There has been a lot of buzz about Baby Led Weaning (BLW) in the last few years, and I often get parents asking how I feel about the topic. I can’t give a clear yes or no because it depends on several factors, and I wanted to explain my thoughts as a pediatric feeding therapist and some important points to consider on both sides of the debate.
Let me first say that as a natural childbirth, breastfeeding, baby-wearing mama, I love the idea behind BLW. If I wasn’t a feeding therapist, I probably would have immediately jumped right onto this band wagon. I am drawn to the social aspect, ease, and natural-ness (is that a word – doesn’t matter I’m using it) to baby led weaning, but I’ve unfortunately seen some of the pitfalls in my practice. So you can be sure I’m going to cover that, too! I will mention that all of the specific feeding approaches I have been trained in over the years do not recommend it.
What is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
If you aren’t familiar with baby led weaning, the basic idea is that you give your baby soft table foods during family meals and allow them to learn to chew instead of using pureed baby foods as parents traditionally have done. BLW proponents argue that this supports oral motor development and proactively avoids picky eating in children. I think there is some truth to that, but certainly picky eating can still develop as children’s taste buds and behaviors evolve. In my opinion, there are a few major advantages and possible disadvantages with BLW:
Baby Led Weaning Pros
- Full on sensory experience that completely allows babies to explore their food and a variety of textures.
- Usually don’t have to prepare a separate meal* and baby has social benefit of watching you eat the same thing.
*Many of a family’s meals can also be pureed quickly right before everyone sits down to the table. Small blenders and quick choppers like the Magic Bullet work really well with this approach.
Baby Led Weaning Cons
- Minimal if any exposure to pureed foods, which baby needs to learn to manage as well.
- Babies can miss the window to learn how to chew and be exposed to food if parents wait too long (explained further below).
- If parents offer unsafe foods or foods in the wrong shape or size they could become a choking hazard.
I have to admit that there have been a few times that I have been, hmmm what’s the word I want to use, annoyed disappointed with BLW because parents have told me that they hadn’t started feeding their child food because they didn’t show an interest. Sometimes these babes were now 12 months old or more and had missed the ideal window to get their baby eating, which happens between 7-11 months. Often these babies had underlying oral motor or sensory issues that made accepting food more difficult, which is why they were likely avoiding it. If they had been traveling on the traditional path and began with safe foods such as dissolvable puffs, they may have noticed and sought help. Or, the child would have responded well to a food like puffs because it has a crunch to it, which is usually beneficial and thus successful for kids with oral motor and/or sensory processing difficulties. Instead the parents were just waiting for the day their child would start to show an interest in food, a day that didn’t come. Of course, these kids would eventually eat, but it was a much harder road this late in the game.
On the other side of the coin, going the traditional method can have it’s pitfalls, too. I think many parents, especially in America, tend to rely on pureed foods for too long. Parents are often scared of choking and gagging and keep waiting to introduce those table foods. In this case, the same scenario plays out where babies have missed an important window of easy learning and intuition. Of course, they can still learn these skills, but it is often more challenging. While neither of these situations is the norm, I think it is very important to be aware of these potential ways to unknowingly sabotage oral motor development.
When I first began to feed my oldest son five years ago, I combined some of the BLW principles with the traditional puree food route. I gave him big pieces of food to gnaw and mouth on during our meals, usually foods that he couldn’t get pieces off of or if he did, very tiny pieces. I let him get incredibly messy and self feed purees from a very young age. I fed him during our meals and pureed the food we were eating. My second child had underlying sensory issues, and although it was a lot more effort with some extra interventions, we followed a similar path as well. I plan to do the same for this tiny babe, too. If you would like more details on making your own baby food or how to transition your baby or toddler to table food click here and here.
What Should You Do?
As a feeding therapist, I think the best route is combing the two methods, as I just described. You can still give your child the large pieces of food and serve homemade baby food for a short while to make sure they are developing that skill and getting a wide variety of nutrients. Remember to be aware if your child is struggling with table foods whichever way you go, as this can be an indicator of difficulties with oral motor skills or sensory processing. Every child is different and certainly give them some time to figure it out, but if you are at the 10 month mark and table foods are still a challenge, talk to a doctor and/or seek out an evaluation from a feeding therapist.
If you decide to go the BLW route, make sure you educate yourself completely so that you can feel confident about safely giving foods to your child. Also, don’t be afraid to throw in some pureed foods here and there. Lastly, I ask that even if you love BLW, try not to judge parents that go the traditional route. Some babies aren’t capable of it, as I know quite well, and I’ve unfortunately seen some really harsh comments about baby food from BLW advocates on this blog and on social media. Please feel free to leave non-judgmental comments sharing your experiences, thoughts, or questions!
Looking for more info on feeding milestones?
