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Baby Led Weaning in the Kitchen

Jessica C.
JESSICA C.
Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and IBCLC
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Join Jessica Coll, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and IBCLC to talk about Baby Led Weaning. Jessica is an expert in all aspects of BLW and is here to answer questions about recipes, meal prep and more! Check out Jessica's profile for more info.

Jessica describes Baby Led Weaning as a way of introducing solid foods to babies. The traditional puree stage is skipped and babies eat pieces of food like meatballs, roasted vegetables and fresh fruit.

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Message Jessica
JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
8 month old refusing solids
NINA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica,

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer this question.

Our 8 month old has been refusing both purees and finger foods. He shuts his mouth tight when food is introduced. We've also tried giving him food to play with, so that he gets accostomed to new textures.

BLW worked for our older child. Not sure what to do this time.

Any help would be highly appreciated.

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi M,

I suggest that you can take a break from feeding him. Some babies find it daunting when they don’t have control of the food going into their mouth. Imagine yourself at his place having someone else feed you. It’s so much more enjoyable to have full control of when you will eat and at what pace.

So you can prepare the pieces of food and place them on his tray. Let him explore and eventually he will bring the food to his mouth. Trust that he knows how much to eat. If you have follow up questions, feel free to ask them on my online course at blw.jessicacoll.com. I hope this helps!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Moving away from purees
KYLA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

My baby is 8 months old and has been eating purees well for 2 months. I didn't really know much about BLW at that time, so didn't try it. I want to try to add thicker textures or more solid food in but am having trouble. I tried giving her some peas a couple weeks ago. She picked them up and ate them, but then right after, threw up the peas, as well as all the breast milk she had an hour before. I tried thick mashed sweet potatoes last week. She ate about 4-5 bites, then threw it up. She does well with mum mum crackers and puffs, but I am unsure of where to go from here. Should I offer just bigger pieces of food, or give it a little more time? Thanks.

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Kyla,

At this point, it’s not too late to start BLW! I would go straight to pieces of food rather than offering her thick purees. You can offer her pieces of food (roasted vegetables, omelette, fresh fruit, meatballs) and put them on her tray. Let her grab them and bring them to her mouth and explore. You can stop the purees at this point and you might temporarily see her milk feeds get more frequent. Trust that she can do it (because she can!). Some babies are more sensitive to gagging and in some babies, it triggers a vomiting reflex here and there. It’s normal as they get used to different textures. Feel free to check out my answers to previous questions for guidance and inspiration on how to start BLW. If you’d like more support, feel free to check out my online course at blw.jessicacoll.com. In the course, you can ask all the questions that you want and I answer them within 24 hours. Take care!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Our Q&A is now over.
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Thank you, Jessica! Jessica offers a variety of great online BLW services including an online course, live workshops and a BLW recipe book through Jessica Coll Nutrition. Check out her profile for more info!

Jessica
JESSICA

Thank you everyone for asking all your questions! I hope I inspired you to try new things! It was fun!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Choking
ZOE, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hello,

I've been experimenting with some purées and BLW whole foods with my 6 month old, but I'm worried about choking. For example, I gave her a slice of pear earlier this week and she was able to break off a large chunk (no teeth yet, but strong gums). Should I be monitoring the size of the bites she takes? Or offering her pre-made small bites instead?

Thanks for sharing all this info!
Zoe

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Zoe,

Although some babies are able to learn how to manage purees and BLW at the same time, I don’t recommend doing both at once. This is because the action needed to ingest purees is very different compared to the action needed for BLW. With purees, your baby just needs to suck and swallow. With BLW, it’s more complicated: she needs to bite off a piece, chew, manage the piece in her mouth and swallow. So what should you do? You can focus on BLW alone and introduce purees a bit later here and there. With BLW, you can let your baby feed herself at her own pace and that in itself helps to protect her from choking. Also, ensuring that her position is at 90 degrees and that there are limited distractions (no TV or large crowds for the first meals!) also help with choking prevention. It’s also important to note that as long as those criteria are met (90 degrees, let her feed herself at her own pace, limited distractions, appropriate foods), she is not more at risk of choking.

I usually recommend offering pureed textures (mashed potatoes, yogurt, apple sauce for example) only once your baby is able to manage eating pieces of food (BLW). With BLW, babies are offered pieces of food large enough for them to hold, about the size of an adult pinky finger. They usually suck the piece at first, then progress to bite a piece off (no need to monitor the size of the bites), chew and swallow bites. In the beginning stages, babies might take bites that are too big and have to spit them out (or sometimes swallow them whole). The more they practice on their own, the better they’ll be able to manage the size of the bites. As long as you’re offering the appropriate foods and you stay away from small, round and hard foods like nuts, small pieces of raw carrots or small pieces of raw apple, seeds, legumes like chick peas. Also sticky foods like fresh bread (you want to toast it), and spoonfuls of nut butters (a thin layer is OK). You also want to avoid offering raw spinach and lettuce because they can stick to the roof of their mouth.


