Size of food for baby led weaning

Ultimate Guide to Baby Led Weaning (and Best First Foods)

Learn the basics of how to do the feeding approach known as “baby led weaning” and the best first foods for baby to make starting solids easy and fun. Plus: Learn why it’s perfectly okay to use a combined approach of blw and purees.

Baby Led Weaning

The feeding approach known as “baby led weaning” or “BLW” for short, is a style of feeding infants that allows them to feed themselves right from the start. The food is offered in thick finger-size pieces and is soft and easily squishable between your fingers. This way, the food is both easy to hold but has a low risk of choking.

TIP: This method became popular about a decade ago after the publication of the Baby Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Food by UK author Gill Rapley.

BLW Baby

One of the many reasons that people are starting to opt for this style of feeding more and more is simply that it’s easy. In many cases, you can modify foods you’re already making to share with your baby and there’s not always a lot of separate cooking involved. It also allows a baby to have control over what goes into their mouths, which sets a good precedent for letting them eat intuitively from the start.

What age should I start baby led weaning?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a baby is ready to start solids with baby led weaning when:

  • They’ve doubled their birth weight (at least).
  • They can hold their head up well and are starting to sit up unsupported.
  • They show signs of being interested in food (watching you eat, reaching for food when you’re eating, etc).
  • When you feed them, they are able to move the food around in their mouths—rather than spit it right out.

TIP: Look for a highchair that allows a baby to sit up relatively straight so they can have good posture and better control over their arms and hands.

How to Start Baby Led Weaning

The first time you offer solids is such a fun milestone, so you’ll be ready once you follow these simple steps.

  • Make sure baby has hit the milestones listed above to let you know that he’s ready to start.
  • Get the highchair ready and adjust the straps and foot rest as needed.
  • Plan to introduce water when you start solids. I recommend a trainer cup.
  • Choose one food to start with and plan to offer only one food at a time.
  • Stop when baby starts to fuss, turns his head away, or shows any other signs of not wanting to continue. It’s usually fairly obvious when they are done!

TIP: If you start offering solids and baby just doesn’t seem interested at all, it’s okay. Take a break for a few days or a few weeks and start again. Each kiddo has their own unique timeline.

Best Tips for Starting BLW

Here are a few more tips to consider and review before you get started.

  • Understand the gag reflex. Gagging is different than choking though and is most often a sign that baby is learning to move food around in their mouths—and to get it out of their mouths, which is a skill you want them to have!
  • Brush up on the basics of how to know when baby is ready to start solids. (Go back to the top of this post for the signs to look for.)
  • Set them up for success with a highchair that allows them to sit up straight and has foot support.
  • Sit with them as you offer food.
  • Check your own expectations of what will happen and simply allow your baby to take the lead.
  • Start with one new food a day or every few days.
  • Vary the textures of foods you offer to start exposing baby to many right from the start.
  • Offer water in a sippy cup or small open cup.

TIP: Remember that breastmilk or formula will continue to satisfy baby’s hunger for the first few months of eating solids. Do not expect solids to replace milk feedings at this age.

First Foods for Baby

Starting solids with baby led weaning or purees are both perfectly acceptable ways to introduce a baby to solid foods—but the topic can get so heated! There’s a lot of pressure to do it the “right” way and I’m here to say that there isn’t one. You 100% can do one or the other, or combine the two to make it work for your family. It’s all good!

Remember, the goal with first foods for baby is that they’re introduced to flavors, nutrients, and foods they can easily eat or suck on. It should be an enjoyable milestone for all involved. 

TIP: It’s a good idea to get into the habit of offering an iron-rich food since iron stores in babies start to run out around 6 months and they’ll need to start ingesting it in their food.

Best First Foods for Baby Led Weaning

Here are some of our favorite first foods to offer baby led weaning style. You want foods to be finger sized so they are large enough that baby can’t force the whole piece into their mouth, and a shape that’s easy for a 6 month old to hold with their chubby little hands. These are some of our favorites.

  • Roasted sweet potato wedges
  • Roasted apple wedges, skin on to help them hold together
  • Roasted or steamed broccoli florets (big enough for baby to hold)
  • Melon slices
  • Thick mango slice
  • Banana with some of the peel still on
  • Toast sticks with mashed avocado
  • Avocado spears (make sure the avocado is ripe and soft)
  • Lamb or beef, on the bone or a large piece for baby to suck on
  • Dark meat chicken, on the bone or a large piece for baby to suck on.

TIP: The foods should generally be soft enough to squish between your fingers with the exception of the large pieces of meat. If baby gnaws a piece down into a smaller piece, replace it with a larger one to avoid her putting a chunk of food into her mouth.

Baby Led Weaning Banana

To serve a banana to a baby, wash it well, then slice it in half. Cut off an inch or two of the peel, but leave the rest of the peel on so it’s not slippery for baby to hold. They’ll suck on the top part like a little popsicle! You can also help them hold the banana if needed.

