Introducing solid foods to your baby is a milestone filled with excitement, mess, and a touch of apprehension. The pediatrician also approves of starting the new chapter, and baby-led weaning (BLW) is an approach that is gaining popularity among parents.
Remember, it’s not about how much or how little your baby consumes initially; the key is to serve different tastes and textures to kick-start their eating journey.
What Is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a self-feeding approach. Instead of spoon-feeding mushy cereals, you’re giving finger foods to your baby, allowing them to eat on their own. It marks the start of those first bites, and from there, your baby learns to enjoy different flavors and textures. This method offers numerous developmental benefits as it allows babies to chew and swallow at their own pace.
But as you embark on baby-led weaning, numerous questions flood your mind. What are the first foods for baby-led weaning? How often should your baby try new flavors? Best mealtime practices? Continue milk with baby-led weaning? And the lingering worry, what if my baby chokes?
Pause and take a deep breath, baby-led weaning is simpler than you imagine. In this blog, we cover everything from first foods to baby-led weaning allergens. Let’s dive into baby-led weaning first foods!
Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
Studies suggest that baby-led weaning may lower the risk of childhood obesity, as they take their food based on their hunger needs. Research also proves that baby-led weaning can lead to more favorable feeding styles, such as a reduced likelihood of restricting foods or pressuring children to eat.
Scroll down for some prominent benefits as you embark on this exciting journey of baby-led weaning foods.
- Baby-led weaning allows infants to adopt healthy eating habits from the start.
- It encourages babies to explore a variety of textures and flavors, reducing the risk of food allergies later in life.
- Picking up and handling finger foods promotes the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination in babies.
- Baby-led weaning is a convenient option for parents, as babies feed themselves; it eliminates the need for puree preparation.
- Baby-led weaning is also time-saving, as your baby eats from the same family foods. It is also light on the pockets.
- It will also improve the diet of your babies as they will intake a lot of different flavors and nutrition.
Cutting Food for Baby-Led Weaning
While starting BLW, select food that is soft and easy to mash so babies with zero to few teeth can eat it. Choose foods that are easy for little hands to pick up and hold onto. Cut food into long pieces, approximately the size of 1-2 adult fingers. This size facilitates a palmar grasp and allows your baby to grip the food with their whole hand. As your baby adopts the pincer grasp (using the index finger and thumb), start cutting food into small, pea-sized pieces. It supports their evolving motor skills and independent eating.
Baby-Led Weaning First Food List
Aim for diversity in baby’s food; include iron-rich options, high-energy foods, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. It ensures a broad range of nutrients to support your baby’s healthy development. Iron, zinc, calcium, choline, vitamin A, vitamin D, fiber, and selenium are some of the important nutrients for babies that must be included in their diet.
Fruits for Baby-Led Weaning
Remember that all the following fruits must be ripe so that your little one can easily eat them. You can mash or blend ripe fruits if your baby is just starting solids or offer them as finger foods. Cook harder fruits for softening.
- Sliced or mashed banana
- Sliced or mashed avocado
- Sliced or mashed kiwi
- Mashed or steamed peach wedges
- Thinly sliced strawberries
- Mashed or melon sticks
- Diced or crushed blueberries
- Steamed or mashed apple slices
- Steamed or mashed pear slices
- Mashed or papaya sticks
- Orange pulp (without seeds and membranes)
- Mashed or diced mango cubes
Vegetables for Baby-Led Weaning
Remember to cook the vegetables until they are soft, then either mash or blend them to achieve a suitable texture for your baby or offer them as finger foods.
- Steamed or baked sweet potato
- Steamed broccoli
- Steamed, mashed, or pureed butternut squash
- Steamed green beans
- Steamed beet strips
- Steamed cabbage sticks
- Steamed or roasted zucchini
- Steamed or mashed cauliflower
- Thinly sliced cherry tomato
- Steamed spinach
- Steamed and mashed carrot strips
- Steamed, mashed or pureed asparagus
Proteins for Baby-Led Weaning
This category is full of healthy nutrients, especially zinc and iron. So, ensure to include proteins in baby-led weaning first foods.
