Are you getting ready to start baby led weaning? This Baby Led Weaning Gear Guide will help you find BLW gear for introducing solids with real food!
As soon as I finished reading Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater by Tracey Murkett and Gill Rapley, I was ready to gather together helpful baby led weaning supplies.
The only true baby led weaning must-haves are a baby, your lap, and some food! But this Baby Led Weaning Gear Guide can help your baby start solids with a little less mess and a little more style. Below are checklists of baby led weaning equipment for: (1) use at home, and (2) eating out.
If you are new to the concept of BLW, please start by reading What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Basic Baby Led Weaning Gear
The basic baby led weaning supplies include:
- Baby led weaning book;
- High chair or booster seat;
- Floor cover;
- Plates, bowls, or place mats;
- Baby's first utensils;
- Bibs with catch pocket; and
- Wipes for cleaning up after the meal.
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Baby Led Weaning Gear for use at Home Checklist
Baby Led Weaning Books
You can read my full review of Baby-Led Weaning: Introducing Solid Foods. Although I love the baby led weaning method of introducing solid foods, I would avoid grain-based foods like toast when deciding on Baby's first foods. Paleo for Babies is a brief introduction to BLW for families that eat a Paleo diet. I'm all for feeding our children a Paleo or West A. Price nutrient dense diet! However, I would still recommend reading Baby-Led Weaning: Introducing Solid Foods by Gill Rapley and Tracy Murkett, since it provides a more in-depth explanation. Just switch out the bread for some Kalbi ribs! I also included Nourishing Traditions, because even though it does not technically advocate BLW, it is a wonderful resource regarding nutrient dense foods.
High Chairs and Booster Seats - Sitting Pretty
In order to join in the meal, your baby should be safely seated upright.
Picnics are a wonderful option for baby led weaning. Your baby can sit directly on the picnic blanket, which can also serve as the splash mat for catching dropped food. If you cannot make it outside for a picnic, you can always have one on your living room floor!
When eating at a table, your baby can either sit on your lap or sit in a high chair or booster seat. The important part is that your baby is included at the table during the family meal.
When choosing a high chair, think about how easy it is to clean, as BLW is a messy affair! The most often recommended highchair for BLW is the Ikea Antilop Highchair, since it is relatively inexpensive and easy to wipe clean.
If we were staying in one house for a long time, I would have opted for a natural wooden high chair, such as the Stokke Tripp Trapp Bundle or the Keekaroo Height Right Highchair with Insert & Tray. But since we are always on the move, we decided that something compact and inexpensive made more sense. We opted for the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster. One advantage is that we can take it along when visiting friends or relatives or to restaurants. The deluxe version adjusts to three height levels and comes with a main tray, a removable dining tray, and a cover to attach when transporting the booster seat. If you decide to use a booster seat at home, it is a good idea to pair it with a chair cover, to protect your dining room chair from spills.
If you don't mind investing in more than one seat, you could use a larger high chair at home and a small travel high chair or booster seat when eating out.
Splat Splash Mat - Catching the Crumbs
The next most important item after a high chair is something to catch the crumbs that fall to the floor. And when I say "catch the crumbs" I really mean "catch the entire meal" when starting baby led weaning.
You can protect the floor under Baby's chair with a splat mat or drop cloth, or even a table cloth. The important aspect is that the material is easy to clean after each meal. If you keep the splat mat nice and clean, dropped pieces of food can be re-offered (but use your best judgment!).
Bib with Catch Pocket
Minimize the mess by choosing bibs with catch pockets or "crumb catchers". I like silicone bibs for at home, long-sleeve bibs to protect clothes, and roll-up bibs for on-the-go.
Plates and Bowls
When Baby joins you at the table, it is nice to provide Baby with his own place setting, so he can become accustomed to using the same items that we use when dining. When it comes to plates and bowls, you can use regular dishes from the family set. Heavy plates are less likely to be dropped or thrown across the room than lightweight plastic kids plates. If you choose to get Baby his own special plate, white colored Corelle dishes are a great non-toxic option. You could also opt for a tempered glass dish set or stainless steel platter.
Spoons and Forks - Utensils
Providing utensils (cutlery) allows Baby the chance to practice using these tools. I like to place a spoon or fork on my son's tray, and allow him to figure out how to use them by imitating us. It is quite impressive what children learn, just by copying others.
For a cup, I suggest going straight to an open top cup for use at home. There will definitely be more spills at first than with a sippy cup, but your baby will also learn how to use a cup faster. I want my baby to be a little physicist, learning about the laws of gravity, rather than thinking that when you turn a cup upside down the liquid stays in the cup. The Doidy Cup is especially designed for babies learning to use an open cup, but you can use any small cup. We bought a set of shot glasses that look like regular water glasses and are a perfect size for our baby to pick up in his little hands.