Foods to Avoid Serving While Doing BLW

You want any foods you offer to a baby while doing baby led weaning to be soft enough to squish between your fingers and safe for them to eat and digest. Plan to avoid:

  • Anything hard, sticky, or crunchy (like raw apple or carrot, whole nuts, crackers, or a big spoonful or nut butter)
  • Added salt
  • Cow’s milk (which is difficult for kids under 1 to digest; plain yogurt is fine though)
  • Added sugar (they simply don’t need it)
  • Honey (to avoid a risk of botulism)
  • Super slippery foods that would be hard for baby to hold (which can be frustrating)

TIP: Always sit with your baby and watch them try to eat. They are your best guide for making adjustments to the foods you serve.

Baby Led Weaning and Choking

There are many parents who dislike this method of feeding because it often sounds like a baby is choking. And while there are surely some incidences of choking, what’s more likely is that a baby will occasionally gag on a piece of food that gets into their mouth that they weren’t expecting.

But remember: Gagging is a sign that baby is doing what she needs to in order to move the food around in their mouth as they learn to eat. It usually sounds more dangerous than it actually is.

TIP: If the sound of gagging really freaks you out, you’re not alone. Consider offering more preloaded spoons with purees to start your journey more slowly.

How to Cut Foods for BLW

You generally want the food to be big enough that it would be difficult for baby to put the entire thing into their mouths. Here are some specifics:

  • Foods that are roughly the size of a finger, so about a 4-inch stick.
  • Foods that are easy for the baby to pick up—they can’t pick up small pieces until closer to 9 months when they develop the ability to use their fingers in what’s known as a “pincer grasp”.
  • Foods that aren’t too slippery—so you can wash and leave some of the peel on fresh foods like bananas, avocado, kiwi, and mango.

TIP: You can also go even bigger if you’re worried about size. Think half of a slice of bread or a big chunk of watermelon.

Will my baby actually eat much food with BLW?

Probably not at first. There will likely be more tasting of the food than eating of it and that is totally fine. They will still rely on breast milk or formula at this age for their main nutrition, so don’t expect them to suddenly start eating full meals. (They’ll get there in a few months, but it takes time!)

Do babies need teeth for baby led weaning?

No! Gums are super strong and front teeth aren’t used for chewing—that happens when the back molars come in. Teeth really have nothing to do with whether or not a baby can eat solids.

TIP: Learn more about what to expect from teething here.

Can you mix baby led weaning and purees?

Absolutely! I think it’s a great idea to mix the two methods simply because it gives you many more options for foods and allows the baby to experience more textures. I recommend allowing babies to feed themselves preloaded spoons—so you put the puree on a spoon, then hand it to them to actually put the spoon into their mouth—so they still have control over what goes into their mouths.

TIP: Feeding some purees is also helpful if you’ll be sending food with a baby to daycare since the care provider may not have experience with blw.

Best First Foods for Baby: Purees

Here are some of our favorite purees to start offering baby when they’re ready to start solids. Remember: There’s no evidence that says that you need to start with vegetables versus fruits, so go with something that tastes good to you. Start with single foods pureed smooth and offer just a little at a time on a spoon.

  • Mashed roasted sweet potato puree
  • Mashed avocado puree
  • Mashed banana puree
  • Butternut squash puree
  • Applesauce, unsweetened
  • Mashed pea puree
  • Oatmeal baby cereal (with added iron)

TIP: One of my favorite baby food companies is Amara Organic Baby Food, a company using a nutrient protection technology that makes organic purees just as good as homemade. I love how easy they are to use when I need a shortcut and that they have fun baby-led weaning recipes on the side of every box! (paid affiliate link)

How do I know when baby has had enough?

If your baby is eating and then starts to turn her head away or just refuses to open her mouth, she’s done! Babies may also start to fuss if they’ve had enough. Learning this new skill takes time and babies can become tired fairly quickly into the process, so don’t expect them to always eat very much or to last very long at the table. This stage is about exploration!

Baby with preloaded spoon of yogurt

How to Let Baby Self Feed Purees

I love offering purees on a preloaded spoon. To do this, the parent, puts some of the food on the spoon and hands it to baby. Then baby can bring the food to their mouth all by themselves. This gives you some of the same advantages of baby led weaning, but can be more comfortable for many parents.

Remember, you can mix what you offer, going back and forth between purees and blw finger foods, so you can offer the same food two different ways to let baby explore. The main goal is to avoid forcing baby to take more bites than they want to, which can sometimes happen with purees.

Baby eating peanut butter toast stick

When to Introduce Potentially Allergenic Foods

In recent years, guidelines have been updated on when to introduce potential allergens including peanuts, eggs, and shellfish, so unless you have a family history of a food allergy, you can go ahead and introduce them soon after baby starts eating solids. In fact, research is showing that introducing these foods early can actually protect baby from developing an allergy. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns.

TIP: Thin unsweetened peanut butter with water to form a very thin Peanut Butter Puree until it’s about the consistency of regular yogurt and offer a very small amount on a spoon or spread on a toast stick.

What does a baby led weaning meal look like for months 7 and 8?

