A Nurse’s Guide to Baby Led Weaning

Three years ago I was at a loss at how to start giving baby foods to my daughter.

What should I start with? Jars or homemade? How often and how much should I give?

This topic is not thoroughly discussed in doctor’s offices and I found it difficult to find answers when searching online. My doctor suggested that I could start rice cereals around four to six months and introduce other puree’s slowly from there. So that is what I did.

At that time there were many foods not to be given until baby was a year old due to what was thought to be a risk to baby developing an allergy (fish, eggs, nuts), so the options were limiting. At this point I had not considered Baby Led Weaning, or the introduction of finger foods, as an option.

Giving my daughter solids was a real chore because I had to make separate foods than what my husband and I ate at mealtimes. I also found that I was constantly throwing leftover baby food out.

I spent most of the dinner hour spoon-feeding my daughter instead of eating my own meal. We were not able to enjoy family meals together. It just wasn’t what I had envisioned for my first feeding experience with our baby.

I really wished that I had known about Baby Led Weaning with our first child.

I soon realized after my son was born that many of the hard and fast baby feeding rules had changed since introducing solids to my first child.

It is now strongly recommended that mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months, instead of the previous wishy-washy suggestion of starting solids between four to six months.

In addition, all of those highly allergenic foods that used to be a big “no-no” to give infants are now back on the table, literally.

According to this article by the Canadian Pediatric Society, introducing highly allergenic foods too late may actually increase the risk of developing allergies rather than prevent them. Therefore, it is now recommended that these foods be given to infants shortly after six months of age.

The only food that continues to be completely off limits until one year of age is honey, due to the risk of developing infant botulism.

An additional change made to the way we should feed our babies is that meat, which has a high iron content, is now suggested as a baby’s first food instead of  rice cereals. This is due to the fact that the type of iron found in meat products is easier for our bodies to absorb compared to plant-based sources (Caring For Kids, 2012).

According to Health Canada, meat and alternatives should be given at least once daily to infants over the age of six months.

The final change to how we should feed our babies is that while we used to be told to give babies foods void of spices or seasonings, there actually was no scientific evidence to back this recommendation up and therefore does not need to be followed.

The fact that a mother’s breast milk takes on the many different flavours from her diet is a clear indication that babies should have no difficulty adjusting to eating foods enhanced with the same spices used by parents.

When we first started to give my second child solid foods at six months, I attempted to give them in pureed form.

But what I didn’t think about was that since he was older than my daughter was when she began eating, he wanted to begin eating foods with more texture immediately! As soon as I attempted to put a spoon with puree in his mouth he would literally gag and go red in the face.

I was so worried that he would choke and he even threw up on a couple of occasions. After multiple feeding attempts gone awry, I finally got up the courage to try giving him finger foods. Lo and behold, he loved them. No more choking episodes! We all started enjoying meal times!

I was shocked at what my tiny tank of a baby could master without any teeth. He quickly began mashing the food with his gums or allowing it to soften in his mouth and his fine motor skills quickly developed. I am quite sure that he has already learned how to shovel his food in with a speed and precision unknown to my three year old.

In addition, I must wonder whether babies who start off with bland mush and limited selection have a higher probability of rejecting the complex foods that most of us enjoy?

There are a few setbacks to baby led weaning. It can be much messier than the alternative, as all foods are left on the tray for baby to do with as he pleases. Being a clean freak I was really concerned about this.

In all honesty, most of my son’s food mess is contained within his seat and is easily managed with a few wipes and a daily bath. Frequent clothing changes and a good stain remover deals with this issue. I also try to reduce the mess by only giving small amounts of food at a time so less of it ends up on the floor or fed to the dog.

