When it comes to introducing solid foods into your baby’s diet, there are a number of routes you can take. Many parents begin with rice cereal or oatmeal and pureed fruits and vegetables. At this point, these foods are really just a complement to your baby’s diet of breastmilk or formula. However, another option is Baby Led Weaning (BLW). Like traditional weaning, it begins at or around six months of age, but this process bypasses purees and lets baby feed himself table foods. One of the questions parents ask most often is what foods to let their child try when they undertake BLW. Here, we’ll explore the best foods for baby led weaning considering both plant-based and protein-based needs. We will also discuss the foods to avoid.
This aids in the development of fine motor skills because it forces the baby to practice hand-eye coordination, dexterity and chewing skills. It’s also helpful in encouraging your baby to enjoy the foods the rest of the family is already eating!
Baby Led Weaning Foods – [A Guide to the Best Options]
Soft fruits make a great starter food during baby led weaning. Try ripe bananas, watermelon, strawberries, avocado, peaches or melon. Pears are a great option, too, as long as they are very ripe. Cooked apples tend to be a hit. For slippery fruits, like bananas, you can leave a bit of the peel on for easier grasping by inexperienced fingers. Cut off an inch of the peel at a time, then just continue to cut off more as baby eats the exposed banana. If you do give your little eater a fruit with some skin or peel left on for gripping, watch closely to ensure they don’t eat that part. Their teeth may be little, but they’re sharp!
When it comes to veggies, many babies do well starting with steamed carrots. Cut them lengthwise – about the size and width of an adult pinky finger. This makes it easy to grip, and babies often like the bright color, too. Cut and steamed sweet potatoes are great for these same reasons. Cooked zucchini cut in half-moon shapes is also easy for baby to hold, as are cooked green beans. All of these baby led weaning foods will start your little one off on the right foot!
One of the easiest and most versatile proteins you can start with is burger patties. Try out options like beef, chicken, fish, pork, bean or chickpea. This will give your baby a variety of proteins, and by cutting them into strips you can ensure they’re easy for baby to hold while he chows down. Meatballs and meatloaf offer another soft option with versatile ingredients. Your baby can even try some roasted chicken, though you’ll want to cut it into strips against the grain. Cutting it this way allows for baby’s little jaws to break the chicken down a bit easier.
If you want to try protein but you aren’t sure you want to jump right into meats, you can try eggs, too. You might think that scrambled eggs would be your go-to, but save those for when your baby is a bit older since they’ll be difficult to pick up until she masters the pincer grasp. Instead, try omelets cut into strips, mini egg cups or hard-boiled eggs cut into long quarters as a food option during baby led weaning.
Cheeses can also be a great source of protein for baby, but you need to take care to avoid hard cheeses like Swiss. Instead, pick blocks of soft cheeses like mozzarella and cut them into skinny strips. Cheeses do require a bit more chewing, so keep an eye on your little one to ensure they’re safe.
Combination Baby Led Weaning Foods
While it’s usually best to start your baby with one or two simple foods like those mentioned above, you can also start preparing foods that contain multiple ingredients once you know your child handles them well. For instance, if your baby does well with eggs, cheese and carrots, try a frittata cut into strips. A grilled cheese sandwich cut into strips or bread with hummus spread are also good options.
Foods to Avoid
Rule number one is to never give your baby high choking risk foods. This includes grapes, hot dogs, cherry tomatoes, popcorn, and nuts. Raw, hard fruits and veggies are also risky for little ones, and things like dry bread and pancakes can also pose trouble for babies if they become stuck to the roof of the mouth.
You should also avoid honey or foods made with honey, as it contains bacteria that can lead to a dangerous illness called infant botulism.
If you’re feeding your baby the same foods you’re preparing for the rest of the family, keep a portion aside that you don’t season. You may love salt, but a baby’s growing body will be very sensitive to too much sodium.
Safety Precautions for Baby Led Weaning
It’s always possible that your baby may have an allergic reaction to a new food. For this reason, it’s a good idea to give baby the same one or two foods for three consecutive days. This will ensure they don’t have a food allergy to that particular item before moving on to the next food you’ll introduce. This goes for complex foods, too. You need to make sure, for instance, that your baby can already tolerate all the ingredients in your meatloaf recipe before he tries it. It can feel like a slow process, but it’s the safest method for your baby. Plus, while eating steamed carrots for three days straight may seem boring to you, it’s an exciting new taste sensation for your child.
When you begin BLW, it’s also smart to teach your little one how to drink water from a sippy cup. Also, make water available during every meal. It’s important that your baby learns this skill, but it can also help in the event that food becomes stuck to the roof of your baby’s mouth (think bread).
Finally, even if you avoid giving your child foods that are a choking hazard, accidents can happen. Don’t leave your baby unattended while she’s eating and be informed about how to help a choking infant or toddler. Before starting baby led weaning, also make sure you understand the gag reflex and how it’s different from choking. You can learn more about all of this here.
That’s a Wrap on Our Baby Led Weaning Food Guide!
Baby Led Weaning can be a fun and educational experience for your child, helping to develop motor skills as well as healthy eating habits. Remember, all babies are different and the foods that work well for one baby may not be tolerated by another. Use the suggested foods above to provide your baby with a variety of options over time. Of course, always consult your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s eating habits.
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