A Sort of Baby Led Weaning with Solid Foods

When I make my son’s food (almost 8 months) I usually mash it with a fork or throw it in the blender. If it’s a vegetable, I steam it first and then blend it. This takes time (and makes my kitchen dirty) but I’m okay with it because I like him eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Something occurred to me a while ago and I had an aha! moment. It was a why didn’t I think of this sooner?! sort of thing. We were on a walk and my husband was eating a pear. After he was finished he gave the core to Lucas.

Enter light bulb above the head aha! moment here.

Lucas loved it. I’m fairly certain he thought it was the best thing since baked lays potato chips. He sucked on the pear for our entire walk, which was about 30 minutes. He wasn’t actually eating the pear, but you can bet he was getting the juice off of it! I think he also loved it rubbing against his gums. Either way, he was a happy camper.

Since then, I have been giving Lucas a banana without pureeing it and the core of an apple or pear to suck and chew on. Some might call this baby led weaning. I’m not sure if what I’m doing is technically that, but basically it’s about giving your child real food to eat and chew that isn’t mashed. In my opinion, there are a few advantages to feeding this way.

It Encourages Independence. 

Here is Lucas eating a chunk of apple. He is learning how to hold an apple, how to get it in his mouth and how to eventually bite and suck in such a way that works for him. I’m not telling how to eat it or how to hold it. I’m not putting a spoon in his mouth. I’m letting him figure it out.

If you are eating an apple yourself, you can give the core to your baby. There is not much worry of them chocking on it, because it’s most likely just sucking and nibbling. Of course (disclaimer!) all babies are different and some may be better or worse at sucking/eating/nibbling on foods so please watch yours carefully.

It promotes healthy eating.

At a young age, I’m introducing Lucas to fruits and vegetables. He is holding a real piece of banana in his hand and feeling the texture and taste of it. It’s fun to him, and that’s how I want eating healthy to be. I actually don’t think healthy eating is really that fun, but I have to pretend like I think that way in front of Lucas. He doesn’t know that I have ice cream with cookie dough after he goes to bed. Don’t tell him!!

It keeps him occupied

I can give him the core of an apple or pear and he will chew on it for a good 20-30 minutes. If I’m cooking or cleaning the kitchen, I can put him in his high chair and let him have a snack. This can be a lifesaver and it makes us both happy!

Babies love feeding themselves.

Give this kid a banana and he will devour it in less than 7 1/2 minutes. He just shows it in his mouth like its sugar coated candy. I know he loves being able to hold his own food and decide how much he wants to eat and how much he wants to go in his mouth. He also loves to make a mess! And bananas are squishy!

It’s convenient.

I always have a banana or another type of fruit in our diaper bag or in the car “just in case.” I don’t have to worry about blending it first or bringing something that is mashed and in tupperware. I just bring fruit as is!

I don’t know why in our society we’re so accustomed to buying jars of baby food on the shelves of grocery stores. Buying a banana and peeling the skin back is just as easy as buying a jar of baby food. It’s cheaper too! Letting him suck the core of my apple that I was going to throw away anyways is free and easy! Making extra potatoes at dinner when I’m already making potatoes is easy and convenient!

It just makes sense.

It can be scary to give you child big chunks of food when you’re used to everything being mashed up, but you might be surprised at how good they are with it. If you give them the opportunity, babies are pretty smart and they will usually only put in their mouth what they can handle. Of course always keep a close eye, but don’t let your uneasiness about it prevent them from having the chance to eat the juices of fresh fruit!

I haven’t nor will I (probably) do so any time soon, gave him vegetables without pureeing them. I still blend/puree 95% of his food. Whole bananas are pretty much the only thing that I give to him as is and that he actually takes bites of and swallows. But as he gets older its fun to experiment with what he likes and what he can eat.

I know there are moms that are totally baby led weaning with food. I would love to hear about it! What do you give your child that isn’t mashed up? What age were they? For those of you who have never done this before- what are your thoughts? I used to think giving a baby actual chunks and pieces of real food was so crazy, but now that I’ve tried it and see how great it is, I pretty much love it!

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

26 thoughts on “A Sort of Baby Led Weaning with Solid Foods

  1. i have been giving my little one unmashed food since about 7 and a half months. she is 9 months now. she was never a big fan of mashed up baby food. she likes feeding herself! she eats chicken, ground beef, steak, all veggies, bananas, avocados, kiwi, oranges, strawberries, etc. i just make sure to cut things up into cheerio sized pieces (i do worry about choking!) and let her go at it. there is really not much i don't give her. most of the time at meals she eats just what we do. she loves eating!

  2. Jordan (8.5 months) decided a couple months ago that he doesn't like baby food or anything he has to be fed on a spoon (well, except YoBaby yogurt. He loves that stuff!)

