Baby Led Weaning with Willow
Ah, what a time it's been. I have wanted to share our magic little eating journey we've had with our little girl, Willow for so long, but life honestly just kept getting in the way. Alas, I am finally penning it, thanks for tuning in. For those playing along at home, Willow is our third little love that we have baby led weaned and to be honest, this time around has been the best.
As you can imagine, my first time around was a whole different experience - not short of choking worries, food idea googling, feeling the pressure to feed purees and our fair share of stares in cafes when E was handling his own food as a little baby. But, with Willow, after two BLW'd boys and 7 years of being a mum, goodness it's been so much easier, made a helluva lot of more sense for us as a family and really has been a hoot of a time.
As a result, Willow is a flicking brilliant eater, and I while I know her fussiness and appetite will absolutely change when she hits that dreaded 18mth old stage, I am feeling proud of her journey so far and 100% attribute her wonderful palette and relationship with food to BLW. At the ripe old age of 11months, she goes for all textures, tastes and spiciness and can hand feed herself with no dramas, including almost being able to use a spoon with some near-hits ha! (many more misses - but she is well on the way!)
So, how did I go about it? What does she eat? My hot tips for BLW?
Read on, friend, and hopefully, you will find some comfort and confidence in what I share to give it a crack with your babe.
All recommendations strongly advise you don't start your babe on a BLW journey until they are at least 6 months old, and even then, they should be sitting upright independently. Willow was sitting up before 6months, so we began bang on the week she hit the half year.
My 3 initial steps for BLW are below - expose, share, try.
In those early days, popping babe in the bouncer near the table at dinner time or sitting them in the highchair while you have brekkie are all great ways of showing your babe what eating looks like. They will begin to watch you closely, their eyes will follow the food to your mouth and they'll even begin to reach for your food. In that last month, I often find myself offering little bits and bobs of my food on my finger. This exposure models early eating habits and skills, readying them up for 6months BLW.
In the beginning, they won't eat a whole lot - so I share my meals. At the end of this blog, you'll find a helpful infographic that lays out how much they eat at each age, but initially, I offer a finger, then a spoon of what I'm eating. We shared my brekkie most mornings (she still cons me into it after she's had her own). Sharing little spoonfuls of what you're eating just joins your babe in on the eating experience. At the start, make sure you're not offering high allergen foods until you've tested them out.
It will soon become obvious to you when your little love wants to have a crack at what you're eating. My husband and I eat all the same meals, but he is a bit more adventurous and there are just some things he eats that I prefer not too. For example, this pic of is her trying some baked beans off my husband's breakfast plate. I don't eat them, so I was sure to give her a try when he was. The trying stage continues right throughout their childhood - I try really hard to give her different options at cafes, restaurants and other people's homes. Any place that offers food that you wouldn't usually serve is a bang on way to expose babe to other tastes and textures, but also give you ideas of things you might like to serve at home.
Below is a brief list of the foods we have offered, baked, shared and exposed Willow too in the last 6 months. There are so many options - further down are some instagram accounts and websites to follow that give fabulous ideas and recipes.
Rule of fingerFoods the size of your finger that they can hold and suck
Bite size introductionFoods can now be offered in small bite sizes that they can mung, soften (bite if they have teeth) and swallow
All previous foods plus:
Mix it upFoods that your babe can hold & eat, pick up & eat or spoon/fork feed themselves
All previous foods plus:
TIPS & TRICKS
Some of my favourite tid bits to make your BLW journey easy, fun and safe.
At every opportunity, keep their meals the EXACT same as yours. Simply pull out, deconstruct, make finger sized what ever you're eating. This just eliminates any extra work for yourself. It also reinforces early on, that they are a part of a family who eat together, laying foundations for less fussiness down the track.
Well, not initially. Plonk all food straight down onto their tray so that they are focusing their hand eye coordination solely on what they're trying to pick up, not dinnerware. And, who really needs uptipped plates any earlier in their lives than completely necessary. Down the track - suction plates and bowls are magic.
Try really hard not to clean off their tray during meals, until you know they're completely done. They will often come back to food they've spat out, ignored or chucked down. Also, not cleaning their face until they're finished helps for them to learn their hand to mouth coordination, so resist when you can.
Just because you're doing BLW, doesn't mean you can't feed your babe. Absolutely let them investigate soft, liquid foods such as yoghurts and soups with their fingers, but also you do want them to consume some of it, so in those cases, offer two spoons. One for you to get food in their mouth, and the other for them to mimic, play and mouth themselves.
In those early days, when they're still learning to grasp food - keeping skin on fruit makes for a more tactile grip. Things like bananas, avo, pear, orange, mango and stone fruit - leaving the skin on will make it easier to hold. It doesn't matter if they suck or eat parts of the skin, just watch for choking - especially if they manage to remove a long pear skin.
COAT / CRUMB
If you can't keep the skin on, or you're finding babe is struggling with the skin - you can coat slippery food such as avocado, mango or pear with some texture to make it easier to hold. Crumbs or coatings such as hemp seeds, sesame seeds, fresh grain bread crumbs, coconut, cocao or shredded cheese all add excellent grip.
When you're venturing out with a BLW babe, make sure you take a scoop bib to limit mess and catch food. Also, these snackie containers are a fab addition to the baby bag - great to keep most of the food contained, but also excellent for their pincer grip development.
Choking is a real fear for many mums, I know. There is no point telling you to get over it or that it will all be ok, because that's not helpful. But I can share some insight into the difference between choking and gagging - as there is a real place for gagging in BLW and it's a very important part of babe's eating development. This Instagram page - Baby Led Wean Team - has so many gagging videos that will help you feel comfortable and confident to tell the difference for your own peace of mind and your babe's safety. I recommend watching some, reading their advice and just giving yourself some time to navigate any fears you have when babe is eating.
When you begin BLW, you should also introduce water into their daily intake. A sippy cup is a fab way to start, we use the B.Box Sippy Cup and Willow didn't take long to figure out the straw. Also, from this age, you could be holding an open cup for them to practise their drinking - it's always a hilarious venture to successfully drinking from a cup instead of wanting to lap up the water with their tongue like a cat.
As many of you know, we try really hard to limit our carbon footprint, so instead of using wipes to clean her face and hands, I always have a face washer that I use. When it comes to food waste, any food that is caught in the High Chair Catchy that I can keep for next time, I pop in a container. After a day or two, if I don't re-serve her the food as is, especially if it's veggies, I will make it into a bubble and squeak or omelette mash type meal, which she loves.
Be sure to check out my BLW highlights reel on my Insta to see Willow's journey from the beginning - especially if you're just starting out, it'll be a good indicator of how we began and compared to where we are at now, almost 12 months.
OUR MUST HAVES
INSTAS TO FOLLOW
A LOOK INTO WILLOW'S MEALS
At that's it, my friends! If you got to here, I am impressed. I hope that you go away with comfort, confidence, some ideas and inspiration to make your BLW journey with babe as easy and fun as possible. Always happy to chat, feel free to DM on insta if you have any questions and be sure to tag me if you use any of my suggested products, hints, tips or recipes.