Baby-Led Weaning: The Good, the Bad and the Oh No, That Shirt’s Ruined


Baby-led Weaning-The Good, The badand the oh no, thatshirt's ruinedMost of my parenting philosophy is based on my own crippling laziness and incompetence. I exclusively breastfed because I was able to and keeping bottles sterilized seemed really hard. I use disposable diapers because, as much as I love the idea of not contributing a billion dirty diapers to landfills, I can barely manage to keep up with our normal laundry let alone the countless cloth diapers my kids could manage to pee and poo in during a given day. I’m a big fan of ‘child-led play’ because I spent my own childhood watching Batman and Three Men and a Little Lady every day, therefore have no imagination to speak of and am incapable of devising clever ways for my kids to spend their time.

So when it came time for my oldest son, Jack, to start eating solids, I thought ‘How can I teach this kid to ingest food with the least amount of work on my part?’ And then, like manna from heaven (and also my friend Alison’s blog), I discovered baby-led weaning (BLW).

Baby-led weaning is a method of introducing solid foods to babies by allowing them to feed themselves from from the beginning of their exposure to solid foods. (The term was coined in the UK, where weaning means ‘introducing solid food,’ unlike in the US, where it traditionally means ending breastfeeding).

Basically, you offer babies whole foods from the start of their solid food experience, allowing them to pick up the food and feed themselves. No purees, no jars, no spoons, no ice cube trays. Just cut the food you’re offering into manageable-sized sticks (think French fry sized) and let them have at it.

BLW allows babies to experiment with different textures and promotes the development of chewing skills earlier than purees. And because the baby is in control of how much he’s eating, he can start to learn early on to eat until he’s full, rather than always finishing everything on his plate.

Now, a few disclaimers: experts recommend babies be six months old and able to sit up before beginning BLW. Many people worry about food allergies when introducing solids, but baby-led weaning proponents say introducing new foods as often as you want is completely fine, unless you have a family history of food allergies.

Also, BLW is messy. Like, messy. So if the possibility of finding tomato sauce splatters behind your fridge when your kid is 15 will deeply upset you, it might not be for you.

I was incredibly skeptical when I first read about BLW, convinced Jack would either just stare at the food without the slightest idea of what to do with it or choke to death. But, at six months he really loved trying to pick things up and as I said up front, my laziness knows no bounds, so I thought we’d give it a try. We started with a banana, cut into little sticks. Jack stared at it for a while, worked on getting it into his chubby paws and eventually transferred some into his mouth. I worried that more banana had made it onto his hair than in his mouth, but he seemed satisfied.

Soon we graduated to avocado, steamed carrots and sweet potatoes and even slow-cooked beef. At Jack’s first Thanksgiving, just a couple months after starting BLW, he was able to eat almost everything I cooked and share in the meal with everyone. It’s still one of my favorite memories from his first year.

With my second son, like everything else in his life, we just kind of said ‘Oh yeah, you’re here’ and started giving him bits of whatever we happened to be eating at the time. His favorite first food was pork tenderloin which, at barely seven months, he could eat more of than me.

Today, both my kids are great eaters most of the time. Like all kids, they have days when they only want to eat loaf bread and mac and cheese, but for the most part, they’re really open to trying new things. When we go out to eat, my husband and I usually order whatever we want and share it with the boys. They love sushi, Indian, Thai and pretty much anything they can dip into a sauce.

I don’t know if their food adventures are because of baby-led weaning, but I do know it gave them a great sense of independence and allowed them to be involved with family meals from a young age, which is still a huge part of our daily lives together.

I’m not big on subscribing to any parenting philosophies and I won’t know for many years what effect my laziness-based approach has had on my children. Hopefully not extreme amounts of therapy. But I can wholeheartedly say that baby-led weaning is one of the best decisions I made as a new mom and I would recommend it to anyone who’s getting ready to start their baby on solids. You’ll probably ruin a few onesies and maybe even some walls, but your baby will learn to love food in fun, headache-free way. Lazy mom approved.

If you’re interested in learning more about baby-led weaning check out the blog Baby Led Weaning and the book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater.


  1. We are kindred parenting spirits, sister! I love that other people thought I was so “up to date” and doing the newest, best thing when really it was more like “oh hey, munch on this and I can make one meal for everyone.” In all honesty though, I think it made a huge difference early on with his fine motor skills and lack of pickiness! Definitely one of my finer parenting decisions!

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