Baby Led Weaning – How it Works

Baby lead Weaning

I’ll admit it, baby led weaning scared the crap out of me the first time I did it. I read a lot of articles on how to do it and which foods to serve. But I still wasn’t ready for the choking. Had I practiced the heimlich maneuver enough in CPR class? When do I call 911?

To be more accurate, I wasn’t ready for the gagging. Gagging and choking are two very different things. The former is pretty normal as a baby learns to eat, the latter is life threatening and definitely not something you want to experience when introducing foods to your baby. While the gagging was a little off-putting, there are excellent reasons why you should utilize baby led weaning when introducing first foods, and there are great strategies to minimize the gagging and maximize the joy and fun of first foods.

Before you begin

At about 4 months your baby might begin showing interest in the food you are eating. By 6 months your baby should be developmentally ready to begin solids. How do you know if your baby is ready? If your baby can sit up on her own with minimal support, she is showing interest in food and is ready to chew, and she has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solid food out of her mouth with her tongue.

As you introduce solids it is very important that you are patient and go slow. My favourite saying is “food is fun until one“. Not only does it rhyme (which every saying should), but it is an easy reminder that your baby may not be an expert eater right away. We need to be patient, and allow our babies time to learn how to eat and to explore food at their pace.

Allergies are also a concern. We should introduce new foods slowly and one at a time. A new food can be introduced about every four days. This will give us an opportunity to observe how our baby reacts to a food. If an allergic reaction occurs we should easily be able to identify which food caused the problem and refrain from exposing our baby again.

Whether we have an enthusiastic eater, or an uninterested eater, breast milk should still be the primary source of nutrients for your baby in the first year, As your baby learns to eat how much they are consuming is questionable, and baby’s first foods are not always full of a variety of nutrients.

Benefits of baby led weaning

There are many benefits to baby led weaning, and one of the most important ones is that your baby will learn their own hunger cues. As your baby learns to feed themselves they also learn to eat when they are hungry and to stop eating when they are full. This knowledge will assist your child in developing good eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding some eating disorders.

Some research, and lots of anecdotal stories from parents, has shown that baby led weaning can lead to babies being more accepting of new food and less picky. This is likely because right from the beginning the babies are exposed to a variety of textures and tastes. Your baby will experience some soft mushy fruits and vegetables, flat and tougher egg yolk, and maybe spongey chicken, among other foods that you are preparing for dinner.

Improved hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills is another benefit of baby led weaning. While feeding themselves babies have lots of practice exploring different shapes, sizes and texture of food. They learn how to grip the food and put it in their mouth. As their skills progress they also learn how to use silverware and cups more quickly.

Baby led weaning is also easier for mom and dad, and the baby is often incorporated into family meals faster. During baby led weaning the baby is often fed what the family is eating, maybe just cooked a little more so that it is softer. Mom and dad don’t have to make any extra baby meals. And baby can be fed at the same time as the family, allowing them to be part of family meals.

Another important benefit is the baby learns to chew then swallow. When a baby is only eating pureed food they are learning that they do not need to chew their food. This can make the transition to solid, chunkier food more challenging.

Learning to chew then swallow – expect some gagging

Baby led weaning happens slowly. When I started my son on solids we started at 6 months, and we are progressing slowly. He only eats one or two solid items a day, and my plan is to continue mostly breastfeeding until he has strong chewing and fine motor skills, which likely won’t be until about 10 months or so. Like any new skill, learning to eat takes time.

Babies learn the specific skills of eating in a set order: bring things to mouth, nawing and nibbling, chewing and purposeful swallowing. Baby lead weaning allows the baby the develop each skill on their own time, and at a safe pace. If we allow the baby to control this sequence, and do not rush them, the baby is unlikely to choke. Any food that they are unable to chew completely will most likely fall out of their mouth.

Gagging is very much likely to happen, primarily because a baby’s gag reflex is much more sensitive early on, and the trigger point is closer to the front. This gag reflex is important, as it helps keep baby safe from choking. As the baby develops the gag reflex becomes less sensitive, and it also moves farther back in the mouth, allowing the baby to have more gag-free meals.

As mentioned above, gagging is very different from choking. Gagging is normal, is very likely to occur, and can help the baby learn how to chew properly. It is rarely life threatening. With gagging, a baby can usually rectify the problem on their own. They gag a couple of times, then spit the food out. Choking, on the other hand, is very serious, not normal and could be life threatening. If your baby is choking they need immediate assistance.

