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
My baby boy is 8month he does not get excited about food. Even feedin him the bottle of milk can be a challenge as well. I started solids a 6 month. He gags often and definitely hates foods that have texture to it and then he gags and even vomits if its to much in hos mouth. I dont know what to do t get him to like food or what foods I should giv him to encourage him to want to eat and I dont know what to do to help him stop gagging on textured foods. Please help. I cpul cry
I totally understand Courtney. I’d recommend following the steps in this post: How to transition your baby to table foods
SO glad I found your blog! We’re having trouble with the whole feeding thing. I want him to love it, but it’s tough!
We started babe off with BLW at a week shy of 6 months. Wasn’t super into it, so we took about 2 weeks off. Came back and started again. Also started purée here and there at the same time.
My problem is that i’m not comfortable sending food to daycare that isn’t puréed. I love his daycare and I trust them, but it still scares the crap out of me. So I’ve been doing BLW at home, and purée at school. He hasn’t NO INTEREST whatsoever in the purées and turns his head and won’t eat.
So now I decided to just do all purée at home too, trying to stick to one thing and try to teach him purées. But it’s not going well and I’m afraid I’m confusing him more.
He’s almost 7 months, so we’ve been doing this for about 4 weeks in total.
I don’t think he’ll be confused, and it’s more important that he learn to eat table foods, so if it were me, I’d keep them up at home. Then, keep the purees at school, because it’s really good for him to consistently be exposed to them:)
So glad to have stumbled on your blog! My 6 month old boy has had teeth, been sitting up and interested in/grabbing at food since 4 months. Being my first, I’m going on a lot of intuition and gut, and some googling too. Ive been combining blw and purée spoon feeding and introducing a plethora of flavors and textures since about 5 months. He does incredibly well and at this point, I know what he can handle so we are enjoying the challenges and adventures of learning food. My sister I saw also an ot and she’s constantly amazed at how advanced he is with feeding amongst other things. I’ve gotten some ridiculous judgments from crazy moms on the internet who I honestly feel bad for. It’s refreshing to hear a professional basically reassure my approach as good for my child because 1)he’s having fun 2) he’s eating a EVERYTHING I OFFER 3) he’s preparing for the next step constantly
Thank you for your blog!!!
Julia- thanks so much for sharing your story! And, it’s exciting to hear how well your little guy is eating!
I am so happy I found your blog. Like seriously, desperately happy! It’s late and for the past hour I’ve been fretting over my daughter who is going to be 11 months old in two days and who hasn’t had much food outside of purées, except for those husks that melt in the mouth and a tad bit of mashed potatoes. She does great with the husks and the mashed potatoes, well she does okay but eventually wants nothing to do with them after about 10 little bites. I’ve just made her throw up twice with giving her food. Once with a TINY bit of avocado when she was 7 months. She couldn’t get it off of her tongue and threw up. Then again when I was feeding her baby cereal mix with a purée, she started gagging half way through and threw up a little. She seems interested when I’m eating but doesn’t like touching new things. I tried giving her carrots and she had a hard time picking them up and didn’t think to put them In her mouth. I read about letting babies get messy for sensory reasons and to get used to textures….what do you think? I’m just deslthu afraid of throw up, like phobia afraid, not of the smell or looking at it, but the not knowing if it will happen gives me anxiety lol but now I’m even more afraid my baby is behind! I try giving her a sippy with water too but that is SLOW moving process and she doesn’t seem to like water. She still drinks more formula than eating food. I don’t know what to do and feel like I am totally failing!
You’re in the right place!! I’m so glad you found your way here too! A couple of things, first check out this post on how to transition to table foods and this one on when baby won’t eat. They’ll both be very helpful and give you steps to follow.
Messy play can be a huge game changer, you can give her totally smooth things to play with so she won’t throw up if any gets into her mouth. Brushing gums and tongue with a tooth brush several times a day can have a big impact on her gag reflex. Make sure you sign up for the free printable, and email us at email@example.com if you still want another resource. I have a free online workshop I can get you:)
I am very curious about your articles. They feel just right. Though still haven’t read all of them. I am starting weaning my 6,5 month old baby girl. She is doing great job by putting spoon into her mouth. But she can’t take the food of it, usually she pushes it further away on the spoon and getting to taste only small part of it. Should I just keep letting her doing that and she eventually will manage? She does get upset after few tries, for not much of the food ends up in her mouth and then I let her to eat with fingers. But the mashed food is not easy to grab.. I did try to give her pieces of soft boiled vegetables but I am a bit afraid she would swallow too big pieces. Until now she is not making any attempt to chew. Either she gags or swallows chunks. Once I was suggested to give her to suck on apple, it was huge piece but she immediately bite quite a lot, it was her first food so she just spat out. Now I guess she would swallow it. I notice that she is trying to bite most of the toys she puts in her mouth. And this makes me think again whether I can give her not mashed food. How can I safely give her finger foods? Or It is better to wait until she is a bit older?