    So far, I have given him pieces of whole wheat bagel, waffle, pancake, chunks of cooked carrot, grean bean, sweet potato, asparagus, potato, chicken, fish, steak, ground turkey, basically whatever we're having! He loves black beans, lima beans, kidney beans and peas, but it's a pain because I have to peel the skin off each little bean for him (don't I?) He likes pears and bananas. Even macaroni. Oh, and he ADORES shredded cheddar cheese!

    I had to get creative early since he shunned baby food so emphatically!

    I do wonder, though, how much food he NEEDS in addition to his nursing.

  3. krystal,
    my daughter loves beans, too, and i never peel the skin off. i usually just cut the beans in half and she munches away.
    and i second the shredded cheese. that is a big favorite here.
    i think how much food he is taking in isn't really a concern right now. most nutrition and calories are still coming from mommy's milk.

  4. We started with Cheerios at 9 mos and also Gerber puffs (although that's still buying separate food for them). Shortly after that though we started with bananas just like you, and then cut up pear and peach chunks (really soft). We also did avocado, green beans, english peas, baked potato (mine never liked sweet potato, but you could do that too), blueberries (cut into fourths), etc. Really lots of stuff, but in small amounts. Just try things yourself — if you can mash it and/or it will more or less dissolve in your mouth without using your teeth, it should work.

  5. The first thing I gave my daughter (now almost 2) was a super ripe peach at the end of last summer. She was about 8 months. She had acted interested in what I was eating, but considering how she disliked all other fruits I assumed she would lick it and hand it back.

    She sucked about half the peach away before she was done.

  6. Krystal- I don't think babies “need” anything besides milk until they're one. Food at this point is just for “fun” and additional calories and nutrition.

    I have been wanting to give Lucas whatever we're having at dinner but I wasn't sure if we could yet. Lucas will be 8 months next week so I think I might start! How fun!

    I have been wanting to give cheese but wasn't sure- Dani and Krystal, yours eat it fine? Maybe I will try some today!

    Thanks ladies!

  7. yep! no tummy troubles from the cheese. just start with a small amount.

    jordan was tootin' up a storm yesterday, though, because he put away a LOT of cheese and black beans the night before (we had enchiladas!)

    it IS fun to just let him have whatever we're having, and it's a lot easier, but let me warn you, it's a whole new level of mess! 🙂

  8. B loves bites of apple! I generally just cut it with those apple cutters, peel it, and give him the slice. The core is a great idea for when we're out!

    I totally agree- it's providing all those things you mentioned- independence, healthy habits, etc.

    I try to give B parts of whatever we're eating for dinner- jarred food only when we're not at home/not sure of the food ingredients, etc

  9. Eden got teeth pretty early, so I had to be careful, but one of her favorites was nectarines. I would peel away the skin – or more often, eat it myself! – and give her most of the flesh. She LOVED it! I found that it made it easier to introduce a broader selection of foods to her, and made my life a little easier.

  10. We don't start solids until around 8 months and that is how we do it, too. Give them food in it natural form and naturdal consistency from the beginning… works wonderfully. I have a great picture of the day my little one grabbed a peach out of my hands and started sucking vigorously!

  11. We started Sim on solids really early too. While cutting foods is not a bad idea, babies can have a hard time picking things up that are too small. Most of her foods are in their natural shape and size- broccoli, zucchini rounds or spears, green beans, etc… She will eat fruit whole (apples, bananas, peaches, etc) as long as she can pick it up. Peas and black beans are favorites too! The only food we waited on giving her were grapes because of the skin.

  12. My sister-in-law and I read a book called “Baby lead Weaning”. It was great! We totally skipped the whole baby puree thing and went straight to solids. It was great! We gave our daughter speared avocado 1st and then speared cooked sweet potato. Both are rich in vitamins and minerals and the avocado has the good fats they need. Also both have iron which is an important mineral for them to get at about 6 months. Thus the reason for the rice cereal- which we skipped all together. It has been great!

  13. Madelynn at baby food(the mashed up stuff) until she was like 7 months old. By then she was so independent that she wanted to feed herself so I started giving her chunks of really soft food for her to feed herself. When she had really gotten the hang of picking it up and mashing food with her gums I just started feeding her everything we eat just cut up small enough that she can't choke on it. There are a few exceptions like really spicy or salty food. And nothing to hard like uncooked carrots. But she does it all on her own and I don't have to prepare separate food for her which is nice. I say go with your baby. Whatever he can do and you feel safe with him doing do it.

  14. I'm not a big fan of commercially prepared baby foods, either. My two youngest never had a bite of solid food until about 9 months of age, and then went straight to table food – either cut up or mashed whatever-we're-having. And you know what? My 4 year old is a FAR better eater than either my 5 or 9 year-olds (who ate jarred baby food rather than table food from the start). The little one isn't too picky yet, either.