- Shredded or pureed chicken
- Cooked and mashed beans
- Beans patties strips
- Baked or grilled flaked fish, bones removed
- boneless fish strips or cubes (low mercury fish)
- Boiled eggs
- Soft scrambled eggs
- cooked and mashed soft lentils
- Lentils soup
- Chickpeas soup
- Omelet strips
- Shredded tender beef
- Shredded or turkey strips
- Lightly baked tofu strips
Dairy for Baby-Led Weaning
- Cottage cheese
- Ricotta cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Swiss and cheddar cheese
- Full-fat yogurt (regular or Greek-style)
Grains for Baby-Led Weaning
If necessary, this category can be cooked; otherwise, the option of mashing, blending, or offering finger foods is still applicable. In all the following recipes where milk is required, it is recommended to use breast milk, first infant formula, or pasteurized whole (full-fat) cows’ milk (or goats’ or sheep’s milk) if your baby is over 6 months old.
- Whole grain pita strips
- (cooked) baby rice balls
- Unsalted rice cakes
- Baked oatmeal strips
- Cornmeal pancake strips or porridge
- Whole grain pancake strips
- Whole grain toast strips
- Quinoa Patties strips
- Quinoa porridge
- Whole wheat pasta (cooked until very tender)
- Whole grain English muffin strips
Avoid adding salt, sugar, or artificial sweeteners to your baby’s food, as they contain no nutritional value. Research also suggests that babies don’t have any preference for such tastes. You can add baby-friendly herbs and spices for added flavor, but discuss it with your pediatrician first.
Oil can be used in dressing, cooking, or greasing baby-led weaning first foods. The following oils are healthy and suitable for your infant’s development.
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Unsalted butter
Drinks for Baby-Led Weaning
In baby-led weaning first foods, serve water as the primary drink during meal times. For infants less than 6 months, use sterilized water by boiling it. Full-fat milk can be mixed with other ingredients but should not be consumed separately.
Sugary drinks should be avoided, especially in the early stages of weaning, as they can cause excessive calorie intake, tooth decay, and the development of a sweet tooth.
7 Best Baby-Led Weaning First Foods
Introduce easy-to-digest options in baby-led weaning first food, and gradually expand the list for a diverse and nutritious journey. Explore a variety of soft table meals for baby-led weaning first food ideas.
Avocado is the popular baby-led weaning first food due to its healthy nutrients. It is packed with fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin C, and much more. It is very helpful in brain development and promotes healthy digestion and bowel movements.
Serving: To serve, peel and cut the avocado into thick slices. You can also mash and spread it onto the lightly toasted whole-grain bread. If it is too slippery, roll it in unsweetened coconut flakes or flaxseed for easy holding.
Another healthy option for baby-led weaning first foods is an egg. Eggs are rich in choline, selenium, protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, and numerous fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs also help in the brain and eye development of your baby. Due to its nutritional properties, it is the most recommended first food for 6 month baby.
Serving: Eggs can be served in different ways; you can boil, scramble, or even make an omelet, depending upon your baby’s preference.
Yogurt is an essential baby-led weaning first food as it is a great source of calcium, phosphorus, fats, and protein. These nutrients combine to help in the digestive system, bone building, brain development, and immune functioning.
Serving: You can serve plain yogurt or mix it with baby-friendly seeds and finely ground nuts. You can dress it with fresh fruits like mashed bananas, pureed strawberries, or blueberries. Give yogurt dip with soft fruits or steamed vegetables for self-feeding.
- Sweet Potato
This baby-led weaning first food has natural sweetness, which is why babies love it. It has manganese, copper, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and fiber. It assists in bone health, brain development, and the immune system.
Serving: You can steam or bake sweet potato until it is very soft and edible. Cut it into dice or finger-size strips for eating. Another option is to mash it and mix it with plain yogurt or banana to add more flavors.