The next downfall is that not all foods can be made into bite sized pieces. The following is a list of foods I fed my son as finger foods when starting out to give readers an idea of what they can try:

  • Chicken breast, turkey, tilapia, steak, pork chops, sausage, ham, ground beef, beans, lentils, eggs, peanut butter (yes, peanut butter spread on toast! One of his favourites!)
  • Farley biscuits, plain Cheerios, well cooked pasta, whole wheat toast cut into strips, bagels, multigrain crackers, raisin bread, potatoes, rice, quinoa, couscous, homemade muffins
  • Bananas, skinned peaches, pears, nectarines, apple, avocado, blueberries (squished so less likely to choke), raspberries, blackberries, pineapple, grapes (quartered lengthwise to avoid choking)
  • Cooked peas, carrots, corn, green beans, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato, squash – all steamed and mashed/diced
  • Cubes of hard cheeses, plain yogurt frozen drops (less messy!), cottage cheese
  • Low sodium soups, pasta dishes, casseroles, stir fry, fried rice, spaghetti with meatballs, chili and various other homemade dishes (think crock pot!)

This is not a definitive list. These foods can also be given in many combinations and cooked in different ways.

Of course you will need to use your judgement when feeding your own child depending on development, and you should ensure everything given is as soft as possible in the early stages.

Regardless of what you feed baby you should always be present. Always choose the healthier option: steam instead of microwave, limit processed foods or adding salt and sugar, and wash produce well. Some babies may have troubles digesting highly acidic foods or may develop diaper rashes, so give with caution.

Don’t be discouraged if your baby spits out or throws around most foods in the beginning as it usually takes upwards of 10-15 tastes for baby to decide whether he likes a food or not. He may not like it one day but devour it the next, so keep trying.

I find my son eats the best when I give him what everyone else is having at the table whether it is in casserole form, a pasta dish or meat and potatoes. Have fun with it and try to make meal times as easy as possible. The last thing mamas needs is more stress!

Try not to worry too much.

Just remember that every adorable baby will eventually turn into  a busy toddler who eats week old stale goldfish tucked away in their car seat!

Do you have any words of wisdom, tips or great baby friendly recipes to share with other moms? Use the comment section below!

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Hi! I am a Registered Nurse on a unit that encompasses labour and delivery, postpartum, medical, surgical and palliative care in a rural hospital in Ontario, Canada. I am a mom of two and am passionate about women's rights, mom and infant care, parenting and nursing. I hope to create an educational, entertaining and highly relatable resource for women around the world. Thanks for stopping by! Xo, The Mama Nurse

6 thoughts on “A Nurse’s Guide to Baby Led Weaning

  • November 16, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    It seems the guidelines are always changing. I only have 2 boys. 4 years apart and man did things change in between them. My oldest got cereal in milk. He was bottle fed. My youngest went from breast to homemade food. We did mashed for just a few weeks and he was over it. He wanted the real stuff. He also had teeth sooner than most kids. LOL He loved peas and chicken. I started out with all the foods that most kids don’t like. Peas, green beans and the such. He never had fruit puree, instead he had cut up bananas and mangos. I think the key is to not compare to what other babies are doing and do what your child can eat. Great share!

    • November 27, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      Kim, those sure are completely different experiences that you had feeding your two boys. I completely agree that we as a whole need to stop comparing our children. Even within a family each kid is completely different and will have their own journey. Since having my second child I have definitely started to care a lot less about what people think and just do what works! I am much happier for it. Thanks for your comment and sharing your story!

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  • February 27, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Is the guideline still to introduce a single new food for three days? My son seems to get bored with that?

  • March 27, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    My daughter is 5 and a half months old. both her front bottom teeth cut through at her 5 month mark and i been giving her different fruits and veggies to try. She will bit a piece off and it worries me so ill take it out.i want to BLW but with being a first time mom i just dont know where to start how do i know what is a healthy size for her to swallow at this age? another question is i see on different websites that eggs should not be feed to babies under 1 but other sites say its ok. What is your opinion on eggs?

    • April 5, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      Hi there! If you’re concerned at all about your babies ability to chew and swallow soft foods, I would wait until the 6 month mark. The World Health Organization now recommends exclusive breastfeeding until the 6 month mark anyway. Meats and alternatives are now recommended as first foods due to their high iron content, of course broken into small pieces. As for eggs, as long as you don’t have a family history of allergies, it is safe to give eggs before one. The big one that hasn’t changed is honey. Please never give honey or corn syrup to an infant under one, due to the risk of botulism spores. Hope that helps and thanks for reading!!


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