I’ve written a bit on the why of baby-led weaning, I’ve spelled it out in my top ten reasons, I’ve written about what Baby Led Weaning equipment you need (or don’t need, as the case may be) for Baby Led Weaning, but I haven’t written anything on how to get started, or more accurately, with what to start.
Before I just rattle off a list of foods, however, here are a few important things to remember: (And if you want to hear it from the expert on Baby Led Weaning, Gill Rapley, you can buy her book.)
- Baby Led Weaning shouldn’t be started before your baby is ready, i.e. showing signs of interest in solid foods (which can start as early as four months, but hold out for six), is able to sit up on their own, and is six months old.
- Baby Led Weaning is about the experience of food, rather than the nutrition only of it. Food is fun till one. Until they are around one, milk should be your child’s primary source of nutrition, and food should be introduced for the touch, feel, smell factors. Food should be mushed in the fingers, sucked, gummed, smelt and experienced, and how much is eaten is rather irrelevant. Around the first birthday, your child will automatically start eating more of the food.
- Baby Led Weaning doesn’t mean you give your child food and then walk away. It’s not ‘hands off’ in the way that scares parents looking in to it. It’s still weaning, there’s still parental involvement. It’s just baby led.
- Babies don’t need teeth to eat. They are perfectly capable of breaking down foods with their gums – be smart though. A 500g rump steak isn’t a good idea.
- A baby’s gag reflex is in the middle of their mouth, unlike an adults, which is more towards the back. Your baby might sound like he or she is choking, but it’s unlikely. The gag reflex is precisely there to prevent chocking. At the same time, don’t leave an infant unattended when they are eating.
- If your child doesn’t like something, it doesn’t matter. Remove it from the plate, and offer it again in a few weeks time. Tastes change as taste buds develop.
- Try to use organic foods. You can get organic baby food such as rice cereal for babies or you can make it yourself. If you make it yourself don’t boil them and try to maintain the flavours – bland food isn’t very interesting. Steaming works best for hard vegetables, or we often pan-fry in a non-stick pan with no oil.
- If there is a history of allergies, asthma or eczema in either parent’s family, try to avoid milk products (cow’s milk, cheeses and yogurts), shellfish, citrus fruit and their juices or eggs, until your baby is around eight months old. If there are allergies, also avoid sesame seeds or peanuts. If you’re really concerned, do a blood allergy test, so you know for definite what to avoid and what not. There is also a school of thought that says avoiding these things increases the risk of allergies, rather than reducing it – do your research and decide for yourself.
- Honey, salt and wheat products are not recommended until the baby is a year old. This is a strange one for me, as, for example, in South Africa we give babies â€œbiltongâ€ – dried, cured, salty meatâ€ for teething. ‘Regulations’ and ‘recommendations’ vary from country to country and over time, so do what you feel is right for your baby.
- You can change to baby led weaning at any time, even if you’ve already started puree feeding, but be aware that babies used to swallowing purees first may be more likely to try to swallow and then gag on finger foods.
- We’ve never puree fed, and you don’t have to start with mush.
- When you were pregnant, your baby became accustomed to your way of eating. If you’re breastfeeding more so.
- These are suggestions for first foods. Use your discretion and if you’re not sure, wait a while. All of these suggestions are aimed at children over six months, some for over one year:
- Peaches – if soft, raw is fine, otherwise lightly steam
- Nectarines – if soft, raw is fine, otherwise lightly steam
- Plums – if soft, raw is fine, otherwise lightly steam
- Strawberries – after six months, if no allergies in the family.
- Apples – great for teething gums, but do be wary as it is a hard fruit and can be a chocking hazard. Otherwise bake and cut into chunks. With cinnamon. Yum.
- Blueberries – cut in half to ensure they aren’t swallowed whole (for smaller babies)
- Grapes – great for gumming, but keep an eye on younger babies. Peel if you desire, as the skin can get stuck on the throat, which is quite uncomfortable. Peeled and frozen and halved is also heavenly for sore gums.
- Carrots – great for teething, but same criteria as apples. Lightly steamed is preferable.
- Broccolli – lightly steam or roast
- Cauliflower -lightly steam or roast
- Butternut Squash – roast or boil
- Sweet potato – roast or boil – cut into thin fry like pieces for easy holding. Don’t deep fry though.
- Potato – roast or boil- cut into thin fry like pieces for easy holding. Don’t deep fry though.
- Courgette/baby marrow/zucchini – steamed or roasted or lightly fried or grilled
- Aubergine/eggplant – good for cutting into squares, roast, steam or grill – taste it to make sure it’s not too bitter.
- Cucumber – raw
- Asparagus – a favourite in our home, but be aware that it can be stringy and be both in the stomach and the mouth at the same time! Cut into bite-sized bits.
- Rice – great for motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination!
- We also choose Plum baby snacks, especially those that use spelt instead of white flour.
Great snacks to have on hand:
- Pasta – try gluten free if under one
- Cubes of cheese – no molded or goats or sheeps milk under one
- Fish or meat – well cooked. Although Ameli’s been eating raw salmon (sashimi) since 12 months
- Hard boiled egg – assuming no allergies
- Home-made low sugar seed and nut bars – assuming no allergies
- We use loads of herbs and spices in our food.
- Cinnamon – supports the digestive system, but delay introduction if there are food allergies in your family. Also a great source of iron – so no need to worry if baby is otherwise breastfed.
- Turmeric – great for adding flavour to food and also a powerful anti-oxidant
- Cumin – supports digestion
- Coriander – again good for iron among other things and great with chicken dishes
- Nutmeg – also good with chicken, soothes the tummy
- Ginger – also good for upset tummies (hello, morning sickness!) . It also eliminates gas from the intestines, and is an all-round good food.
- Garlic – adds masses of flavour, an anti-oxidant and apparently improves breastfeeding if mama eats garlic.
And a final note:
We try to avoid adding sugar to anything, because really, glucose does nothing good to the body. Instead, replace it with Xylitol. It is slightly more expensive, but is sweeter and actively helps prevent tooth decay and can even reverse the effects of some decay.
In truth, the best way to Baby Led Wean is to cook your own dinner, and take a few bits and pieces of age-appropriate foods off your plate and onto your baby’s. That way there’s much less wastage, no extra preparation, and you end up eating healthier too, since you want to give your baby the best.
Anything to add? It’s sure to help someone!