? Maybe in the morning he will be too full from dinner still and want to breakfast, 150 at lunch and 50 at dinner. Or it could be growth spurt time and he super hungry so 150 calories at breakfast, 75 at lunch and 100 at dinner. But he can’t tell me any of this so I just need to trust him. However, if your baby isn’t gaining any weight or gains too much weight suddenly, then something might be wrong and you should talk to your doctor.

  • What if he doesn’t like what you offered him?

    I DON’T WANT THE ASIAN STIR-FRY!!!
    • Then he doesn’t have to eat it. If he just too distracted, I will try to put a tiny piece in his mouth first to make sure he’s tasted it. Quiet a few times I think he just gets overwhelmed by something and forget to eat. Once he gets a taste, he usually will start eating. But if his lips are sealed shut and he turning his head away, I let it go. Forcing him to to eat it is only creating stress and who wants to eat when your stressed out? Food should be joyful, not torture.
      This day all he wanted was chicken.
      Guess he needed protein!

      Then I will usually try offering him something else to eat. Maybe he didn’t like my black bean enchiladas that night for whatever reason, he can have some cucumber sticks instead. Or maybe his body needs protein and he actually wants some chicken. He usually will munch on something eventually after a few samples. And this so rarely happens that it’s really not an issue for us.

  • What if he won’t eat anything?

    I can’t remember what I offered him,
    but he really could have cared less.
    • That’s okay. “Food before one is just for fun.” My milk is his main source of food so if he just wont eat, then he can have milk instead. Like I said, skipping meals at this age is okay. Maybe his tummy is upset, or he’s already full? Why force him and make him throw up. It’s just creating stress on both of you. Your baby also might not be ready for solids and this is queue to hold off. But, if you baby wont eat or nurse at all, something else might be wrong and you need to take them to the doctor right away.
  • Do you take him out to restaurants?

    Our mini bear went out for breakfast!
    • We sure do! We don’t eat out a lot but Jack does eat with us when we do. We make sure we order things he can share. Like I ask for a side of veggies instead of fries. Or dressing on the side of my salad. No heavy or rich sauces. And nothing too greasy or salty. The first restaurant he ever ate at was Black Bear Diner (besides the cafe at Ikea I mentioned in the last post). We went for breakfast on my birthday. We sat him in the highchair and asked for a little plate for him. He LOVED Michael’s bacon, but munch on some spinach and potatoes from my hash too.
      He didn’t know what to pick first at Veggie Grill

      He was big fan of  Veggie Grill too, especially the piece of tempeh and tomato from my burger. He almost forgot about the plate this time because he was so excited for food.

      He mostly just played with the menu and
      watched the waitress run around.

      Sometimes he gets overwhelmed by all the people, lights, and decorations so he wont eat much. We went to Red Robin last week and he was more interested in the drink menu and the waitress walking by.

  • Is it hard to not help him eat?

    He can hold a rip bone by himself, he doesn’t need my help.
    • It was at first. I grew up with the standard of spoon-feeding a baby a certain amount, so it was hard to not try to help him. Especially when he would miss his mouth or spit it right back out. I have to tell myself  “It’s not about the food, it’s about him learning the skill of eating. He will get it in eventually, if he wants it.” I do help him if he struggling to pick up something he wants and is getting frustrated. And I must confess, when we are eating out I either hand him one piece of food at a time or place it in his mouth for him. I don’t mind him getting messy when we are out, but I don’t want him to throw it at someone. And at home we have a towel down so I can pick food up and give it back to him. I can’t give him something he dropped on the floor of a public building. And at home I get him more food easily if gets dirty, I can’t afford to do that out. So it’s not quiet within Baby-Led Weaning guidelines, but it works for us. I don’t make him eat anything he doesn’t want to and he still learns how to eat.
  • Isn’t this just wasting good food?