Until a baby is closer to 9 months and is able to pick up smaller pieces of foods, but after they have gotten the hang of one food at a time, I try to offer 1-2 foods they can feed themselves and one puree. This offers them a chance to ingest more via the puree but still feed themselves a range of textures. You can do more or less food following the lead of the child.

TIP: My Baby Food Chart has loads of with ideas for blw foods and purees by month.

Recipes for Every Stage of Starting Solids

If you’re ready to start solids with baby, or you’re just curious what it looks like to do a mix of baby led weaning and purees, check out my Yummy Baby Food cookbook. It goes stage by stage with specific foods to start in each, with simple recipes and easy feeding tips.

Listen to a recent podcast episode to hear about some of the basics of BLW with our guest Megan McNamee, MPH, RDN, CLT, and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in pediatric nutrition who runs Feeding Littles. 

I’d love to hear any questions you have with BLW or if your baby had a first food that I didn’t list here. Please comment below to share your experience!

Prep Time 5 minutes

Total Time 5 minutes

Author Amy Palanjian

Cuisine American

Course Dinner

Calories 28kcal

Servings 1

  • ▢ 1 small ripe banana with peel on
Roasted Sweet Potato
  • ▢ 1 small sweet potato + 1 teaspoon olive oil
Roasted Apple
  • ▢ 1 small apple + 1 teaspoon butter or neutral oil
Roasted Broccoli
  • ▢ 1 cup broccoli florets + 1 teaspoon olive oil
Sauteed Green Beans
  • ▢ 4 green beans 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ▢ 1 small piece watermelon or cantaloupe
Avocado Toast
  • ▢ 1 slice whole grain bread
  • ▢ 1 tbsp ripe avocado
Avocado Spear
  • ▢ ⅛ ripe avocado
Lamb or Beef
  • ▢ 1 lamb chop, roast, or steak
Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs
  • ▢ 1 chicken thigh
  • ▢ 1 tsp olive oil
  • ▢ 1 garlic clove, optional
Banana with some of the peel still on
  • Cut a banana in half. Use a knife to gently cut around the peel about 2 inches down, leaving some of the peel on so that the banana is easy for baby to hold and less slippery.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Wash and dry the sweet potato. (You don't need to peel it.) Cut in half, then cut lengthwise into strips. Cut each strip in half again until each is about 1/2-inch thick. Slice in half horizontally if the sweet potato is very long. (Each strip should be about the size of your finger.) Place into a bowl and toss with the olive oil. Spread onto prepared baking sheet and roast for 22-25 minutes or until soft. Let cool slightly and serve.

Roasted Apple Wedges
Roasted Broccoli Florets
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the broccoli onto a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, coating and mixing well until all of the florets are a little shiny and coated with oil.  Roast for 15-18 minutes or until tender. Let cool slightly and serve.

Sauteed Green Beans
  • Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the green beans and stir. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes. Remove cover and taste one to see if it’s soft enough. Cook for an additional minute or two as needed.

Melon slices
Avocado Toast
Avocado Spears
  • (Make sure the avocado is ripe and soft): Cut a thick strip of avocado and offer to baby. You can leave the peel on if that makes it easier for baby to hold (just wash it first).

Lamb or Beef
  • Prepare a roast, steak, or chop without salt and with butter or olive oil until cooked medium well. Offer a thick slice at least the size of your finger or a drumstick.

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs
  • Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken thigh and top with a few slices of fresh garlic, if desired.  Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove cover. Flip over and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes uncovered or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

  • Add spices like garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, or any other non-spicy flavor you like to make these more interesting.
  • Offer just one piece at a time when starting out.
  • If baby gnaws a piece down into a smaller piece, replace it with a larger one to avoid her putting a chunk of food into her mouth.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Reheat briefly if needed.
  • Remember that it's normal for babies to take time to actually ingest the food. Part of the process is exploring all of the senses related to the experience of eating.

Calories: 28kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 6mg, Potassium: 75mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 23IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 2mg, Iron: 1mg

Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

50+ Best Finger Foods for Babies (and Toddlers)

Introducing finger foods to your baby can be exciting and overwhelming! Here is everything you need to know about serving finger foods so that they are safe and delicious!

Jump to:
  • Baby Finger Foods - FAQ
  • Choking vs. Gagging
  • How to Serve Finger Foods to Baby
  • Finger Foods for 6-8 Month Old Baby
  • Finger Foods for 9-11 Month Old
  • Finger Foods for 12+ Months
  • Best First Finger Foods for Baby
  • Real-Life Baby Food Ideas

Baby Finger Foods - FAQ

When is the best time to introduce finger foods to baby?

If you've decided to start solid foods by taking the baby led weaning approach, you will be introducing big, soft-cooked finger foods from the start.

If you are taking the traditional weaning approach of starting with purees, you will most likely start offering finger foods around 8-9 months of age when you and your baby feel ready to move forward with texture.

Regardless of which method you choose, the goal is to offer finger foods by 9 months at the latest.

Here is an in-depth post on purees vs. baby led weaning.

When can babies eat textured foods?

As soon as they are ready for solids!