Wash Cloths and Disposable Wipes - Cleaning Up
For cleaning Baby's face and hands and wiping down the high chair after a meal, reusable cloth wipes or washcloths work well at home. You may also want some disposable wipes for eating out.
When our baby loses interest in the meal, we remove the tray, wipe his face and arms once with a soft wash cloth, take off his bib, and whisk him away to the bathroom for a more thorough face and hand washing.
If your baby will be sitting on your lap during meal times, an apron will help protect your own clothing.
Food Prep Tools - Crinkle Cutter and Ice Pop Molds
Some helpful items for preparing your baby's first foods include: a steamer for vegetables; a crinkle cutter to cut fruits and vegetables into easy-to-hold zig zag sticks; and Popsicle (ice lolly) molds for making frozen treats.
Baby Led Weaning Gear for Eating Out Checklist
Somewhere to Sit - Travel Highchair
If you know you will be eating out, but are not sure if there will be a suitable high chair available for your baby, you may want to bring along a travel high chair or booster seat. The Chicco Pocket Snack Booster Seat is one of the most popular options. The Pocket Snack sits on top of a chair and adjusts to three heights. It folds up compactly for easy transportation. Update March 7, 2015: We have been using the Chicco Pocket Snack Booster Seat while traveling abroad and we love it! It folds up compactly, so it is easy to carry along. It is a nice small size for young babies, but can also be used without the tray for older toddlers. Update January 25, 2017: Now at three-years-old, my son is still using the Chicco Pocket Snack as a booster seat, just without the tray. It has held up well over the past two years of use.
Another option is a travel chair that hooks onto the table, such as the Inglesina Fast Table Chair. However, these hook-on chairs may not fit on all tables. Their fabric material is also not as easy to clean as a plastic seat. My first choice for a seat to use both at home and away was the Inglesina in light blue, because it is just so darn cute! But it did not work with the skirt on our table, and that may have been a blessing in disguise, since it would have been rather difficult to clean on a daily basis.
Staying Organized - Cloth Lunch Bag
In order to stay organized while away from home, I recommend packing Baby's eating accessories into a cloth lunch bag. Whenever you get home, you can restock the lunch bag, just the way you would a diaper bag. I like this method, since it keeps me prepared and separates my baby's eating gear from his cloth diapers.
Items to pack in the lunch bag include: a place mat or travel plate; bib; utensils; small wet/dry bag; travel cup; snack containers; baby wipes or wash cloths; a toy or coloring book; and possibly an extra outfit.
Placemat or Travel Plate or Bowl
A place mat is helpful for eating out, especially if you are not bringing along a booster seat with a tray. You never know how clean the table is!
Instead of a placement, you could bring along a travel baby bowl. I like the type of bowl that comes with a lid, for taking home left overs.
Roll Up Bibs with Catch Pocket
If you get a two pack of the OXO roll up bibs, you can use one at home and one while out and about. The silicone catch pocket is easy to wipe clean, so they can be used many time before needing to be laundered.
Utensils and Small Wet/Dry Bag
I like to bring a toddler sized spoon or fork for eating out. A wet/dry bag clutch is the perfect way to store utensils and a bib. When packing clean utensils, place them in the dry compartment. After they have been used, place the dirty utensils, bib, and washcloth in the wet compartment. Be sure to empty the wet/dry bag and wash everything when you get home!
For times when you are away from home, it is nice to have a cup with a lid. We opted for an insulated stainless steel cup with a straw, which is leakproof when the lid is closed, minimizing spills while transporting the cup.
Reusable Snack Containers
I started brining along snacks for my baby when he began BLW at six-months-old. He didn't need to eat snacks between meals, but I wanted to have an option with us in case the meal we chose was not suitable for him. For the most part, we offer bits of whatever meal we are eating, but there are some times when I am not sure of the ingredients and do not feel comfortable sharing with him. My baby is adamant about joining in the meal, and it just would not do to eat in front of him without having something to offer him. The stainless steel container also doubles as a rattle to keep him occupied.
It is also helpful to bring along a small toy or coloring book, in case Baby needs something to play with until the food arrives. I also often let my baby play with his spoon while we are waiting.
If your little one tends to get especially messy while eating, you may also want to pack an extra baby outfit, just in case.
Tips for Baby Led Weaning While Eating Out
- Place a paper placemat or tray on the floor under the high chair to catch falling food.
- Order right away, walk around with Baby, and only sit Baby in his seat once the food arrives.
What's on your must-have list of baby led weaning gear?