    This is actually not a lot of food on
    him, maybe 1/2 tablespoon?
    • And spoon-feeding doesn’t? Spoon-fed babies still spit out, throw, and smear their food everywhere. Plus it’s not like I’m making him a whole separate meal. He gets a small portion of our food, I don’t make any extra or do anything special (except not put salt, sweetener or heavy sauce). Sure that’s maybe 100 calories we would have ate, but we are adults and can get other food later if we want. So yeah he’s thrown an small omelette at me and wasted it, but it was half an egg’s worth from my husband’s bigger portion. Not a big deal. Plus, I personally think jarred or pureed baby food is more wasteful. All the time, money, and energy spent on cooking, mashing/pureeing, and jarring. Then reheating and separately from your own meal getting them to eat it. Too much for me.
I hope this answer some questions and helped you decide if Baby-Led Weaning is right for your child. By the way, it’s never too late to try this with your child. Even a 10-month-old who was spoon-fed rice cereal from 4-months-old will still like to try eating with their hands for fun!

The Beginning Of Baby-Led Weaning

*Follow our BLW journey on Instagram @vegan_babymama

In my last post, I explained all my reasons for wanting to do baby-led weaning. I think it’s a natural way to introduce solids to an infant without all the stress and drama of spoon-feeding purees. Plus I get to continue to breastfeed Jack on demand for as long as he and I want. Win for everybody!

The key to successful baby-led weaning is to only start it when they meet all the milestones, which I will recap:

  • Sit up unassisted.
  • Reach out for objects and bring them to their mouth easily
  • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflect (when they automatically force something out of the back of their mouth)
  • Chewing on toys or mimicking you while eating
  • Reaching for and/or taking food to their mouths, if given the opportunity

Most babies do all these at 6+ months. In the book, many moms said they didn’t start until 7-8 months even. In most cases, feeding babies solids before 6 months can have major health consequences. Their tummies simply aren’t ready to handle anything other than milk. The saying is “When their outsides are ready, their insides are ready.” If they can do all these milestones, their tummy can handle solids.

So when I finished the Baby-Led Weaning book when Jack was 3.5 months, I had no plans on starting him anytime soon. At that time he could mouth objects and barely sit up assisted. Then a few weeks later he reached out for a toy and grabbed it. Just laying on his side, nonchalantly grabbed it and brought it to his mouth to suck on. Maybe a weeks after that, he sat up very well assisted. Another week later or so, I noticed his tongue thrust was gone. He has always loved suck on my finger, but this time he brought it to the back of his mouth with his tongue deliberately. No gagging or forcing it back to the front. Next came the curiosity. He would STARE at us while we ate. I mean like stop everything he is doing and focus on our food. Then he began to smack his lips together as he watched us. I started putting his swing next to the table when we ate. He’d munch on toy and stare the whole time. I knew was growing fast, but still thought the other milestones were months off.

At his 4-month check-up, she said we could start solids if we wanted to, but waiting 2 more months is ideal. I still wasn’t even considering it. The that week, he sat up unassisted. I let go of him and he didn’t fall in any direction. Granted he was leaning way over and cried 30 seconds later, but he did it. This really put me through a loop. He was only 4.5-months-old!

I still thought I could hold him off, then this started happening:

He tried to steal my food! At first it was just wanting to see what was on my plate. Then he wanted to be held or lay in front of me while I ate so he could watch more closely. This led to taking the plates and later sucking on them. Then he tried grabbing our food. If appropriate, we let him hold a piece, but he usually just dropped it.

Then the day came when I couldn’t ignore it anymore. He was super fussy and wanted to be held, but I was hungry. So I put him in the wrap and made some lentil soup. I sat down with him still wrapped to eat. I got a text and started to read it when I noticed my hand was moving… He grabbed the spoon (top right on the collage) and put it in his mouth! It was mostly just the broth, but he moved it around his mouth and swallowed. It had curry powder and red pepper flakes in it! What are you doing kid? You shouldn’t be ready for that! I told my husband and he said he’s still too little, but knew I couldn’t keep putting it off.

Then the next day I made a smoothie and he demanded it (center of the collage). I mean squealing and failing around on my lap to get it. So I gave him the straw and he quickly put it in his mouth. It took him a minute, but he did suck some down. He coughed, then smiled and took another little sip. I was stunned. After that he wanted to hold the cup while I drank and intently watched me. That was the last milestone. I couldn’t ignore it. He was telling me was ready, 4 days shy of being 5 months old.