So glad to hear that! I would wait on table foods at her age, but she may be ready soon. I’d keep giving her those toys to chew on. One post that I think would be really helpful, if you haven’t read it already, is how to transition to table foods. You can get started with using the large foods to mouth on that I talk about in that post:)
Hi my baby is 11 months old will be one years old July 28. She has been eating puree foods regularly and about a week and a half ago she just doesn’t want it anymore. I have tried to give her table food she pushes my hand away. I try to give her the spoon she doesn’t want it. I bought some plates and tried putting puree food on the plate, she refuses. What should I do? I am so frustrated I don’t know what to do….HELP
Many babies/toddlers will start to refuse purees and this is actually developmentally appropriate, the problem occurs when they aren’t eating table foods. I’d highly recommend reading How to transition to table foods and follow the steps listed in that post.
I am so happy to have found your blog!
My baby turned one last week and a month before she was refusing spoons gagging on baby puffs and meal times were just a nightmare I dreaded and often I ended in tears. At our 12 month check up the hv was concerned that she gags on so little food and had no interest at all.
I found your sensory box blog and immediately tried a box of rice krispies. After 7 days she got excited to get in the box and eat them. Oh how I cried with joy.
Anyway, now we are eating puffs and biscotti but the hv wants me to cut out all “go to” snacks and daytime bottles and give only 120 first thing and 120 in the evening to make her hungry. She’s always grazed and never drank more than 120ml. In the day she’s never drank more than 60ml but first thing and bedtime she will take 2 sometimes 3 bottles so it’s a bit like cluster feeding I suppose.
So 1 week in and she’s screaming at me when the bottles empty and for her milk mid day, and as long as we have tried some food I am feeding her her milk. I can’t starve my baby! She is getting better at eating thanks I believe to your sensory box, but she pecks and nibbles she doesn’t eat. I’m worried I will be fobbed off again by the hv and told to remove the mid day bottle I’ve been giving in to. Amazingly she actually eats after the bottle sometimes so I think it’s aversion rather than too full on milk.
Any tips you can give me with helping her eat and for my visit with the hv? And how to get her to handle mush? Bread sticks cherios crackers and toast she’s fine with. Seems to love the crunch. But soft food and we’re gagging and then its game over.
I appreciate any advice you can share. I’m in the UK so waiting on the hv to refer me but feel at their mercy with this and like I won’t get referred anywhere because I’m giving in with the milk.
Thank you in advance!
Yes, I love how proactive you are! You’re doing fantastic, what great progress you’ve made! First, it does sound like she has some underlying difficulties, which you’re working through. If it were me, I’d try to have structured meals, give some of the foods she’s eating and some new foods that you’re working on. I would avoid random snacking and keep up with daily sensory bins, trying some messier textures too!
It’s also never a bad idea to get a second opinion from a doctor. One last thing, did you see the free printable in how to teach your baby to eat table foods? Make sure you sign up for that, I have some resources coming that will be really helpful to you!
Thank you! Feels great to hear I’m on the right path. I will try some messier textures and read the printable. Thank you for the link.
I am trying to stick with routine meal times and give her as much variety as I can and you’ve given me confidence in myself to keep going with that. Thanks again.
My LO is turning 9 months in a few days. From the beginning she did not want to eat any form of pure foods or cereal i have tried allot of different ones even made my own. then we started BLW it worked grate for the first 2 weeks from there she doesn’t want to eat at all. she just closes her mouth and turns her head at diner time she will take 3 bites of something and the she will be done.
What do i do? i have tried so many thins she just wont eat.
Hmm, I wonder if she’s teething? This can be difficult. I’d continue to offer food to her, keeping it as positive as possible. And, I’d check out this post on babies refusing solids– there’s some tips there that I think will be really helpful.
My son is 7.5 months now and since 6 months I have been trying to wean him using purees and offering finger foods. (He was exclusively breastfed until 6months).
The finger foods get thrown on the floor immediately. He only sometimes will suck on a rice cake if we are around other babies and he sees them do it.
He hates being spoonfed, making faces and gagging, turning his face away. He also splutters over even small spoonfuls. I had expected him to get used to it by now. Today I tried spaghetti Bolognese from a hat. He was spluttering a lot and it really frightens me and makes me feel loathe to push the finger foods more if he gags even on the mushy bits in the Bolognese!
I’ve tried rice porridge, and all kinds of purees and lumpier meals both in jars and home made. We try and sing to him and distract him but even then he pushes the spoon away.
