Vegan Baby Led Weaning (1st Month)

Ben is 8 months old (!) and he has been eating solids for about a month and a half, the last month of which we have been doing baby led weaning (BLW).  I first heard about BLW from my sister-in-law who did it from 9 months on with my twin nephews who are now three.  For me, it was really nice being able to talk to my sis about some of my fears around BLW and the logistics of cooking for an infant.  If you don't have a friend you can talk to about BLW, I would highly suggest doing a search on YouTube about BLW.  I found a few videos when I was starting off that were very informative and reassuring.

First off, I think "Baby Led Weaning" is not a very good name for what it is.  Yes, when babies start eating solids they will naturally start decreasing their milk intake over time, but with the name "Weaning" I feel like it implies the intention to wean baby.  That is not how I see it.  I see it more as "let's practice eating so that when it comes time that you need more nutrition than breast milk can supply you'll know how to eat and already enjoy a broad range of foods."  I guess that would be too long of acronym!  One phrase I've heard around the BLW world that I like a lot is:

 "Food before one is just for fun."

Anyways, my intention is to start Ben off on the right foot of understanding how to use his mouth, tongue, and throat to chew and swallow food safely, but most importantly, to introduce him to a variety of tastes and textures so (hopefully) he isn't a picky eater and loves all fruits and veggies.  I want him to have a good relationship with food that will last a lifetime.  I want him to see that mealtime is enjoyable and social, and food is a form of love within our family.  I want him to enjoy the foods I'm enjoying beside me, rather than spoon feeding him mushy pudding paste that is disguising vegetables with fruit.

One source that I found very helpful as I was getting started was a digital book by Cathleen Woods called Baby Led Weaning for Vegans: 60 Plant-Based Recipes for Babies and Kids that Adults Will Love.  Cathleen writes the Vegan Momma blog and she has a great post about BLW covering some of the basics.  I haven't tried any of the recipes quite yet because Ben is still mostly just eating sticks of fruit and steamed veggies, but it will be a great resource when as we are starting to get into the next phase of eating.

When I first started feeding Ben solids a little after the 6 month mark, I started with mushed banana mixed with breast milk.  After a few tries he LOVED it and would take spoonful after spoonful when we fed him once a day around dinnertime. (I always breastfeed before offering Ben solids.  The vast majority of their nutrition for the first year comes from breast milk, so I don't want to displace that yet.)  We did this for about two weeks before jumping into BLW because we were traveling and I wanted to do more research before starting.

Ben's first try of mango.

If there is a baby #2 someday, I would still do purees for a week or two before starting BLW.  I feel like the purees at first were easy on his tummy and made his gut bacteria more prepared for the solids that came after. (Also to note, I give Ben powdered probiotics mixed with breast milk once a day.  He had constipation issues when he was 3 or 4 months old and those helped tremendously.)  I also tried purees with green peas, pears, and carrots.  Banana or banana mixtures seemed to be his favorite.

Ben's first orange.

The first BLW food Ben had was also banana.  To prep I cut the top and bottom tips off, then with the peel still on I cut it long ways top to bottom, and then sideways through the middle so you end up with four split banana halves.  I put one piece on his plate and off he went.  Ben is like all babies, and anything he can get his hands on goes straight in his mouth.  He gnawed on it, but most fell out of his mouth and into his lap.  Some pieces crumbled in his hands and never even made it to his mouth.

The food-to-mouth, spit-out-food bit lasted only a week or two before I noticed Ben really chewing and taking down food.  You'll be able to tell if (and sometimes what) they are taking anything down from their BMs the next day or so.

The next foods we tried over the first few weeks in no particular order were avocado (loved), carrots (liked), broccoli (meh), green beans (liked), cucumber (loved), pears (too slippery, gagged badly, scared me, will introduce again later), romaine (meh), watermelon (loved), bell pepper (liked), cantaloupe (loved), steel cut oats (liked), rolled oats (meh), mushrooms (didn't like), baby bok choy (ok, difficult to chew, will introduce again later), golden potato (liked), asparagus (meh), mango (liked), zucchini (loved), and oranges (liked).

Ben with a bell pepper and mushroom.
He didn't eat any of the mushroom,
but I'll give it another try in the future.

He likes/loves all the fruit, has enjoyed the majority of veggies, and hasn't rejected hardly anything.  I'm now just starting moving into feeding him clumpy things like stews, rice dishes, pasta dishes, veggie/bean burgers, etc.  Last night Ben and I had our first real meal together.   I made wild rice and lentil stew.  It was by far the messiest thing he has eaten, but he LURVED it!  He loved it so much, he practically bathed himself in it (pictures down below).  A bath was definitely needed afterwards.

When I first gave it to him, I handed him a spoon with a scoop of the stew on it.  He seemed to be more interested in gnawing on the spoon and not much food made it into his mouth.  I took the spoon away and just plopped a handful of it on his plate and he seemed to do better after that, although he was quite vocal about letting me know he wasn't happy that the spoon was no longer in his possession.

Going into our second month of BLW, I feel even more confident and assured that this is the right way to go for teaching Ben how to eat.  It is so fun to see him explore and vocalize his opinions of each food.  I'm excited to see where the next month of BLW adventures.

Health and Happiness,


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