I did some research. Other baby-led weaning moms said their babies were ready a month early and they ended up doing great. But I was still worried about his gut not being totally sealed up yet. I researched that too, recipes for bone broth came up. Apparently the natural gelatin in helps everything close up (even in adults with leaky guts). Plus the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables help replenish his stores (babies are born with a certain amount that they leached from mom that lasts them until they are to get them from food). It sounded like a good starting food. The only probably is it wasn’t vegan! I know I said that Jack will be raised eating both foods , but I didn’t exactly want his first food to be from an animal. But I knew it would be the best for him. And it wasn’t the end of the world, he might still end up a vegan. I got over the worry and decided to make some bone broth.

My house smelled like turkey for days,
not appealing to a vegan.

That’s right, I said make my own. The “broth” they sell in stores is not the same thing. It’s made from meat scraps and has a lot of sodium added for flavor. Real broth is made from roasted and boiled bones. If I was going to start my son on food, I was gonna do it right. So I bought a roasted turkey breast from the store (I was not in the mood to roast my own and turkey was all that was left when I got off work). I picked the meat off and gave it to Michael. Then put the carcass in with celery, onion, carrots and garlic. I let it simmer overnight. I added a touch of salt, pepper, and a sprig of rosemary for flavor. I let it cool and drained it.

Little man was very happy afterwards.
The large photo is him licking his lips.

I got my lunch ready and then put Jack in the highchair. He was so happy to be at the table for once and not next to it. I need to explain why this is the only thing I will spoon-feed Jack. Everything he will feed himself. The reason I am doing this is because I actually do want him to ingest some to seal up his gut. But I let him have all the control. He got to pick which spoon or to drink from the cup. He chose the Asian spoon. I let him open his mouth and lean forward to take it. He instantly started slurping. A lot of it went down his front, but he got some. He started hitting the tray asking for more. I gave him more and he took the spoon to lick up all he could. So I turned to my food, had a few bites then gave him another spoonful. I only poured maybe 3 tablespoon into the cup. He maybe had 1? It doesn’t matter with baby-led weaning. He had just nursed so he wasn’t hungry. It was just a little top off. He told me he was done when he turned his head away. But he wanted to play with the spoon so I let him while I finished my food. It was calm and happy. I had lunch with my son for the first time. So beautiful, proud momma moment. My husband had dinner with him that night and he loved it too.

Definitely more on him than in him.

We did only bone broth for 2 more days. Then I introduce the first real solid food: egg yolks. Again not vegan, but high in iron. Iron is the first mineral babies deplete. I hard-scrambled just the yolk. I let it cool and place it on his tray. We sat down for our first Sunday morning breakfast as a family. I put one piece of egg in his mouth just so he had a taste, he brought his hands up to hold it. He didn’t eat too much of the egg, mainly just played with it and licked his fingers. He got it everywhere, we even found some under his neck later on that afternoon. But it was still fun and I was proud he was learning.

My wrap ended up covered in lentils. But he was so happy.

That afternoon we went to Ikea to check-out this bed frame we are thinking about getting. We had lunch at the restaurant there and Jack wanted some too. I first offered him a piece of my tortilla wrap, he just held it. I offered him some lentil soup. He played with the spoon and ate a few (like seriously maybe 4 lentils in the end). He mostly made a mess. But it was still fun.

He kept making faces but going back for more.

The next day I gave him avocado slices for breakfast. I sliced them into strips. I left the skin on a few pieces and took it off on the others. The ones without were too slippery and he dropped them. He could pick up the ones with the skin, but couldn’t get his mouth around them. Then he did something amazing, he pulled off the skin and took that to his mouth. He licked off the bit of remaining flesh very easily. That is when I convinced I was doing the right thing. He was ready and this was the best way to introduce food to him. Even if he was all covered in green like a mini Hulk afterwards! We did bone broth for lunch and dinner again that day.

He LOVED the cucumber.

A few days later we stepped it up a notch. Cucumber stick, bell pepper stick, and some cold soba noodles. When I set the food, down he just stared. Then he realized I was eating the same thing and watched me for a minute. Then he slowly picked up the cucumber stick (I learned from the avocado and left the skin on and cut off most of the flesh) and he began to suck on it. He loved it! After a little while he reached for the bell pepper stick and sucked that too. He liked it, but not as much as the cucumber. He then threw both sticks on the floor, then he noticed the noodles. He grabbed the little pile with his hand took it to his mouth. Most fell in his lap, but a few made it in. His face lit up, this was his first experience with real flavor. He just sucked them and coughed a little. But overall was very happy.