How to Transition to Table Foods
How to Teach Your Baby to Drink from the Straw
Why You Should Let Your Baby or Toddler Get Messy
Is there a possibility of the bub fussing and crying because the bigger pieces of food from BLW that they are swallowing is causing them cramps or discomfort?
Thanks for the question. It sounds like what you are describing could be possible. With BLW it is also important that the foods that are offered are safe shapes and sizes. You might also want to check out our post for transitioning babies to table food. It might give you some more ideas!
Hi there! Thank you so much for this informative piece. My baby will be seven months next week. We began solids right at the six month mark, first with purees and some elements of BLW (offering fruit as finger foods). However, about two weeks in, she got constipated and would completely refuse to eat. I gave her a 3 day break and now have been offering food BLW style with no success – she will either throw the food to the ground or show no interest at all.
Are there any tips you could offer to break the feeding impasse? I don’t mind mixing both purees and BLW as long as we get some nutrients in. Thank you so much!
Hey! Thanks for reaching out. This can be really common, especially because baby foods and table foods are so new for your little one! If you’re hitting a rough patch, sometimes taking a break with exploratory meals with purees can be really helpful and fun (although a bit messy!). You can just smear a bit on the tray and dip some on a spoon to give your little one (let her try to feed herself and you feed her too). Let her have fun with it to take the pressure off a bit! We have a great free table foods workshop that would be really helpful as well. You can save your seat HERE.
I would just like to say the phrase ‘as a natural childbirth, breastfeeding, baby-wearing mama’ is rather damaging to some women. all childbirth is natural whether requiring medical intervention or not- in some cases it’s the choice of intervention or death. I came here to read about baby-led weaning and I’m left feeling inadequate because I allowed drs to perform an emergency c-section rather than my family loose me or my daughter.
Hey Abigail, Thanks for letting us know how this made you feel. This was in by no means what Alisha was trying to convey! We understand, especially as professionals, that there are variety of ways that childbirth can go and what’s right for one person can be different for another. It is all about keeping the family all safe and what your personal wishes are! We hope you understand and know that we support you!
Thank you for this comment, when I read the line about natural childbirth I almost closed the article and had a hard time finishing it! Totally agree with you that that kind of language makes us c-section birth parents feel inadequate. I’m not sure if the author meant vaginal or medication-free but neither of those things make a birth more legitimate or superior. Natural is not the right word here, and natural is not synonymous with better anyway.
Hi do you think 4 months is too young to try foods? I feel like my baby is ready and I don’t plan on giving him any of the cereals wanted to start with avocado. What do we do if he has an allergic reaction to something?
I’d reach out to your doctor about when they feel your baby might be ready. However, we do have an article on signs to look for that they are ready to start food. You can check it out HERE
Hi my baby is 4 months I gave her cereal but she’s not interested in she pushed away and not open her mouth and I offered banana at the first time she loved but then she pushed away from her mouth
Thanks for reaching out. It does take some babies time to get used to some new food. Around 6 months, most babies should be able to tolerate spoon feeding. It can be helpful to demonstrate for her opening and closing her mouth on the spoon. We’ll have some more suggestions for spoon feeding coming out in the next couple of months, so keep your eyes peeled 🙂
Hi! My 8-month-old is not interested in purees at all. He will put his arms over his head and duck his chin, or turn his head away just to avoid the spoon! He is very tactile and likes to chew on things, so I give him soft foods (banana, avocado, sweet potato, soft cooked carrots, meltables) and have even given him purees and a spoon to see if he just wants to feed himself. There is not much actually going to the tummy, though, and he gags on purees and seems to have trouble knowing how to swallow anything more solid. What can I do to help him learn to eat?
Thanks for reaching out! I would start to work on doing play with the pureed food trying to get him to touch the food with hands and getting messy with it (you can do this outside of mealtimes). We do also have a free workshop that would be helpful for you as well with some more strategies to utilize. You can save your seat here
Hi Alisha, this is a great article. I Have some similarities with the comments I read. I think we are all doing a great job and we shouldn’t be affected with anyone’s comment.