I talk a lot about the importance of introducing a wide variety of flavors AND textures from early on, and that’s because research shows babies are much more willing and open to trying new foods than children between ages 2-8 as food neophobia has been shown to set in during this time (1).  

Familiarity is a BIG part of taste and acceptance, and the earlier the exposure to all the different flavors and textures, the greater their acceptance.
If your baby stays on pureed textures for too long, it may be much more difficult to get them to accept different textures later.

In other words,  early exposure has a significant impact in shaping food preferences and eating habits that are tracked into childhood and beyond (2).

If you're feeling anxious about offering textured foods from the start and want to take the traditional weaning route where babies are spoon-fed purees or the combination approach (you do you!), here's how to safely move forward from purees to textured foods.

Whatever method you choose, the end goal is to introduce a wide variety of flavors and textures before the age of 1.

Can babies eat finger foods without teeth?

While you might think babies can’t eat foods that aren’t pureed until they have teeth, the reality is they don’t need teeth to enjoy table/finger foods.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but we actually chew with our molars, not the front teeth.  And if you wait until the molars come in (normally around 12-18 months)  to move on to table foods, you would totally miss that critical “window of opportunity” for developing food preferences.

Not to mention, failure to move from purees to textured foods by 9 months may lead to increased risk for feeding difficulties later in life (3).

So how are they able to handle table foods without the molars? With their strong gums! I was totally blown away when I saw them in action!

And it is our responsibility as parents to make sure that the foods are appropriately cooked and served, and that’s what I want to share with you!

Do keep in mind, I’m sharing general timelines & guidelines here. What’s most important is to follow your baby’s lead as every child is so different and they develop at their own pace.

Is your baby 6 months old and up?

Learn all the secrets to starting solids safely while optimizing nutrition!


Choking vs. Gagging

Research actually shows that there’s no greater risk of choking with baby led weaning in comparison to the traditional feeding practices (4).

Most important - avoid the choking hazards

for 6-12 months (from the CDC)

Keep in mind, choking is different from gagging, which is very common and to be expected. Gagging is a safety mechanism to prevent choking and contrary to how it appears, it doesn’t really bother the babies. 

Sit on your hands, remain calm, and let them work through it.  Do NOT try to fish out the food from their mouth. Here are some additional tips on how to get through the first month of baby led weaning.

How to Serve Finger Foods to Baby

how to serve zucchini to babies

In this section, you will learn how to cut and cook the finger foods so they are the appropriate shape and texture according to age.

Finger Foods for 6-8 Month Old Baby

Food shape

Cut so that the food is about the size of 1-2 adult fingers pressed together widthwise and the length of an adult pinky finger (or longer).

Contrary to what you might think, serving big pieces of food will actually minimize choking risk and make it easier for your baby to grab with their fist (referred to as the palmar grasp). Initially, everything will likely get demolished, but with practice, your baby will learn to have better control of hand force.


Foods should be firm enough to grasp but soft enough to easily smoosh between two fingers or mash with the tongue on the roof of the mouth. 

Roll slippery foods in ground nuts, seeds, flour, etc to make it easier for your baby to pick up. Crinkle cutters can also be very helpful (this tool is great!).

Finger Foods for 9-11 Month Old

By this age, babies are learning to move food side to side within their mouths as well as forward and backward. They are also starting to learn the concept of biting (hopefully anyways).


Your baby is mastering their pincer grasp and able to pick up small pieces of food between the thumb and index finger. Therefore, you can begin to cut food into small bite-sized pieces.

But do continue offering larger pieces of food so they can learn to take bites.


You can start serving slightly firmer foods by shortening the cooking time for veggies, roasting more often rather than just steaming, etc. Depending on the number of teeth your baby has, chewing ability, and your comfort level, you can start offering finely grated raw fruits and veggies.

If your baby constantly turns into a competitive food eater (like mine did), here are some things you can do to help slow them down:

  • Help set pace by placing small amounts of food in front of her at a time either directly on the table/tray or a plate. I personally just took the plate away every time his mouth was full and encouraged him to finish chewing before offering his plate again. It was tedious but worked well for us.
  • Offer utensils (here are our favorites). Using it requires fine motor skills which will help slow down pace.

You may also be interested in: healthy baby snacks

Finger Foods for 12+ Months


Again, try to encourage your child to learn to take bites by not cutting up the food as much. As always, role modeling can do wonders in helping them to learn this new skill.

If your child is continuing to shove food, learn how to teach them to take bites.


You've done the hard work! At this point your child should be able to handle almost all textures and eating like the rest of the family. Can you start offering crunchy vegetables? Yes! Here's a guide on how to introduce raw vegetables to your little one in a safe and fun way.

Is your toddler becoming picky?

Arm yourself with these strategies that will transform your mealtimes!


Best First Finger Foods for Baby

Now that you know how to serve the food in an age-appropriate way, here's a master list of specific foods to enjoy with your baby!

Be sure to click on the links for more details on each of the specific foods.