Then came bananas. I cut off about an inch from the one I was going to put into my cereal. Then I cut it into quarters lengthwise and left the peel on for him to grab. He picked them up easily but instantly was not a fan. He kept making a major puss face. He did get one big bite in and spit it out very quickly. He played with them mostly, which is fine. We will try again another day. And if not, I won’t make him eat them if he doesn’t want to. He was much happier with the bone broth for lunch and dinner instead.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As he continues to grow, we will try more and more things. And he will learn how to eat better and start telling me what he wants. I look forward to this journey with him!

Baby-Lead Weaning: Ditching The Baby Spoon


First of all, I want to say I am not judging anyone who bottle-feds or spoon-feeds their child. All that matters is you love and care for your child. Everything else is just a difference of opinion.

The story of how I am introducing solid food to my son began when I was still in my first trimester. I pretty much spent every day for the first 4 months laying on the couch coping with morning sickness. To distract myself, I looked up pregnancy and baby stuff on Pinterest. I came across this blog post one day and I was intrigued. I thought “Maybe later when the baby is older..” so pinned it. But I kept coming back to that post and thinking about it, it just seemed too good to be true. Women on my Birth Club kept mentioning it too. I knew I wanted to nurse Jack for as long as possible. And I wanted to make my baby food. Baby-led weaning encompasses all that. But I kept telling myself  “Figure it out later.”

The pin that haunted me….

Once Jack was born and we got the hang of nursing, I knew there was no way I wanted to wean him any earlier than 2-years-old. Jack decided that most days he only wants to nap on me, so I ended up with free time on my hands and back on Pinterest. And that post came up again. It was haunting me. So I downloaded the book to my phone and read it during his naps. A major light bulb went on. It all made sense. I found the way I wanted to feed my son and any future children.

I love e-books!

I had three major concerns about feeding my child. First of all, I wanted him to mostly eat highly nutritious, whole, unprocessed food. No junk food, no food-like products, and no empty calories. I want to change the way the western-world thinks about food, and a great place to start is my teaching the new generation. Second, I didn’t want to create a picky-eater. I’ve babysat kids who threw full-on tantrums the minute you even thought of feeding them something new. One little girl cried for an hour when I suggested dipping her quesadilla in salsa. I want my son to want real food, good food. Third, I will do anything to prevent Jack from developing food issues. I have struggled with them my whole life and it’s not until a few years ago did I get it mostly under control. I want him to learn food is for nourishment—of the body and soul—and not a treat or weapon. Baby-led weaning seems to be the answer to all my concerns about introducing solids.

So, what is this crazy new idea called baby-lead weaning? In a nutshell, you only feed your child milk (breast preferably, but formula is okay too) until he is ready to feed himself. And once you introduce solid food, you allow him to learn to eat and do not worry about how much he actually consumes. Then overtime, as he eats more gradually on his own, he will want to nurse less and less until he weans himself.

It’s not a new concept. This is how our ancestors fed their children. Cavewomen nursed their babies for as long as possible because that’s all they had. And when they were older, the cave-babies sat on mommas’ laps and pulled off pieces of roasted saber-toothed tiger meat (or whatever they ate) and gnaw on it. No spoon-feedings. No jar of nasty mushed up vegetables. No force-feeding a certain amount. Why did they feed their children this way and not like most mother do now? First of all , their babies were thriving on breast milk. It adapts as the baby grows to provide the correct calories/vitamins/antibodies to help a baby grow perfectly. And it’s pretty much free and always readily available. Second, feeding a baby this wastes less. Why portion out a totally separate meal of scarce food that this tiny person probably will only eat a few bites of? And waste all that time and energy making it? That cave-baby can just take what they want, and while the family eats the rest. If cave-baby doesn’t like saber-tooth tiger, that’s fine because they already had some breast milk. Baby-led weaning is not new, but forgotten. Once convenient pre-packaged foods became the norm, the idea of feeding your baby from your plate died. Food companies convinced us that only poor, uneducated people would feed their baby table scraps. Good, loving parents will spend the money to feed their child the food they designed for babies. This way of feeding is actually the new concept.