How to do it

  1. Choose the food you want to feed your baby, ensuring it is age and skill appropriate. Initially you may not want to feed your baby the same food you are serving for dinner. It may not be appropriate in size or it may be to technically difficult for your baby to eat on their own.One of the best foods to start your baby on is egg yolk. Simply fry or boil it, cut it into manageable pieces and let your baby have it. Partially steamed apple slices works really well too.
  2. As your baby develops and become more skilled you can begin to feed him pieces of food from the dinner table. Choose items that are larger so the baby can grasp it easily, and ensure it is food your baby will be able to chew easily. Spaghetti is a great food, as is large chicken bone with some of the meat attached, braised meat, oven roasted vegetables and apple slices.
  3. Allow your baby to explore the food and eat at their own pace. Like I said “food is fun until one”. There is no pressure for your baby to eat a lot, or any of the food. Let them enjoy the experience and learn at their speed.
  4. Where you feed your baby isn’t important, but how you contain the mess is. Baby led weaning is messy! Your baby will squish her food and throw her food, and get it all over her face as she tries to hit the target. You will want to consider protecting your floor, his clothes and maybe the highchair too.




Baby’s first food should be breast milk

We have all heard the old adage, “breast is best”. And it is true. Natural breast milk from the healthy birth mother is superior to all other forms of baby milk including formula.

“Human breast milk is the Rosetta Stone of food and nourishment”

– Drs. Katie Hinde and J. Bruce German, authors of Human Milk

Several studies have described the benefits of breast milk: breast fed children have higher intelligence and greater academic potential, they are more robust and healthy, they have lower rates of autoimmune disease and allergies, breastfed infants have reduced rates of respiratory illnesses and ear infections, as well, breastfed babies can be more attached and secure.

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding largely because of the composition of breastmilk. Breastmilk is tailor made to your baby and their stage of growth. Each stage has varying amounts of proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins, with the amount of each specific to your baby’s needs at that time. Breastmilk is composed of hundreds of substances, with over one hundred fats alone. Manufactured formula does not come close to including all of those ingredients and falls short in providing all of the necessary nutrients.

Formula is a mix of a base, usually cow’s milk, and supplement ingredients such as sugars, vegetable fats, processed proteins, synthetic vitamins, minerals, nucleotides and DHA. Even with a basic knowledge about nutrition you can probably identify some of the problems with these ingredients – cow’s milk can be difficult to digest, vegetable fats can easily go rancid and processed proteins and synthetic nutrients often lack bioavailability. Formula is also missing very important elements including probiotics, good bacteria, and more complicated fatty-acid chains.

Breast milk is the best first food option for your baby. Any argument otherwise falls short. But sometimes offering your baby breast milk is not an option. There are situations where breast milk may not be the best option, such as when the birth mother is not healthy, the birth mother is not available (such as in an adoption situation), or when the birth mother is unable to supply enough breast milk (research indicates that 5% of new mothers are challenged to produce enough breast milk). In these cases there are other options that may be better than offering the baby formula. These options include using donated breast milk and making your own milk.

If these options are attractive to you a simple google search will help you explore donor milk options. And the Weston A. Price foundation has an excellent article on how to make your own baby’s milk: Homemade Baby Formula

What is Paleo? – Seminar

Join me for a one hour presentation and discussion on the Paleo diet. Learn about why we should eat more like our caveman ancestors, and how to reach your health goals by following the paleo diet.

When: Saturday, October 26 at 11 am
Where: Vita Fitness Calgary , 925 1st Ave NE
Cost: $20

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The seminar series includes:

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A workbook that you will work through in the workshops and can keep as a reference

A six week meal plan

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The seminar begins October 19 and will be held at CrossFit Motivate.

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Mexi-cali Chicken


2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, diced
1/3 jalapeno, diced
1 chili pepper, diced
1/8 cup green peppers, diced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in baking sheet
3. Mix the tomato, jalapeno, chili pepper, cilantro, and green pepper together. Spread the mixture over the chicken breast
4. Sprinkle the cheese over top
5. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes
6. Serve with salsa and guacamole


1 cup tomato, diced
1 cup apple, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced

1. Mix all ingredients together


1 large, ripe avocado, peeled
1/2 lime

1. Mash the avocado with a fork and mix with lime juice from the lime