Iron-rich Finger Foods for Baby

Iron is arguably THE most important nutrient for babies and it is one of the primary reasons that we start solids when we do. Be sure to incorporate one of these foods at every meal to help meet their high needs.

  • Beef
  • Beans
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Tofu

Related: Top Iron-Rich Foods for Babies and Toddlers

Soft Finger Foods for Baby - Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Butternut Squash
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet potato - these sweet potato rounds are so fun!
  • Zucchini

And as you see in the image above, do not be afraid to season your baby's food from the start!

Also check out: Vegetables for babies (with 30+ recipes)

Best Baby Finger Foods - Fruits

  • Avocado - sliced into wedges or bite-sized pieces
  • Apples - serve similar to pears
  • Ripe banana - try soaking in peanut butter. Be sure to thin it out as globs of peanut butter or any nut butter is a choking hazard
  • Blueberries - smashed
  • Grapes - hold off until 9 months and be sure to serve quartered.
  • Kiwi - Halves, quarters, bite-sized
  • Mangoes
  • Melons - large thin rectangles
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries

First foods - Fruits vs. Vegetables

Whole Grains for Babies

Here are some quick and easy ways to incorporate more whole grains into your baby's diet. You will find that a lot of these recipes also contain protein, iron, fruits, and vegetables!

Homemade Baby Oatmeal

Learn how to cook the perfect oatmeal for baby. It's easy, fast, and loaded with vegetables! Serve as is or shape into fingers or balls, baby led weaning style!

Get the recipe

Savory French toast

This savory vegetable French toast or eggy bread is an EASY and fun way to use up leftovers. Suitable for babies 6 months and up!

Get the recipe

Baby Banana Pancakes

Made in a blender with simple ingredients, these banana pancakes for babies and toddlers make for a delicious and filling snack or meal. Fluffy and moist, if you are looking for a baby led weaning pancakes recipe, this is it!

Get the recipe

Spinach Pancakes

These green baby pancakes are super easy to make, healthy, and the perfect finger food for baby led weaning.

Get the recipe

Strawberry banana pancakes

Made with simple, healthy ingredients, these strawberry banana pancakes are light, fluffy, and delicious! They contain no added sugar and are a delicious breakfast for the whole family!

Get the recipe

Healthy Blueberry Muffins for Babies

These blueberry baby muffins are sweetened with fruits only and loaded with nutrition! They're soft and moist, making them perfect for babies

Get the recipe

Healthy Beet Muffins for Babies

Made entirely with healthy ingredients, like beans, peanut butter, and no added sugar, these blender muffins can be enjoyed as breakfast, snack, or added to lunchboxes!

Get the recipe

Vegetable Waffles with Peanut Butter

EASY to make, healthy peanut butter vegetable waffles for babies and kids! A great way to enjoy more protein, fat, and veggies for breakfast.

Get the recipe

Savory Baked Oatmeal with Vegetables

This savory baked oatmeal is so easy to make and a great way to enjoy vegetables for breakfast! Perfect for baby led weaning and lunchboxes.

Get the recipe

Healthy Baked Strawberry Oatmeal

Super easy to make, this healthy baked oatmeal recipe with juicy strawberries and bananas is the perfect make ahead breakfast or snack for the whole family!

Get the recipe

Iron-rich baby pasta

A baby pasta recipe that is loaded with iron and vegetables!

Get the recipe

Real-Life Baby Food Ideas

at 7.5- monthsat 10-11 months

All the images you see in this article are actual meals I served to my babies.

If you are feeling confused and overwhelmed by what foods to serve, how to prepare foods so they are safe, how to introduce allergens and a wide variety of foods, how to adapt family meals so you don't spend hours slaving away in the kitchen making two separate meals every., and on and on...

My 3 month program will save you time, energy, money, and sanity!

I’ve done all the hard work for you so all you need to do is follow the daily and weekly game plan and watch the cooking demos for EVERY.SINGLE.MEAL you will make for 3 months. By doing so you’ll be able to serve all the meals you see here plus 130+ effortlessly! 

I’ve also heard from so many parents that an unexpected benefit to following this program for their baby was that it encouraged their older fussy eater(s) to start trying new foods and expanding their food choices.

Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?

Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen

And be sure to follow me on Instagram for more helpful videos!

Termination of breastfeeding | Stopping breastfeeding

When is it time to stop breastfeeding and what is the best way to do it? Read our article for useful practical tips on weaning.

Share this information

How long should breastfeeding continue? Three months? Six? Year? Or maybe a few years?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other authorities recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and then continue to be breastfed along with other foods (complementary foods) for at least two years. nine0011 1

The fact is that breast milk is not just food. It is a natural sedative if the child is anxious or tired. In addition, milk contains immune-boosting components, the amount of which increases dramatically when the baby gets sick. 2

According to anthropologists, the natural age of a person to stop breastfeeding is even more than two years. Given factors such as tooth development, body weight, comparison with other primates, and historical evidence, some scientists believe that breastfeeding may last up to two to four years. A number of researchers even believe that our ancestors breastfed children up to six or seven years of age. nine0011 3

Today, more than 60% of mothers in developed countries start giving their babies formula or complementary foods before six months of age, 4 although WHO does not recommend this.