I know you are probably thinking, “But my parents fed me like this and I am okay.” And maybe you are. But I am telling you that I am not. And I don’t believe many from my generation are as good as they could be either. Like I said I have major issues with food. And I believe that—Mom, please don’t take offense to this, I love you and know you did everything you thought was right—that all my food issues go back to how I was fed as a baby. I was breastfed until I was 6 months old (I am very grateful for that!) then switched to formula. I was spoon-fed at 4 months old,  and given rice cereal at 5 months. My mom did make a lot of her own baby food (I am so very grateful for that!) with fresh vegetables and fruit later on. But it was still pureed and spoon-fed. So, what was so bad about this common feeding method? It didn’t teach me anything but how to overeat non-nutrient dense foods. This led to me not learning how to control my food, which led to overeating.. This led to weigh issues, which led to body image issues. So, I am horribly sick and messed up beyond repair from all this? No. But like I said before, it was painful to handle. I know other people from my generation suffer from these issues too. Plus, there is a major rise in severe allergies, painful digestive issues, and horrible migraines that can be all traced back to food.  I don’t think we are really as okay as we claim.

How does baby-led weaning solve this? Let me explain a little bit more how it works. This is once again a nutshell of the rules, I suggest reading the book for an in-depth explanation.

  • Continue to give them milk as their main source of food. Once the learn how to eat, they will begin to wean later.
  • Introduce foods once your baby has met all the milestones, usually around 6 month.
    • Sit up unassisted.
    • Reach out for objects and bring them to their mouth easily
    • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflect (when they automatically force something out of the back of their mouth)
    • Chewing on toys or mimicking you while eating
    • Reaching for and/or taking food to their mouths, if given the opportunity
  • Feed your baby what you are eating, within reason.
  • Chose a few, basic whole foods to start out and make them sure they are easy for them to hold.
  • Let them them be in control. Don’t try to help.
  • Let them make a big mess. Don’t try to clean-up during the feed.
  • Don’t offer too much as once or they may get overwhelmed, and get discouraged. Then they will think eating is stressful.
  • Don’t overly praise them when they do eat something. Then they begin to think that eating makes you happy, so I should eat more to keep you happy. This leads to overeating.
  • Don’t scold for not eating. This will also make eating stressful, too.
  • Don’t worry about how much they are eating, it doesn’t matter. Milk will provide them with the correct nutrition and calories for awhile.
  • Don’t force them to eat something they don’t want. They may be full and more hurts their tummy. Or they simply might not like it and forcing them to eat it once again is creating stress. Or they may be allergic to it and rejecting it is their way of telling you it make them feel ill.
  • Remember, it’s not about the food, it’s about learning a skill.

Baby-led weaning has the potential to eliminate the issues I talked about earlier. Overeating is reduced because they learn overtime how much food they need to be satiated. Babies are born knowing to only remove enough milk from the breast to be full. Trust me, you can’t force a baby to latch on if they don’t want to. However, you can force a bottle-fed baby or spoon-fed baby to take more than they want. This starts them down the road of wanting more than is necessary. But if you never break their natural ability, they will continue to only eat what they need. The food issues are eliminated for two reasons: there is no drastic change and there is less stress. It’s challenging for a baby to go from being spoon-fed bland tasting mush to suddenly being expected to eat normal adult food. They get used to only one texture and one taste, and then you demand they eat all this other crazy stuff? No wonder picky eats usually prefer simple things. But if you allow them to explore various tastes and textures from the start, it’s not so challenging. Plus, breast milk varies in taste based on what mom ate, so it’s not that big of a leap. With less stress, they have the time to learn at their own pace. Would you like to eat with someone standing over you demanding you eat this or else get punished? No, you wouldn’t! So why do it to a baby? All that teaches you is you are bad and food is bad. This mentality hinders the child from learning the skill. Lastly forcing a child to eat something before they are physically ready can create health problems. Babies are born with holes in their stomach lining to allow the nutrients of milk to seep into other parts of their bodies easier. If you force a child to eat solids before they are ready, these holes do not seal properly and cause digestive and immune system issues.

All this is why I am foregoing the spoon and jar, and letting my son eat from my plate. In my next post, I will explain how the journey is going so far.

Resources:
Infant—Food and Feeding, American Pediatric Association.
Baby-Led Weaning Website
Breastfeeding, World Who Organization