    Also, I should mention a few products that made the intro to solid/natural food SO much more convenient:

    http://www.bestbabygear.com/frfofe.html

    … and…

    http://www.munchkin.com/products/detail.html?section=prodCategories&ID=10019&pID=24

    Both are inexpensive and super convenient. You don't need to prepare baby's food in bulk (like with a standard blender), you can throw these in the diaper bag for dinners out, or have them sit right at the dinner table to use for single serving. They've both been awesome ways for me to have baby be part of family meals and to keep them happy while the rest of us eat, too!

  15. how cute!!!!!! Love the pictures!!!! My son doesn't like me to feed him …he has to feed himself! Very annoying and amusing and cute at the same time…Well I guess its cute until its all over the floor, walls etc hah

    If you would like come check out my blog and enter my current giveaway at littlemissheirlooms.blogspot.com
    I hope you decided to follow me because I try to bring my readers a new and AMAZING giveaway every Monday!
    Xo
    Priscila

  16. N is the same age as Lucas (+ or – a few hours 🙂 ) He's had lots of different foods. I usually give it in hand sized pieces or wedges. He's had roast potato, roast sweet potato, roast carrots, mashed potatoes, bread, bagel, little bits of meats, pizza crust, pineapple, pears, apples, banana, cantaloupe, avacado, cheerios, pasta with sauce (disappeared so fast, I thought he was just dropping it) miniscule flakes of popcorn, turnip. baked fries, corn, peas, rice, arrowroot cookies, little bits of tomato….there's probably more I can't remember. None of it has been pureed & he's loved everything.

    We're holding off on anything dairy related for awhile, since both his brother & dad have had issues & he used to seem to react to me having processed cheese.

  17. My daughter has been eating “real” food since 6.5 months (She turned 1 year today!). I know that may seem young to some people. We started her on rice cereal at 4.5 months and I made my own baby food till she wouldn't eat mashed food any longer. My mom gave her a tiny piece of a saltine cracker at 6.5 months and she wouldn't have ANYTHING to do with mashed up food after that. She wanted to be a big girl like her sister. My daughter only has 3 teeth but she eats adult food like a champ. We just cut it super small. She even eats steak without teeth!

  18. Forgot to add that with my first daughter we were much slower to transition her to “adult” food. She didn't get her first “adult” food until she was 9 months old.

  19. oh my heck, I have been stressing out about this hard core the past few months. this post couldnt of come at a better time. Hayden(10 months as of Wed) and he HATES solid food. I dont know if it requires to much effort or what. Maybe he doesnt like the texture? My husband has a TERRIBLE AWFUL gag reflux, and Hayden has adopted that. He has always been really gaggy. But now whenever I try to introduce something new he either gags, fishes it out with his finger and gags, crys/whines, fishes it out, and gags… *sigh* I think I will be feeding him pureed baby food through elementary…he hates the meshed bag things that you put the food into to prevent choking. (choking…something I am TERRIFIED of! He only has two teeth…Im paranoid I know.) So i really really appreciate this post and hearing from other mommies..

  20. thanks mamas for your tips and experiences! I think I am going to start giving him even more bites of real food and let him taste what we're eating. How fun!! 🙂

    Megan- I'm so glad it was helpful to you! And I LOVE that you said “oh my heck.” 🙂

  21. My daughter prefers to feed herself too! She still gags on things sometimes, and drops stuff, so I have to keep a pretty close eye on her, but it seems way more effective to give her a big hunk of real food than to try to spoon feed her purees. Kind of a disappointment since I've already frozen a few things. But it is fun to watch her bring the food to her own mouth! She gets really excited about it sometimes! Oh, she is 8 months old.

  22. My son is now 2 and has never eaten baby food from a jar. When he first started getting interested in what I was eating I would just mash it up or break it into what my MIL calls “baby bird pieces”. The only things he ever really had a problem with were crunchy foods (which he now loves) and multi-textured foods (like pizza, which he still can't eat).

    We have never had a problem with getting him to eat most things, he is not picky at all and I attribute that to him having the same food as us from early on. At 2 years old he loves spicy food (especially indian), vegetables and rice. He also loves to drink herbal teas (the kind without caffeine or sugar)

  23. I bought $80 worth of pureed jar food for my son and it took a long time for him to go through it. Black beans and peas turned out to be his favorite food to nibble on.

    At some point when Anna was an infant I read about feeding babies whole food. I skipped the trip to whole foods to buy pureed food. She didn't choke as I worried she would. She nibbles.

    Now, we have apples in the fridge with little bite marks out of them, but that's OK. I'm glad she goes ga-ga over fresh fruit.

    Neither of my kids ate too much until 14 months or so. Mostly, they got their calories from breastmilk.

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