Anyways, I have an 11 month old and same thing, I am so scared to do BLW as I’m so scared on what to do when she chokes. When I gave her sweet potato last time (steam), she had a big bite and started coughing I had to take it out of her mouth because of anxiety. The second time I gave it, I think she managed better than the first but I always have this feeling of fear everytime I think about giving her table foods so I always end up mashing it (by fork, not baby bullet). Another thing I tried was avocado which sometimes she would look like she’s gonna vomit. Another thing I tried was mango but she gag again and almost choke. I don’t know if she bite big or just because mango is slippery, it slipped from her fingers and went straight to her mouth. So I never repeated it. Also, She have a lot of allergies with food so I really don’t feed her our own food because if it’s complexity in ingredients. If ever she reacts to it, we won’t know. Anyways, I bought her the fresh fruit feeder and it seems working. Is it good for her? How long can I keep using it for her? Also, for apples and pear, I find this feeder so good because she’s eating fresh and not steamed. I wanted her to have Atleast some fresh fruit and not always cooked and boiled. I mean nothing wrong with it, just own preference. Sometimes she would eat on it but sometimes she would stop right away and not continue anymore so the ending, I feel like she didn’t have enough. So what can you advise me on this? And what else I can serve her if ever that’s really safe to give? I always google search but I feel like those fruits or veggies that they mention are not personalized and they don’t really understand babies and mom. Really glad I found this website which I think understands what every moms and babies are going through. Thank you again and more power 😊
So happy that you reached out and have been finding our information helpful to help move you along in your child’s feeding journey! I would look at trying to find foods that are meltable (ie: puffs, graham crackers, etc) that she can eat, so she can get the skills practicing chewing and they do melt in your mouth so it eases your mind on choking as well, you will have to look for specific allergies! We do have a free workshop as well that is really helpful for the transitioning to table foods with some strategies to help along the way! You can feel free to save your spot for the workshop HERE
Thank you for this article! We’re just starting our journey into food introduction with our little one. She’s 29 weeks old, but only 24 adjusted. I have been scared about the strict “rules” of BLW, but I want her to be a much better eater than I am. We have done pureed broccoli, pear, and some thinned out peanut butter so far. I think the process you described with a mix of purees and whole foods will work really well. Thank you!
You are so welcome!! So glad you found this article and it was able to help guide you!! Good luck on the journey and reach out with any question!
Hi my 8 month old baby refused to eat solids. I tried puree and even table good but failed. I guess if i stop feeding her for a week and start again with BLW will it work for us?
It’s hard to say what is going on at this point. You can for sure try to start up again and see how it goes. However, we do have a free workshop as well that might talk you through some scenarios on where to start and what to do! You can feel free to save your seat here
Thanks for the article! I have a 9 mo who I’ve been feeding baby foods since 6 mo and little snacks sometimes of very small pieces of fruit, veggies, plain pasta, etc. I want to start giving her little bites of the things we are eating, but I am nervous to start introducing meals with multiple ingredients and added sugars, salt, and spices. I guess I am nervous to make the jump from raw, single-ingredient foods to a complex meal like curry or tuna salad or whatever it is we are eating for dinner. Do I need to be careful about the sugar and salt content of things that I’m giving her? Or am I overthinking this?
Any concerns about salt intake, I’d mention to your doctor! Generally if you are having something really salty for one meal, you’d make sure the rest of the day is not salty to balance it out! But again, I’d check in with your pediatrician to see what they recommend.
I love the information on here, its making me feel more positive about our weaning journey.
Can I just ask please if this is normal – I started weaning my little one at 4 months, I began with the baby rice, soon realised this was a mistake for and moved on to making my own purees. My little one was soon on 3 meals a day and loving the food. We got to a point where the food was mashed rather than pureed. By about 5 1/2 months. Now she is refusing to eat any of my homemade food – not even a taste. This started 2 days ago. She will still eat puffs, small slices of bread and sweet purees. Is this a phase or possibly a sign to move onto more solid / BLW approach. Do you have any advice?
Many Thanks 🙂
So sorry your little one is refusing purees. We do recommend mostly to continue offering of the purees as this is a consistency that we do eat in everyday meals. I’d make sure to provide time for her to play/touch the texture of the purees as well. This can help with them feeding themselves.
Hi! My name is Shelby and my little girl will be 8 months old in a few days. She eats Gerber oatmeal everyday once a day and usually one thing of baby food too. But the rest of the day she has formula. Is that okay? I just feel like she isn’t ready for table foods yet. And I just want to know that she’s getting the nutrients she needs. She can sit up on her own and has one tooth coming in. I’m just scared she will choke on regular food. I tried giving her little bites of broccoli and she gagged and wouldn’t eat it, just played with it.
We understand how hard this transition can be on families. Check out our article on Feeding Schedule for 8-10 month olds. This will help you with what a schedule should look like and also some tips for mealtimes.
Hello have a 11 month old who still eats puréed food. I’m a new mom and I was afraid to give solid food when she was younger. I started introducing solid food recently. My daughter does chew and swallow the first 2-3 bites then she holds the food in her mouth for hours refusing to eat more or even open her mouth. Also she screams and cries if we don’t put on the tv while she eats I’m not sure where she picked up that habit. We don’t watch tv while we eat or even do that with her. Please help !
So happy that you reached out! We get how hard it can be to feed a child solid foods, you are doing great mama! Holding in her mouth we would call “pocketing” You can read about it HERE as well as tips for how to work through it! We also understand how kids become dependent on watching tv while eating, you can learn all about it HERE and ways to break that habit! Hope this helps!