After your baby becomes an expert with a variety of textures (check out my answers to questions from Azminia, Aimee, Eva and Melissa for ideas of foods that are appropriate to start with), you can then offer purees without actually feeding your baby. When it comes down to it, purees are just another texture but a bit more difficult to manage on their own. Here are a few ways you can offer purees to your baby (once she manages a variety of textures):

- Pre-load a spoon with the pureed food and let you baby bring the spoon to her mouth
- Offer thick purees directly on her platter (that tends to be more messy)
- Spread purees onto something like a cucumber stick (liver pâté for example)


For all the information that you need about BLW and for continued support from me, check out my BLW Online Course at blw.jessicacoll.com.

This was a lot of information and I hope this helps Zoe!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
How to get baby to drink milk
CRYSTAL, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

My 17 month old had never taken a bottle. When she was in daycare (starting at 8 weeks) she would go on a huger strike for 8-10 hours. And now at 17 months she won't take more than a sip of milk from a cup. I've tried almond, cow, coconut, toddler protein drink and a powder toddler formula and soy milk, all with no avail. She either takes one sip and pushes it away or won't take it at all. I'm still nursing her (3-4 times a day). She won't take breast milk from a cup either. She's lost 2 pounds from 12-15 months and from 15-17 months has only gained 2 oz. how can I get her to drink milk!? She needs the extra calories to gain weight. She's not a great eater. It varies from meal to meal.

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Crystal,

Babies don’t absolutely need milk other than breast milk. You’re nursing her 3-4 times a day and she’s eating some meals. That’s why you really want the foods she eats to be carefully chosen and full of calories and great nutrients. You can get tons of ideas of meals that I designed for babies in my iBook at jessicacoll.com/book.

The reason kids are given milk is mostly because of the protein, calcium and vitamin D. You can find those nutrients in foods instead.

Vit D: fatty fish, egg yolks and beef liver. You can try out my liver pâté recipe that can be found at http://jessicacoll.com/blog/liver-pate-recipe-babies/.

Calcium: yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, homemade bone broth, soaked sesame seeds, etc.

What about making smoothies with coconut butter, frozen fruit and water? You can even add some yogurt and leafy greens to them for extra calcium.

As for protein, you can make sure you offer meat, fish or eggs (hard boiled eggs or scrambled eggs work well!) twice a day. Whether she eats it or not, that will be her that decides. Check out my answer to Sarah’s question about the division of responsibilities which you might find interesting.

I hope this helps Crystal! If you're worried about her intake, feel free to make an appointment with a paediatric dietitian to make sure your toddler is getting everything she needs. Take care!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Inconsistently picky toddler
SARAH, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD, 5 MONTH OLD

Hi Jessica,
My daughter is 15 months and feeds herself. I'm looking for help with two interconnected things:
1) She consistently eats a handful of foods, including some great ones (peas!), but most foods are in some days and out other days with no obvious rhyme or reason. I don't want her to be hungry, especially if she rejects dinner, but do want to get her a more varied diet. Thoughts? (I do nurse on demand, but she only takes a significant amount of milk first thing in the morning.)
2) How on earth does family dinner work when you are a working parent? :) I'm the only parent and I usually have 45-70 minutes between when we walk in the door and when we need to start the bedtime routine. I do some batch cooking on weekends, but then I'm stuck if she doesn't eat something I cooked six servings of!

Thanks!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Sarah,

Let’s start with number 1. Toddlers’ tastes and appetite vary so much (as you’ve noticed!). Just like a particular toy for example, some days she loves it and some days she won’t pay any attention to it. You can think of this “food relationship” as a division of responsibilities where you’re in charge of the choice of foods and your toddler is in charge of the quantity she eats. As her tastes evolve and change, you’re the one deciding which foods to offer her at each meal. Then, be sure to trust that she knows how much to eat. She can survive on barely anything and she does have stores so it’s very normal (yet frustrating at times!) that toddlers eat huge amounts one day and almost nothing the other. Think about the division of responsibilities and you should be good to go! I know Ellyn Satter has a lot of information about the division of responsibilities on her website.

Now onto number 2! Being a working parent and having dinner ready is not easy. I share tons of tips in Eva’s post this morning. I’m sure you will get inspiration from there. One thing I’d add is to try to cook the same meals for the whole family (and not be a short order cook). It will make life easier for you and save you tons of time! What do you think?

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Freezing and Reheating Food
JESSICA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica - What is the best way to reheat frozen food (e.g. like the frozen homemade meatballs that you mentioned in your answer to Azminia)? Is the microwave ok or does that risk getting it too hot and/or ruining the nutritive value?

Also, how long does cooked frozen meat stay good in the freezer?