When is it time to stop breastfeeding?

Weaning means that you gradually stop breastfeeding your baby. Ideally, the first step in this process is the gradual introduction of complementary foods, starting at about six months of age. In this case, breastfeeding continues. The weaning process continues until the mother's milk has been completely replaced by other foods and drinks. nine0003

“After six months, the baby needs higher doses of certain nutrients, such as iron, zinc, vitamins B and D, that he cannot get from breast milk or from his own reserves,” says Sarah Beeson, health visitor from Great Britain.

“But solid food should at first only supplement the main diet with breast milk and gradually replace it. Mother's milk remains the main source of nutrition for the baby for many months to come. ” nine0003

On average, a seven-month-old baby gets 93% of its calories from breast milk. And even between the 11th and 16th months, milk provides him with about half of the daily calorie intake. 5

“Sometimes moms think that breastmilk isn't that important once a baby has started solid foods, but the truth is, no matter how many months old a baby is, there's nothing better than your milk,” continues Sarah.

In fact, the process of finishing breastfeeding can take as long as mother and baby want. “When to stop breastfeeding is up to you,” says Sarah. The only thing that matters is what you think is right for you and your child.” nine0003

How to wean

Whenever you decide to start weaning your baby, it's best to do it gradually. An abrupt cessation of breastfeeding can lead to lactostasis, blockage of the milk ducts and mastitis, and in a child such a sudden change can adversely affect the state of the digestive and immune systems. In addition, it will be difficult for both of you psychologically.

When should I stop breastfeeding?

Sometimes mothers mistakenly believe that it is time to stop breastfeeding, when in fact there is no reason to. If you're returning to work, breastfeeding can be a great way to stay close to your baby during this difficult time for both of you. You can express milk at work, and morning and evening feeding sessions will give you the opportunity to spend time alone with your baby. If you need to leave without your baby, you can also express milk and bring or send it home. nine0003

If you get sick, this is not always a reason to stop breastfeeding. Read our advice in the article on breastfeeding when sick and consult with your healthcare professional.

Weaning up to six months

If you cannot continue breastfeeding until six months and want to try weaning your baby, start by replacing one feeding a day with a bottle of formula.

“It's best to start with midday feedings. Babies are very alert and able to smell breast milk nearby, so ask your partner or relative to give your baby a bottle when you're in the other room,” Sarah advises. nine0003

“Be hygienic when preparing food. Be prepared for the fact that the baby will take fewer servings of expressed milk per day than if he was fed directly from the breast. Don't make him eat more milk than he wants."

You will probably feel that your breasts are fuller and more tender. This is due to the fact that your body is rebuilding to produce less milk. If this creates discomfort, try expressing some milk—just enough to relieve the discomfort without stimulating extra production. nine0003

When your body adjusts to the new volume - usually after a few days - replace with formula for one more meal a day. Continue this until you have changed all feedings and your baby is completely weaned.

“I had complications after my first birth, as a result I lost a lot of weight very quickly, and besides, I developed mastitis. Lactation was very weak, and at three months I was forced to stop breastfeeding,” recalls Jennifer, a mother of two from the UK, “I gradually replaced one feeding, so physically it was easy, but mentally it was hard for me. ” nine0003

If you want to maintain closeness with your baby and all the health benefits of breastfeeding, but still need to cut down on breastfeeding, try partial weaning, replacing only a few feeds a day with formula.

Weaning after six months

Once your baby starts eating solid foods (about six months old), you will notice that breastfeeding naturally occurs less and less. For a year, it can be reduced to just a couple of times a day, and feedings will be replaced by full meals and healthy snacks. nine0003

Anyway, if you intend to continue to reduce breastfeeding, do it gradually, replacing one feeding at a time. Use formula milk if your baby is under 12 months old. With cow's milk, you should wait at least up to a year.

“When I decided to wean my son, I breastfed him three times a day and gave him other foods three times plus light snacks. Gradually, I replaced all breastfeedings with formula. By 11 months, we only had one nighttime breastfeed left,” says Ruth, a UK mom. nine0003

There are various ways to distract a child from changes in his diet. Some mothers suggest that instead of breastfeeding something to drink and eat together to maintain a sense of closeness. You can also change your daily routine, play your favorite game, or replace feeding with caresses - from you or from your partner. Some children take longer to get used to the new food, but in the end everything falls into place. If you are having difficulty weaning, ask your healthcare provider for advice. nine0003

Ending breastfeeding naturally

Ending breastfeeding can be guided by the baby's wishes. This is called baby-initiated weaning, or the natural termination of breastfeeding. Such a process is likely to be long and gradual. Month after month, feeding sessions will become shorter and less frequent, until one day the child completely loses interest in the breast.

“My daughter stopped breastfeeding on her own when she was four years old,” says Sarah, a mother from the UK. And once, when we were on vacation, she seemed to just forget about her breasts. Now, six months later, she sometimes still asks for breasts, but she already knows that there is no milk there. nine0003

You will have a huge amount of time for the body to adapt, so there should be no discomfort or swelling of the breast. However, you may find it difficult emotionally, so spend more time petting and bonding with your baby.