I feel demoralised and want to go back to just breastfeeding. He still does not sit up unaided and only shows vague interest when we eat food in front of him. I feel like maybe he is not ready. Is that possible at his age? He is in the 91st percentile for weight and is a bonny boy but I feel like something is wrong.
Do you have any advice on something I could try differently/read/speak to someone? We are in the UK.
I would definitely follow your instinct and would check with your pediatrician on his sitting up and what they recommend with his eating. For the majority of kids, it’s important to be sitting up independently for them to begin eating table foods. Again, check with your doctor for their recommendations.
My baby is going to be 7 months next week, and we have been doing combo feeding. When she was 6 months, I did puree only since she was not able to sit unassisted at that time. But in the past week, she can sit very well and began to introduce her some table foods. So far we’ve tried tofu stir fry, baked salmon, toast, bolognese. Table foods are for breakfast / lunch only. For dinner, I do puree.
I have a couple of questions:
1. She does very well with table foods (to my surprise!), I could see that she chewed some of the food a bit, then started to swallow them! Like little pieces of salmon (that for us adults, those pieces of salmon needed more chewing to be broken down) were getting swallowed. Is that normal?
2. If I want to do combo at the same meal, do I offer puree first or finger foods? Or it doesn’t matter?
It is normal for them to swallow foods without chewing them properly first. I would recommend only giving them small pieces of food at this age. Also, at this age it doesn’t matter that much which is first, but as she gets older I would recommend giving her table foods first to help her transition off of baby foods.
Hi Alisha, Thank you for your reply. For small pieces, how small? Like as big as fingernails?
Yeah, that’s a good guideline to follow.
My son is 8 months old and I wanted so badly to do blw. However, early on we found he had a tongue and lip tie and I was told I could either get it fixed then or wait to see if problems he was having with nursing went away on their own because he was gaining weight very steadily. So I waited because I didn’t want to do the frenectomy If it could be avoided and ended up getting it done at 2 months instead. Well we found he had developed a very high pallet..no one is sure if it happened in the womb or after due to how he nursed with the lip and tongue ties..but now if I try to give him any kind of solid like banana or avocado it gets stuck in the roof of his mouth and he can’t mash it up. And he hates textured food now. I make his baby food and if something like chicken has any kind of texture other than completely pureed he immediately gags and shakes his head no and cries if I try to give him more. His doctor said to just take it very very slow with the solids..do you have any ideas that I could use to help him or any experience with this at all?
Thanks so much!
Definitely Katherine, I would focus on crunchy foods and make sure he is chewing. Search “how to transition to table foods” in the side bar or in the article index in the menu bar. Follow those steps- its just what you need!
Thank you so much. I was worried I followed the wrong road with my daughter by not doing BLW. We are still on purees but we also do puffs and the teething cookies We tried a chunky baby food but she just chokes on it. So we are holding off for a few more months.
Hi. I have a few questions! My little one is 7 months and wasn’t too keen on purees when i first started around 5 months so I started BLW and she loved it. Im just concerned that she is not actually ‘eating’ anything as she hasn’t cut any teeth yet. I’ve now started offering the purees again, with some success. How many times a day should i be offering her both BLW foods and the purees? And out of curiosity do BL babies have issues later on in terms of using a spoon to feed themselves?
Hi Ashleigh, usually not, but it is good to expose them to both. At 7 months old babies are eating 1-2 times a day and I would offer both purees and BLW at the same meal. If you see the menu bar you will find a link for “articles” and can find schedules for babies age.
It is so nice to not feel judged for my decision. Thank you!
My LO one was born a month early. He is 7 months now. He just recently started showing interest in food. For some reason, he doesn’t like purées and he doesn’t even eat himself yet. I feel him chunks of avocado, banana, small pieces of toast, bread, fruits but I mush a little between my fingers because he doesn’t like purées. Is that normal?
It is a bit unusual but not unheard of. I would keep doing what your doing, but try mashing your own and feeding from a spoon. I would also let him play in the puree in the food. Put some on his tray. Be consistent, every day. Let me know how it goes!
I just wanted to offer you some encouragement and affirmation. My son HATED purées. He is a very tactile kid, and they just made him SERIOUSLY gag at 6 months old. So, I offered him chunks of banana and avocado. He loved it! But don’t be worried… He eventually began to enjoy things like yogurt, those little squeezable packets for on-the-go, and other softer, more puréed foods. He still has a gag reaction to apple sauce at three years old – Haha! – but he’ll eat an apple! Seriously… He is just a tactile kid. Even at 27 my husband won’t eat a tomato, because of the texture. For some people it goes away, and is never an issue, for others it can just be a quirk that they have. But it hasn’t caused my kid to be a picky eater by any means. He’ll try anything at least once. Hang in there and keep on mommin’ the best way that you know how! That’s all any of us can do! 😉
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