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Baby Led Weaning and Delaying Solids

No need to dust off that blender (unless you plan on making a strong margarita) and you can toss out those ice cube trays – that’s right, here’s my take on Baby Led Weaning and Delaying Solids!

With my first child, we made all of her baby food from scratch starting around 4.5 months. This starting point was advocated by her pediatrician at the time.

I didn’t think to question when to start feeding her since everyone else seemed to agree that around 4 months was the appropriate time to introduce solids (via purees). It couldn’t have been further from the truth. But to understand why it’s essential to wait (until at least 6 months-some say to even a year!) to introduce solids, we should review the digestive system of our little tots.

Open Gut

Babies from the age of birth until approximately 6 months of age have what is referred to as an “open gut”. This terms simply means that the cells that line the small intestines have spaces in between them that allow macromolecules (which includes proteins and pathogens) to pass directly in the bloodstream. This open gut is beneficial in many ways which allows the antibodies from the breast milk to pass directly into the infant’s blood while also being coated with IgA antibodies from the milk to provide passive immunity. However, this also means that whole proteins from foods (which may carry pathogens) can pass right through as well.[1][2]

Digestive Enzymes

Digestion is a complex process that breaks down food beginning in the mouth and continues throughout the digestive tract with the stomach, pancreas, liver and intestines. Digestive enzymes are found in the intestines and pancreas that aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Get this – there are many different, specific types of enzymes for particular types of food. Some enzymes are present in extremely low levels or are entirely absent from a baby’s digestive system.

For example, amylase, which is a key player in the digestion of carbohydrate, is virtually nonexistent in the pancreas until at least six months of age. Or ptyalin, an enzyme in the saliva that breaks down carbohydrates, is not present until around 12 months of age.[3][4]

Many other carbohydrate enzymes (maltase, isomaltase and sucrase) do not reach optimal levels until around 7 months.[3]

Why Wait?

When food is introduced to a baby’s system before it is able to correctly digestive and absorb them then you will see certain reactions, such as constipation, gas, fussiness, diarrhea, and digestive upset.  



But My Doctor Says It’s Ok
You might want to ask a second opinion from a nutritionalist considering pediatric course work may only include one semester of understanding the nutritional needs of infants and babies

A few organizations recommending delaying solids until at least 6 months:[4]

World Health Organization
US Department of Health & Human Services
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Dietetic Association
Australian National Health and Medical Research Council
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Health Canada

What About Iron Levels
Very true – breast milk has low levels of iron compared to formula. But consider this – the level of iron in breast milk is exactly the right amount for your baby and the level in formula and rice cereal is extremely elevated compared to normal levels.

This is because iron is more readily absorbed from breast milk (at a rate of 49% compared to only 4% of iron in formula or rice cereal). This absorption of iron is aided because of the elevated levels of lactose and vitamin C in human milk. It is also important to note that high levels of iron in formula and enriched cereals are lost in the bowels (no wonder that poo stinks).[5]

What Is BLW?

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is skipping purées and not feeding your baby with a spoon. Consider if you wait until at least 6 or 7 months, your baby is old enough to feed themselves – hence, no need for purees.

***The big difference between BLW and traditional weaning is the order that babies learn to eat.

With purees, babies learn to swallow first and then chew. With BLW, babies learn to chew first and then swallowing eventually comes some time later.

Why Weaning Styles Are Important

According to a very recent article in the BMJ, weaning style impacts food preferences and health in early childhood. Infants that are weaned through a baby-led approach learn to regulate their food intake in a manner which leads to lower BMI and a preference for healthy foods.[6]

My Take and What We Decided

My youngest, Charlotte is just over 6 months now and we have given her some food to experiment with during dinner time (such as slices of avocado and a whole banana).

It is quite messy but the thing I love most about BLW is its emphasis on families eating together. It has been amazing to watch her discover food and show so much concentration in meeting new textures and exploring new tastes.

For me, it still seems so soon and she doesn’t seem completely ready (she is just barely sitting up by herself). I do feel tons of pressure to feed  and introduce her to foods but right now we’ll go days between providing her food to play with and I am all right with that.

I am very glad we did wait until past the 6 month mark – and I plan on taking it very slow with the introduction of foods.

Oh yeah – and yippie for no purees!!!


[1] Bauer, Mary.Infant Digestive System Development. Jun 14 2011

[2] R Wall, R. P Ross, C.A Ryan, S Hussey, B Murphy, GF Fitzgerald and C Stanton. Role of Gut Microbiota in Early Infant Development. Clinical Medicine Insights: Pediatrics. Mar 2009

[3] Wootan, George. Book: Take Charge of Your Child’s Health. Page 122

[4] Why Delay Solids? KellyMom Breastfeeding and Parenting. Apr 3 2010 

[5] Flora-Waterman, Becky. Solids Food: Best Delayed. Breastfeeding Essentials Website. Sept 24 2005

[6]Ellen Townsend and N Pitchford. Baby knows best? The impact of weaning style on food preferences and body mass index in early childhood in a case–controlled sample. BMJ. Feb 6 2012


  1. Anonymous3/08/2012

    Do you worry about choking? My baby is 8 months and I hesitate to give her anything not puréed because she gags on it...perhaps that is because I started with purees. She is now starting to chew but still gags if i give her anything "solid" like a piece do strawberry, banana, avocado, etc

  2. Baby’s have a very sensitive gag reflex, which is good.

    Choking is actually more common in baby’s that are spoon-fed, o my understanding, because they are not the ones in control of what’s going into their mouths as well as sucking the puree to the back of the mouth instead of learning to move food without the sucking movement.

    It's really important baby can sit up as then they should be able to clear their airway if in difficulty. Taking a first aid course may help with your reservations, plus its always good to know whether you BLW or not!

    : ) Thanks for the comment!!

  3. Anonymous3/20/2012

    Hey just wanted to say thanks for posting this and for your reply above! I had honestly never heard of the baby led weaning concept (and i love to read about wholesome baby practices!) Anyways, I have been giving my baby chunks of soft fruits and she's loving it! She sits in her highchair and munches away, it's great!

    Do you have any recommendations on foods? It seems like I'm giving her mostly fruit because it is softer. So far strawberry pieces, banana pieces, kiwi, mango, and avacado. I just bought a yam to bake and then cut into little disks for more veg. She definitely sits up strong and has a good handle on holding and chewing/swallowing. .

    What did you feed you babe at 8 months? Looking for some ideas!!! Thanks!!!!!


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