Baby Led Weaning :: The Good, the Bad, and the Messy

Congratulations, mama, your little one is now 6 months old! How quickly time seems to fly. If you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to this milestone for some time now. Not only does it mean you’ve kept your precious child alive and well for an entire half of a year, it also marks the beginning of a whole new adventure: solids. That’s right, that smiley baby of yours is officially ready to try out real people food. How crazy and exciting and scary, am I right?

When it comes to introducing solids, there are several things to consider before getting started. Gone are the days of simplicity, when there was really only one option when it came to baby food. Now, you not only have to choose what kind of food they will eat but how they will eat it. Puréed sweet potatoes in a jar and rice cereal are no longer your only choices. In fact, many mamas (including myself) are using a different strategy when it comes to the solids game.

Baby Led Weaning

Baby led weaning (BLW for short) is an approach to introducing solids that encourages your baby to self- feed. In BLW, your baby eats what you eat. Let me repeat that for you … your baby eats what you eat. That’s right, no pureed foods or airplane noises necessary. But choosing this method is not only easy, BLW encourages a positive relationship with food, develops motor skills, and teaches self-moderation. Sounds like a dream, right?

While I have thoroughly enjoyed and embraced the BLW process, it hasn’t been all fun and games. After a whole lot of trial and error, I feel like I have finally figured out the secrets to success: five rules. That’s right, five simple, straightforward rules are all that stands between you and Baby Led Weaning bliss. So read carefully, take notes, and prepare yourself for the journey that lies ahead. 

Embrace the Mess

Baby led weaning is a VERY messy affair. By messy I mean the – filthy, dirty, crusted food on the floor, cheesy handprints on the table, sweet potatoes in the belly button – kind of messy. Your floors will get dirty, your walls will get dirty, and even YOU will get dirty in ways you never imagined possible, so it’s better for everyone (read: you) to embrace it now and embrace it quickly. Deep breaths, mama, it’s only temporary.

Invest in the Right Tools

Now that you’ve accepted that mess is inevitable, there are some tools you can use to soften the blow. For starters, invest in a good bib. Your child will undoubtedly be the messiest part of this whole experience, but a good bib can make a world of difference when it’s time to take them out of that highchair. Those cute, muslin “Mommy’s Little Slugger” bibs won’t last a second. No, for this endeavor, you’ll want to invest in a heavy-duty, silicone bib with a deep pocket on the front for collecting all those little treasures that don’t quite make it into baby’s mouth. These bibs are truly a godsend and will greatly diminish the mess your left to deal with in the end. And once your baby reaches a more advanced foodie skill level, you’ll watch with pride as they search that nifty little pocket for the food they purposely spit accidentally dropped out of their mouths twelve times in a row.

Next, it’s time to find what I consider your most valuable asset, a floor mop. Sure, you could buy one of those fancy floor mats to put under the highchair and collect the mess, but to me that just spells “more laundry” and ain’t nobody got time for that. Although you might already own some version of a floor washing device, investing in a mop with a machine washable head and a pedal-operated contraption for wringing out dirty water will change your life in all the right ways, trust me on this.

Meal Prep

I don’t know about you, but I really loathe the idea of preparing two versions of breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day of the week. While BLW does suggest you feed your baby whatever it is you’re eating, that’s just not a realistic option all of the time. In a typical week, my husband and I drink smoothies for breakfast each morning. Last time I checked, my 9 month old’s straw drinking abilities needed a whole lot of work, so smoothies aren’t exactly a feasible breakfast option for her. At lunchtime, my husband and I both eat at our jobs and, much to our dismay, aren’t available to provide a freshly prepared meal for our daughter. When we get home, our daughter is often ready to begin her dinner before our main entrée is even done cooking. Each of these instances could easily turn into a chaotic nightmare, but don’t. We learned the hard way but have now mastered the art of preparation. While I am 100% not about making extra work for myself, I am all about making sure my daughter puts nutritious, whole foods in that tiny little belly of hers. That means, for my family at least, meal prep has become an absolute necessity to survive the day-to-day food making grind. Every Sunday, my hubby does the grocery shopping (bless him) and I get to work on steaming veggies, scrambling eggs, dicing fruit, and partitioning out yogurt for the upcoming week. My Sunday self kind of hates me, but my Monday-Friday self makes up for it with all the love. If you’re committed to Baby Lead Weaning, prepare yourself to invest some time into making all those yummy foods. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Be Patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were your baby’s fine motor skills. The first few weeks of BLW can feel like a special kind of torture. You’ll watch your baby try (and fail) at picking up the same piece of food what feels like a million times in a row. You’ll feel like giving up, grabbing a spoon, and feeding them yourself. Don’t do it! The first few weeks are crucial practice time for your baby. There won’t be a whole lot of eating going on, but there will be tons of pincer grasp and hand-eye coordination development. You’ll also watch in terror as you witness your baby cough, gag, and spit over and over again. Stay strong, friend, and resist the urge to call it quits. While you should always be near your baby while they are eating, gagging and coughing are unfortunate parts of the process. The more they practice, the better they get and your fears will gradually subside. Before you know it, they’ll be eating their food like a pro and you’ll miss the days when they weren’t so independent. Be patient, mama, and enjoy the process.

Have Fun

Once you get past all the hang-ups of baby led waning, you’ll realize how much fun the process can be. You will be truly amazed at how entertaining it is to watch your little one eat a piece watermelon, and you will fall completely in love with all new and crazy faces they make. You’ll get to witness the look in their eyes when they have their first taste of ice cream and laugh at their disgust over a piece of broccoli. All the while, you’ll be instilling the importance of sharing a meal with your family.

Remember, mama, your attitude and the experiences you create for your children during this process sets the stage for their relationship with food for the rest of their lives, and only you can make sure it’s a good one. So go make those meals, grab your camera, and enjoy the ride.

Haley and her husband live in Baton Rouge with their baby girl, Landry Kate. She is a native of Baton Rouge and attend LSU, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and a Masters degree in the Art of Teaching. She now works as an elementary school teacher and barre instructor. Though she has only been at it for a little while, there is nothing Haley loves more than being a mother. In her free time, Haley enjoys walking the LSU lakes with her family and their 2 dogs, listening to her favorite podcasts, cooking, and running. She is excited to share her experiences as a first time mom.

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