“Child-initiated termination of breastfeeding was right for me because I never gave my son formula or a bottle. I didn’t want to abruptly stop feeding and refuse him,” recalls Kelly, a mother from the UK, “He himself lost interest in breasts at the age of two and a half years. For us, it was the best scenario, although emotionally it was not very easy for me.” nine0003

What if you need to stop breastfeeding quickly?

It is best not to stop breastfeeding abruptly, but sometimes it is necessary for medical reasons or because you cannot be near the baby.

If you have been breastfeeding your baby up to this point, you will most likely have to express your milk to avoid breast swelling. Some mothers prefer to use a breast pump for this, others find it easier to express milk manually. You only need to pump a little, just to eliminate the discomfort, otherwise your body will take it as a signal to produce more milk. nine0003

At first, the breasts may swell and become tender, but this will pass. Breast milk contains a so-called feedback lactation inhibitor. When breastfeeding is stopped, this inhibitor tells your body to slow down milk production, but it can take days or even weeks for your breasts to rebuild.

Certain medications can relieve pain and should be discussed with your doctor. Always follow your pharmacist's instructions or directions, and consult your healthcare professional before taking any medication. nine0003

“I had to abruptly stop breastfeeding when my daughter was eight months old because she had to take strong painkillers,” says Peggy, a mother from Switzerland. “It was very difficult because the baby was constantly looking for a breast and crying. I held her tightly to me as I gave her a bottle. This calmed her, and after a month everything was all right.

Can I continue breastfeeding if I want to get pregnant again?

Breastfeeding is a natural contraceptive. However, this method is not the most reliable, especially after six months or if you are not exclusively breastfeeding. This means that you can get pregnant even while you are breastfeeding. nine0003

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers sometimes receive conflicting advice about whether to stop breastfeeding. Consistent feeding of two children of different ages is of course possible, and with the advent of the second baby, your body will produce the kind of milk that both of them need.

It is not uncommon for an older child to refuse to breastfeed or skip feedings if the mother is pregnant. This may be due to changes in milk composition that occur during pregnancy. Milk can change the taste and become less sweet. nine0011 6 If your baby is under one year of age when he starts to stop breastfeeding, make sure he continues to gain weight.

Talk to your doctor if you want to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, but have had a preterm birth or miscarriage, or have any bleeding in the past.

If you need medical help to conceive, certain drugs and procedures may not be suitable while you are breastfeeding. Discuss all possible options before deciding to stop breastfeeding. nine0003

And finally...

Whenever you decide to end breastfeeding, and whatever method you choose to do so, be kind to yourself and your baby. This is a huge change for both of you physically, hormonally, and emotionally, so proceed thoughtfully and carefully.

“Although my body responded normally to stopping breastfeeding, it was psychologically difficult for me. The thing that united us for so long is over, - Jane, a mother of two children from the USA, shares her impressions, - I worked long hours, five days a week, and breastfeeding made me feel that I occupy a special place in the lives of children. But when it stopped, we soon found other ways to be together.” nine0003


1 World Health Organization. [Internet] Health Topics: Breastfeeding: 2018 [Accessed: 02/08/2018]. Available from : - World Health Organization. "Health Issues: Breastfeeding" [Internet]. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2018 [Visit 02/08/2018]. Article linked:

2 Hassiotou et al. Maternal and infant infections stimulate a rapid leukocyte response in breastmilk. Clin Transl Immunology. 2013;2(4): e 3. - Hassiot F. et al., "Infectious diseases of the mother and child stimulate a rapid leukocyte reaction in breast milk." Clean Transl Immunology. 2013;2(4):e3.

3 Dettwyler KA. When to wean: biological versus cultural perspectives. Clin Obstet Gynecol . 2004; 47(3)712-723. - Dettwiler KA, "Time to wean: weaning from a biological and cultural point of view". Klin Obstet Ginekol (Clinical obstetrics and gynecology). 2004; 47(3):712-723.

4 Victora CG Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. Lancet. nine0131 2016;387(10017):475-490. - Victor S.J. et al., "Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms and long-term effects". Lancet 2016;387(10017):475-490.

5 Dewey KG et al. Breast milk volume and composition during late lactation (7-20 months). J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr . 1984;3(5):713-720. — Dewey C.G. et al., "Amount and composition of breast milk in late lactation (7-20 months)". nine0131 F Pediatrician Gastroenterol Nutr. 1984;3(5):713-720.

6 Prosser CG et al. Mammary gland function during gradual weaning and early gestation in women. Aust J Exp Biol Med 9021 9029 Sci. 1984;62( Pt 2):215-228. - Prosser S.G. et al., "Breast Function During Gradual Weaning and Early Gestation." Aust J Exp Biol Med Sai. nineteen84;62( Pt 2):215-228.

