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Introducing Solid Foods and Baby Led Weaning

When Petra was six months old, she started to seem interested in solid foods, and I began to do research about how to introduce them to her. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a term that springs up on natural parenting books.

When Petra was six months old, she started to seem interested in solid foods, and I began to do research about how to introduce them to her. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a term that springs up on natural parenting books and parenting message boards. It was always totally confusing to me what, exactly, this was.

From how I understand it, the baby led weaning concept has two main features. First, you don’t grind and puree anything, you just mash it and cut it in small pieces. Secondly, you let your baby choose off a plate what she wants instead of spooning it in her mouth.

I wondered what all the hype was about baby led weaning, as this is how people all around the world begin feeding their kids solid food. Most people throughout the world don’t purchase little baby food jars and cereal boxes, and, if they do, they almost always supplement it with solid foods. Making your own baby food wasn’t invented by the hippies.

“What if my baby chokes?”

This seems to be the biggest concern that many Western parents seem to have with baby led weaning, and, yes, this is a justifiable concern when feeding your little baby anything but a puree. But to me, it seems that babies learning how not to choke has less to do with how old they are and more with experience eating. If an eight month old was just introduced to finger foods for the first time, you are still going to have to watch her carefully to make sure she doesn’t choke. Proponents of baby led weaning say that letting babies always feed themselves makes them less likely to choke, because they aren’t going to put food in the back of their mouths, which is a risk for a parent feeding their child.

Secondly, baby led weaning is messy. Really messy. And we were traveling through this time with Petra. It’s one thing to let your baby play and experiment with eating solid food at home, quite another to do it at a restaurant or in a hotel room. That’s not to say that spoon feeding your baby purees isn’t messy, but at least you have some control over it. Being on the road also meant that we didn’t have easy access to a washing machine either.

When my back was turned at Wade’s birthday party, Petra was fed her first taste of frosting!

When it came down to it, as with almost everything in our parenting we used multiple methods when introducing Petra to solid foods. We had a baby food grinder with us that we purchased in a natural food store in the US. We used it occasionally, especially with cooked carrots and some fruits when Petra was little, but by the time Petra was ten months old we were done with it. We gave her some of the boxed cereal but preferred “real” food. Most of the time we let her eat a little of whatever we were eating. Sometimes we spoon fed her a little. We did whatever was easiest for all of us in that moment. We tried to give her one new food at a time to let her adjust to it, and in case she had a reaction to it. Mostly though, we just picked out whatever was appropriate for her that we were eating, cut it into sizes she could eat and put it on a plate in front of her.

One advantage of being in Central America was that foods were easier to mash up that many of those in the USA. Instead of cooking and mashing apples into applesauce, we just had to take a fork to a mango or papaya. There were just a lot of soft, mushy food around.

Here is a list of Petra’s first solid foods:

  • Rice
  • Cereal
  • Banana
  • Oatmeal
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Carrots
  • Avocado
  • Papaya

A little later she was eating beans, yogurt, shredded meats and chicken, peas, potato, cantaloupe and watermelon.

Introducing solid foods and allergies

Also, Petra’s pediatrician in Maine had sent her off with a list of foods to avoid such as cow’s milk, wheat, peanuts, eggs, strawberries, citrus fruit, tomato, chocolate, and honey. It was interesting to me, then, to find that in Central America, these things weren’t avoided at all for babies — in fact, many were encouraged first foods. Honey and wheat cereal is one of the first foods given to babies in Latin America — they actually come prepackaged together as baby food. In point, many people found it extremely weird that I wouldn’t let Petra eat honey. However, it seemed to me that being a little cautious and waiting on giving her some foods was worth it, as avoiding them wasn’t too difficult.

By the time Petra was one year old, she was eating everything from pancakes and watermelon to shredded chicken and tortillas off my plate. The peanut barrier was broken when she was around 14 months by my husband sharing an ice cream cone with her. All without any major choking incidents. The baby led weaning method had apparently worked.

I’d love to hear from all you mothers out there, how’d you introduce solid foods to your babies? Have you seen how other mothers around the world do it?


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Filed under: Central America, El Salvador, Food, Guatemala, Petra Hendele Adara Shepard, Travel With Family

About the Author:

After traveling on her own for three or four years, Chaya met up with Wade Shepard, the editor of VagabondJourney.com. They were married in 2009, and continue to travel the world together with their young daughter. From time to time Chaya blogs about family travel and life on the road. has written 102 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Chaya Shepard is currently in: Xiamen, China

2 comments… add one

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  • erika March 2, 2012, 7:26 am

    It’s funny for me to hear the term ‘baby led weaning’ like this. I’ve often heard/read the term used in terms of when to stop breastfeeding, as in, letting the child choose when she’s ready to quit.
    In terms of food, for me, I never processed any food for my daughter, maybe mashing something on the plate at the most. I can remember her dad chewing nuts for her for awhile. She basically ate whatever we ate, right off our plates.

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  • Jeanne @soultravelers3 May 16, 2012, 3:39 am

    I’ve never heard of baby led weaning in this context either, like Erika, I’ve always heard it used as allowing the baby to make the full decision on WHEN she weans and it has many long term health advantages to both the baby/child and the mother.


    We did baby led weaning and it was one of our best decisions and also came in handy as we began our travels, since we also don’t do any vaccines and don’t believe in things like tylenol or ibrupopen etc ( prefer natural cures as the number 3 killer in the USA after cancer and heart disease is prescription medicines taken as a doctor as directed and the odds on over the counter meds is even worse).

    In 6 years of non-stop world travel as a family with her, she never gets sick and rarely even gets a cold and I think her strong immune system is a big part of that.

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