Thanks,
Jessica

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Jessica,

You can thaw frozen food in the fridge or at room temperature and then either in a skillet or in the microwave. Some parents prefer not to use the microwave because it leaves some hot unexpected spots in some foods. If you use a microwave, be careful and don’t heat the foods for too long. Also, verify yourself by taking a bite into the food first. As for the nutritive value, I don’t think there is a big difference between reheating in a skillet or the microwave. Some parents find that using the microwave is super useful because of the lack of time we have as parents with a baby. Bottom line: choose what’s right for you! You can always thaw the food and then offer it to your baby at room temperature if you prefer. Usually by the time the hot food gets to your baby’s mouth, it’s room temperature anyway!

Cooked meats keep for about 3 months in the freezer.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Solid Veggies
JENNY, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica!

My daughter is 9.5 mos and will eat chicken nuggets, meatballs, cheerios/puffs with her fingers but will only eat veggies/fruit from a spoon and preferable from a pouch. Is there anything I can do to get her to eat solid veggies and fruit?

Also, she'll stop her eating her solids but then when I offer her purees, she eats more and often finishes the whole jar/pouch! What can i do to entice her to eat more solid food?

Thanks!
Jenny

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Jenny,

You can’t really force a baby to eat her fruit and vegetables but I do have some tips that might entice her to eat them. Here they are:

1) Vary the sizes and shapes of the fruit and veggies offered. For example, you could offer her a large ripe strawberry or a slice of melon with the peel on (scrubbed under water of course). The different colours and shapes might look appealing to her and she might take a liking to them.

2) Vary the spices used with the veggies. For example, you can make some Cajun sweet potato fries. Prominent spices sometimes make the food more enticing!

3) You can try offering her the fruit and vegetables at the beginning of her meal. That way, she might be hungrier and more likely to eat them.

4) You can try to stop offering her purees by the spoon and in pouches all together for a few days and see if she gets used to feeding herself. Sometimes I’ve seen babies who get used to their parents feeding them and they don’t want to feed themselves anymore. You can of course go back to pouches and purees here and there afterwards.

In the end, she’s eating some fruit and vegetables, right? She’s also eating the meat (what she needs most because of the iron and zinc). So you can try those tips for fun but you don’t need to worry about it too much. She’s getting the nutrients she needs. *After trying the 4 points above doesn’t help at all, it might be a texture aversion but it’s hard for me to tell. If that’s the case, you can always make an appointment with your local pediatric occupational therapist to see what they think. They could give you more tips.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Portion control
AMANDA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica, Thank you for all of your advice today :)

My son will be 11 months next week. We started BLW at 6 months and he has done fantastic. He has a very diverse diet and we stick to healthy foods. My question is... should I be overly concerned with the amount he eats? Sometimes I am shocked at how much he actually consumes! He gets almost no processed food (pasta maybe once a week is the expection) so I know it's all healthy but I wasn't sure if I should be putting a cap on how much he gets.
For example, last night for dinner he ate 1/2 of a small sweet potato, a turkey/veggie meatball, a couple of black berries, and a few bites of avocado. Is that too much?! He still nurses 6x throughout the day/night also.

Thanks again!

KATRINA

Following
My 10 month old eats a ton! Pediatrician said unless they gag/throw up
They are not over eating :)

Jessica
JESSICA

My quick answer is: no! Definitely no need to worry about controlling his portions. You’re offering him healthy foods. He needs lots of energy now that’s he’s starting to move around more, learning to walk, explore. Some babies eat more than others, just like some adults always seem to eat more than others. Also, the fact that you’re continuing to breastfeed on demand is amazing. You’re doing the right thing!

Jessica
JESSICA

Katrina: it makes sense. We should continue meeting their needs and feeding them on demand, just like we've been doing since birth, right?

KATRINA

Yup
That is what i do :)

Jessica
JESSICA

Great!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Preemies
ANNA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Is BLW safe for preemies? If so, when? My twins were born at 25 weeks. They are now 5 1/2 month adjusted and eating purées (but only about a tablespoon or so). So far, we've done avocado, pumpkin, beers, sweet potato and banana... They are also drinking milk by bottle and one of them has a gtube because of reflux (he's been cleared to eat as tolerated).

Thanks for all of your insight!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Anna,

You want to make sure your babies show signs of readiness for eating pieces of food so we’re talking:

- maintaining a sitting position
- around 6 months of age (corrected)
- show interest
- able to bring objects to their mouth with precision

So bottom line is to wait until your baby is 6 months corrected. You’ll probably want to talk to your pediatrician to see if iron supplements (or others) are recommended if you’re not giving some to them already. If you notice that your babies aren’t showing those signs as you start to approach 6 months corrected, they may need extra help. I’ve worked with a few occupational therapists and physical therapists that have been very helpful. They will give you tips to help them maintain a sitting position and also some tips to help them bring food to their mouths. You may need to continue feeding them purees longer as they adapt and practice. I hope this helps!