When it's time to stop breastfeeding :: City Polyclinic № 12

There are a lot of opinions on this matter: the time when it's time to wean a child from the breast varies from several months to infinity from the point of view of self-weaning supporters. But this issue has always been considered from the point of view of benefit to the baby. And what does medicine say about what terms of involution will be useful not for a child, but for a woman? nine0003

What is lactation involution?

Involution of lactation (from lat. involutio - coagulation) is a physiological process that completes the period of breastfeeding. This biological mechanism starts on the 40th day from the moment the baby was last attached to the breast. Since the onset of involution, the mammary glands decrease in size and stop producing breast milk. Usually, the process of involution is recommended to be carried out gradually so that the child can adapt to a new way of getting food, and also learn to calm down without being attached to the mother's breast. nine0003

Under normal conditions, each mammary gland will continue to lactate as long as milk is removed from it - and this phenomenon, the same for animals and humans, is used in agriculture. As the volume of milk production decreases, its composition changes: the content of fat, immunoglobulins increases, and the level of lactose decreases. If lactation is not stopped forcibly, it can continue until the baby is weaned from the breast; under natural conditions, this usually occurs in 2 - 2. 5 years. nine0003

The process starts when the pituitary gland stops producing enough of the hormone prolactin. Milk production continues for some time after the cessation of its suction. As they write in the materials of the WHO, “if in most mammals “drying” occurs on the 5th day after the last feeding, then the period of involution in women lasts an average of 40 days. During this period, it is relatively easy to restore full lactation if the child resumes frequent suckling.

Thus, as soon as attachments to the breast become rare and short, the process of involution begins. This can happen at any time - it is known that sometimes children themselves refuse breastfeeding for a variety of reasons that need to be discussed separately. There is an inhibition of protein synthesis and structural changes in the mammary gland - the reverse replacement of the glandular tissue with adipose tissue begins, which allows the breasts to return to their previous size and shape.

Signs of lactation involution

If involution occurs naturally, it usually begins when the child is two years old. At this time, the frequency of attachment naturally decreases: the child has other interests, including interest in "adult" food. How can a nursing mother understand that involution has begun?

The breasts shrink slightly and do not fill with milk even if you do not feed for more than 12-24 hours. That is why if at this time the child stops breastfeeding, this does not cause any frustration and suffering from excess milk in the mother. Milk, in terms of composition, properties and appearance, is increasingly reminiscent of colostrum. nine0003

The baby's sucking activity is markedly increased. This is due to the fact that milk production is reduced, and the child is still trying to suck out the same amount of portion. A child for one feeding can be applied to one breast, then to the other - and so on several times. The period of such sucking activity can last up to several months.

Mother's psychological readiness for weaning. This is a very important sign that should not be ignored. As soon as a nursing mother is tired of breastfeeding, this is a sign that the process is either incorrectly regulated, or, if there have been no problems with lactation so far, it is coming to an end. nine0003

Psychological readiness of the child for weaning. Usually, by the age of two, the child is socialized, ceases to experience an urgent need for tactile contact with the mother, and begins to receive the necessary nutrients from other sources. The psychological need for the child gradually disappears

Forced involution

If there is a need to wean the child prematurely, then you need to be prepared for the following consequences:

  • pain and discomfort in the mammary glands of varying intensity;
  • formation of seals in the area of ​​the mammary glands;
  • fever;
  • deterioration in general condition;
  • purulent-inflammatory complications (breast abscess and mastitis).

If the need to interrupt lactation is associated with medical indications, then it is necessary to carry out involution under the supervision of a physician. What needs to be done first? Reduce the number of feedings by offering the baby a different food source. In addition, strict control of fluid intake with its restriction is necessary, and additional pumping may be required in order to avoid stagnation of milk. nine0003

If you are tired of breastfeeding

The psychological state of a breastfeeding mother is a very important criterion that must be paid close attention to. Lactation is a very energy- and resource-intensive project for the female body, and it is not surprising that exhaustion sets in sooner or later. Some nursing mothers can wait for natural involution without any problems, but for many there comes a point when, due to fatigue, continuing to feed is impossible. Unfortunately, this objective situation (the amount of forces and resources is strictly individual) often causes a feeling of guilt in a nursing mother, since the advertising of the need for breastfeeding before self-weaning has reached its maximum in recent years. What needs to be assessed at this moment? On one side of the scale, there is a benefit for the child, and on the other, the psychological and physical comfort of the mother. nine0003

Many will choose the comfort of their mother in such a situation, and they will be right. How long breastfeeding will continue is up to her to decide, since only she can assess the degree of her exhaustion. After all, there are now excellent breast milk substitutes, and a calm and rested mother is an irreplaceable resource that cannot be replaced by anything.

Many experts say that breastfeeding up to a year and a half may be optimal. Thus, the well-known pediatrician Dr. Komarovsky recommends starting breastfeeding correction starting at the age of one: at this age it is already time to introduce calming rituals that replace breastfeeding, and also gradually reduce the number of daily feedings. WHO recommendations to breastfeed children for more than two years, according to Komarovsky, are due to high infant mortality rates in Asia and Africa, where a child's life often directly depends on how long his mother breastfeeds.

Learn more