Banana, an excellent source of carbohydrates, contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, proteins, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It helps in bone and muscle development, the immune system, and muscle and nerve functioning.
Serving: Cut a ripe banana in half. Offer long strips that your baby can easily hold and eat. Roll it in unsweetened coconut flakes, hemp seeds, oatmeal, or plain bread crumbs for easy gripping.
This baby-led weaning first food is a good source of iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, folate, fibers, minerals, vitamins C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Broccoli improves growth development, immune system, and bone health.
Serving: Cook or steam broccoli florets until they are soft for easy digestion. Serve larger pieces to little infants, and you can also mash, roast, or make puree based on your baby’s taste.
In my list, the last baby-led weaning first food is apple. It is a source that provides all essential nutrients, including vitamin C, fiber, Phytonutrients, and even natural sugar, as it has a sweet taste. These nutrients help promote healthy digestion, bowel movements, and the immune system. It even provides hydration as the apple has high water content.
Serving: The best way to serve an apple is steaming. Steaming softens the apple to the point that it can be smashed with a fork. You can also mash or grate apples to introduce a new flavor.
First Food for Baby-Led Weaning That Should Be Avoided
When starting baby-led weaning, beware of potential hazards. Avoid foods that are hard to digest or cause a choking risk for little ones under 1 year old. Introduce allergens cautiously, as early exposure is best to prevent allergies. You should be prudent about the following baby-led weaning first foods:
- Small, round fruits like grapes should be finely cut or mashed to prevent choking.
- Whole nuts and seeds should be finely ground and served in small quantities.
- Raw vegetables like celery should be cooked until tender and then cut into pieces appropriate for the baby.
- Hard sweets or dime-like items such as hotdogs and chips should be avoided at all costs.
- Do not use salt or sugar in baby’s food.
- Avoid highly processed food and artificial flavors, too.
- Honey can cause infant botulism, so avoid introducing honey until your baby is one year or older.
- Babies need proper fats for growth and development, so instead of low-fat food, give nutrient-dense food for your baby’s well-being.
- Steer clear of excessively spicy or heavily seasoned foods, as babies’ taste buds are still developing.
- Introduce one allergen at a time to identify potential reactions and pinpoint the responsible food. Common allergens are peanuts, cow’s milk, dairy, sesame, soy, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, eggs, and wheat.
Starting the baby-led weaning first foods journey opens a world of tastes for your little one. As you explore diverse first foods, remember the key: gradual introductions, cautious allergen testing, and avoiding choking hazards. Embrace the messy moments and relish watching your baby eating nutritious food.
Suggest some sweet finger foods that are suitable for baby-led weaning.
Banana puree, sweet potato fries, blueberry clusters, mango cubes, pumpkin pancake strips, and apple wedges are some sweet options for baby-led weaning food.
How to prepare for baby-led weaning?
For baby-led weaning, introduce single-ingredient, soft foods in age-appropriate portions. Cut food into finger-sized pieces or make puree for self-feeding. Be vigilant during eating time and get knowledge about potential choking hazards. Create a positive eating environment, and stay in touch with your pediatrician for necessary guidance.
What are the suggested first foods for starting baby-led weaning?
For initial foods, include soft and easy-to-grasp items like well-cooked sweet potato wedges, avocado chunks, banana puree, or grated apple. You can offer steamed vegetables, soft fruits, and softly cooked grains, adjusting other proteins based on the baby’s age.
Do you need baby-led weaning equipment to start?
If you ensure a safe environment and offer age-appropriate foods, you can begin baby-led weaning without specific equipment. Basic utensils like a high chair, soft-tipped spoons, baby-friendly cups with a handle, and silicon plates or bowls can be helpful, but they’re not strictly required.
Meta Description: Explore the world of nutritious baby-led weaning first foods with our guide. From avocado to broccoli, discover safe options, tips, and benefits for a successful start to this exciting journey.