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Baby-Led Weaning

Janel F.
JANEL F.
Registered Dietitian
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Looking to wean baby, but don't know where to begin? Getting the support you need has never been easier. Just join the conversation! Led by Registered Dietitian and Certified Pediatric Specialist, Vanessa Thornton.

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JANEL ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
My baby is 13 months old, doesn’t like baby food but still wants to breast feed any chance she gets. How do I ween her off?
CARINA, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

Janel
JANEL

Hi Carina, I'd love more information on what you mean by your baby not liking baby food. Are you talking about purees? Food in general? How often are you feeding her solids, and is it before or after milk? At 13 months, there is a shift in milk versus solids. Before the age of 1, milk is still the primary source of nutrients and calories, but after the age of 1, whole, solid foods should make up the bulk of a baby's diet with milk still being important, but it should reduce as solid intake increases.

It sounds like because she doesn't like baby food, her hunger is causing her to seek out breast feeding more, but you're looking to wean! So before we discuss weaning, I think it is important to look at what's going on with her solid intake, to get her to eat more. Most 13 month old babies are eating 3 meals a day and 1-2 snacks in addition to milk (yes, it feels like a feeding frenzy all day long!). Also, at this point she should be eating "family foods" (not necessarily purees) as long as they're texture appropriate. If you're able to provide me some more info about what she's eating (or not eating) I can assist you further!

CARINA

She eats solids about 5 to 8 times a day. It’s always different. She does not care for purees, and never really did. She doesn’t like yogurts either. And it’s hard to say if it’s before or after eating when she nurses, it’s usually when she’s tired or rigt when she sees me from getting home from work. She does not like cows milk. I’ve even added a little of chocolate just to see if she’d like it more.

Janel
JANEL

Hi Carina,

That’s great shes eating frequently. What types of foods is she eating? At 13 months most babies are past purses anyways and should be eating what the family eats for the most part! I wouldn’t recommend adding chocolate to cows milk as this is making it a sugar sweetened beverage, but rather make sure her meals and snacks are balanced to provide enough calories and fat. You can include sources of dairy in other ways like smoothies with yogurt, cheese, milk in oatmeal, etc.

As for weaning, during the day it’s more about distracting. When she wants to nurse and you don’t want to, providing her with water or another distraction repeatedly will help, but also talking to her about it. That it’s not time for mommy’s milk, milk is just for after naps, etc. Some moms wear things like turtleneck sweaters tucked in so she can’t grab and pull at your shirts to nurse!

You mention she’s eating solids 5-8 times/day. 5 times per day would be 3 meals and 2 snacks, which is normal for this age but 8 seems like a lot, and if she’s doing more frequent grazing she may be less likely to eat solid meals because she’s never actually hungry. Getting her in more of a feeding schedule is so valuable at this age because kids thrive on routine, especially with feeding. Once on a more set feeding schedule you may have an easier time cutting out nursing for those breastfeeding sessions that are more than you’d like to do.

JANEL ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
What to expect
CHRISTI, PARENT OF 2 YEAR OLD

My 6.5 month old has begun BLW, gnawing on foods and exploring textures and she enjoys it! She is still breastfeeding as often as before, but at what point can I expect her to actually consume more of the foods offered? Ive given avocado, roasted carrot, apple, pear, banana, sweet potato, etc but she’s either sucking on the foods OR managing to break off a much too large piece, gagging, and then spitting it back out. I’ve also recently noticed her becoming frustrated with the process (perhaps bc she’s had a few purrees in the past or maybe it’s just her current mood?). I will look into the resources you posted earlier, but I would love any links that include videos or discussion of BLW throughout the process rather than just the start/end. Thanks in advance!

Janel
JANEL

That's fantastic your little one is doing well with BLW so far! It sounds like she's doing everything right - sucking, spitting out pieces of food that are too big, etc.). At just 6.5 months, she still has a tiny tummy and I assume has only recently started BLW so don't expect her to be eating entire meals! In fact, I love the phrase "under 1, just for fun" to remind parents that until the age of 1, milk is still the primary source of calories/nutrients in a baby's diet and the amount of milk should not decrease, even as you introduce solids. This way, even if she only has a few licks here, sucks there, and bites along the way, she's still getting her primary source of nutrition from milk. The exposure you're providing with BLW (and yes, calories and nutrients too) will help her as there is a food/milk shift after her 1st birthday. Give her time, patience and practice as she's learning how to eat for the very first time! Even just touching, smelling and seeing food is important because it is exposing your baby to different foods, even more land on the floor or in her hair than in her tummy. Sometimes we forget that this is very new to babies, and while eating is a very normal and natural thing, she's exploring it just like she would a new toy or learning how to walk.

As for resources, registered dietitian Katie Ferraro has such an amazing website with resources and videos (and she's a mom to 5, including BLW quadruplets!!) you may find helpful: https://www.fortifiedfam.com/videos/

CHRISTI

Thank you! I appreciate your advice and support!

JANEL ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Where to start...
VIOLETA, PARENT OF 2 YEAR OLD

I am thinking about starting solids with my 5-month-old. I have read about Baby-Led Weaning but don't know how to begin if I am not using purees. How do you recommend starting with this approach?

Janel
JANEL

Baby led weaning skips the purees and lets little ones self feed as soon as they start solids. Your baby should be able to sit up unassisted, have lost the tongue thrust reflex and should be able to grasp and hold onto foods. Long, easy-to-grasp pieces of soft raw fruits like banana, peaches, very ripe pears, melon, and avocado are great options. A soft omelet cut into strips or a soft piece of toast with butter cut into strips are good options as well. Generally, the baby will be provided with any soft, texture appropriate foods the family is eating!

Before you get started, you may want to read some books and blogs on the topic so you're familiar with how to do BLW, what to watch for, etc. Here are two favorites of mine:

https://www.fortifiedfam.com/home/2017/1/24/6-steps-to-self-feeding-success

https://www.amazon.com/Born-Eat-Whole-Healthy-Baby%C2%92s/dp/1510719997

I also find it helpful to watch some YouTube videos of BLW as it is common to see babies gag when trying whole, soft foods. It is important to note that there is a difference, though, between choking and gagging, and familiarizing yourself with both of those, and what to do in the event of choking is very important when starting any baby on solids.