Best Baby-led Weaning Starter Foods & How To Start
Nourishing your baby is one of your most important jobs as a parent, but how and what you feed them will change a lot in the first year. For the first six months, milk—either breastmilk or formula—is all that your baby needs. But somewhere around the half-year mark you’ll notice your baby is starting to reach for the food they see on your plate, and that’s one way you know they are ready to make the jump to solids.
But figuring out exactly how to make the leap into solids can be confusing. Baby-led weaning—letting your baby lead how and what they eat—has been gaining steam over the last decade. If you’re interested in learning more about this approach, this guide explains what it is, what are the best baby led weaning foods, and how to get started.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
For years purees were the standard first food for babies, but serving mashed up fruits and vegetables as baby’s introduction to solids has slowly been giving way to offering finger foods that babies can eat themselves. With baby led weaning, parents set chunks of soft foods in front of their baby so their baby can self feed.
The thinking behind this approach is that letting your baby take the lead on what, when, and how much to eat instills intuitive eating practices that may help them grow to be more adventurous, healthier eaters. Another benefit is that baby-led weaning makes it easy to make your baby part of family dinners from the very start: just pull their high chair up to the table at mealtimes so you can all eat together as a family.
How to Start Baby Led Weaning
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends holding off on introducing solids until your baby is six months old and can sit up and hold up their head without assistance. Once your baby has reached this developmental milestone, you can get started! Place them in their high chair, strap them in, and slide the tray into place.
A high chair that allows your baby to sit up relatively straight, like the 4moms® Connect High Chair™, is a great choice if you want to try baby led weaning because better posture will give your baby more control over their arms and hands. You may want to spend some time getting your baby used to the high chair before you start using it for meals. This blog post is loaded with great tips to get your baby to love their high chair.
The key to baby led weaning is to make sure foods are large and chunky enough for your baby to grab with their hands but small enough that they can’t jam the whole piece into their mouth. Chunks should be at least as long as their fist and should be soft and mushy so your baby can chomp on it with their toothless gums.
To test if the food is the right texture, pick up a chunk between your fingers and press on it; if you can squash it between your fingers it’s soft enough to serve. Introduce one new food at a time, and wait three to five days to introduce a new food so if your baby has an allergic reaction you can easily figure out what caused it.
One thing is for sure: this is going to get messy! Cover your baby’s clothes with a large bib or smock, choose an easy-to-clean high chair that you can easily wipe down, and place a mat under the high chair to keep spills off the floor.
Best Baby Led Weaning Foods
Not sure what foods to start with? Check out our list of the best baby-led weaning starter foods:
- Roasted sweet potatoes
- Cooked apples
- Steamed broccoli
- Eggs (hard boiled or scrambled—and make sure they are throughly cooked)
Avoid hard cheeses, uncooked fruits, nuts and seeds, sticky foods like peanut butter, and round foods that your baby could easily choke on, like grapes. You also should wait until your baby is older to give them honey or foods with added salt or sugar.
You should always sit with your baby while they’re eating to make sure they don’t choke, gag, or have an allergic reaction to anything they are eating.
Have Fun with Food
The transition to solids is an exciting one for you and your baby. If you decide to give baby-led weaning a try, relax and enjoy watching your baby explore new flavors and discover a love for new foods.