Hi Alisha, my little girl is 7 mo 1week and we started on BLW/ purée combo around 6mo, we ended up taking a break for a couple weeks for no particular reason and now when I try to spoon feed purées she gags, the last time I tried spoon feeding her she gagged so much she choked (on stage 2 sweet potatoes) and vomited. She didn’t seem too scared after, smiling and laughing but it practically scared me off from food at all especially that my sister in law made the comment when I had my girl that I “would kill her before she turned 1”. Do you have any recommendations for foods with my little girl again since she’s gagging so much on purées? And for my anxiety about feeding her? Thanks in advance!
I forgot to mention she can sit up completely unassisted (recently for 15 minutes)
Great! Thanks for the add, that is always great to know!
So sorry you are having difficulties, but glad you reached out!! Don’t worry what others are saying, you are doing great 🙂 I’d work on continuing of purees as well as some meltables (ie: puffs) to see how she does with that. We do have a free workshop full of tips for this exact situation, I think you’d enjoy a lot. You can save your seat HERE
Hi, I have an 11 month old who is a very sensitive baby.. he isn’t keen to try foods at all. Every time we try something he gets a rash.. he tried pears at 6 months old and loved it but ended up with bad rash all over his body – same as when we figured out he has CMPA. So we were advised to wait a few more months. We tried again 1-2 months later same thing – rashes. Now he just flat out refuses to try anything off a spoon. However puts so much in his mouth, anything off the floor. I want to be able to feed him and it stresses me out. I’m hoping for some guidance on what to start him on. I’m wondering if BLW would be better as he is in control? I just feel so lost. I have so many people telling me he needs to be having food and not milk 🙁 I’ve been putting some purée apples on his high chair table and letting him play and suck fingers, but again he has got a bad rash from this. He can tolerate some milk arrowroot biscuits- which are dairy, soy and gluten free and teething rusks: but that is it 🙁
We understand how hard this can be! Sounds like you have been doing a great job at figuring out his needs. I’d try to focus on foods that adhere to the allergy, until you are clear to try again provided from your doctor. It can be hard having the association with foods and not feeling well. I’d try to make sure when feeding purees that he has his own spoon as well and has opportunity to touch and play with the foods. We do have a free workshop on transitioning to table foods you can save your seat HERE
My son is 7.5 months old and loves to chew on anything, including slices of apple, strips of meat, broccoli florets, etc.; however, he will not let me put a spoon of food into his mouth. He won’t let me put a spoon to his mouth at all. He will put spoons to his mouth, and if there’s pureed food on it, he makes a scrunchy face and spits it out. The only thing he will let me put in his mouth is puffs. It is apparent from his diapers that he swallows some of his food. Should I just keep trying with the spoon? Or just keep trying different variety of food for him to get to his own mouth with his own use of the spoon? This is my third child, so I’m a little stumped at the pursed lip response to the approaching spoon.
Great question! I’d keep trying with the spoon, but allowing him to have a spoon while you have one as well. I’d make sure to let him explore the puree and get messy with his hands to see how he does with it. Also, continue to offer variety of foods as it will take a lot of exposures to get used to a flavor!
My little one is 7 and a half months and we are currently doing a combination of puréed food and BLW. When she started solids at 6 months, be it purées or finger foods, she gagged a lot! She started nibbling on the finger foods and self feed herself with a pre-loaded spoon with purées after a few weeks of our weaning journey.
But somehow, once she reached 7 months, she showed little to no interest in the food (purées and finger foods alike). She still played around with the food offered, exploring its texture and gnawing on some finger foods but she refuses to swallow any of it, even pureed food. We tried spoon feeding her but she refuses to eat anything.
We visited a few paediatricians but they weren’t too worried about her eating but honestly we are, because we feel that she’s not learning to swallow and afraid that we might miss the window of learning how to eat. Should we seek help or is this completely normal?
We can understand your worry! But sounds like you have been doing a great job at providing opportunities for playing with the food! I’d definitely keep that up and you can do that outside of mealtimes as well. I’d keep modeling for her as well! We do have a free workshop, that I think will help provide some suggestions and clarity as to what you are seeing as well and where to go from here! You can save your seat HERE
I have a BF 10 month old baby whos been eating sliced and cubed boiled veggies and usually whatever we have had for dinner..
the past couple weeks, if im there he completely refuses to eat ANYTHING solid , but only if I’m around.
His Babysitter gives him food and he takes it, if I’m not around his dad can give him food, and I am SO frustrated with the process!
I’m glad you reached out. I understand this can be a difficult process!! One thing that we think is really helpful is to follow a good schedule for spacing meals and nursings apart. He may be hungry and wanting to nurse rather than eat, but accepting foods from others as they do not nurse him! Take a look at this article on setting up a good schedule: https://yourkidstable.com/feeding-schedule-for-8-9-and-10-month-olds/