Pssst! Did you know babies can chew food without teeth? Furthermore, did you know you can feed your baby exactly what you eat?
Baby-led weaning [BLW, for short] is focused on letting your baby feed themselves with solid food. When prepared safely depending on age and the type of food, it is such a fun [and MESSY] experience! Families choose this method to reduce pickiness, involve their children at the table as much as possible, and to trust their babies when showing signs that they are still hungry or full.
When do you start baby-led weaning?
Typically, when your baby is close to six months old, is a good time to start having the conversation of feedings other than breastmilk and/or formula. Some important things to check off of your list:
- Baby is 6 months or older
- Baby is sitting unsupported
- Baby is able to hold head upright
- Baby can easily bring items to the mouth
- Baby has expressed interest in food, while sitting in a high chair, watching you or others eat
What are the best foods to start feeding your baby?
There really are no “best” foods. Every family is different – based on traditions, budgets, or lifestyle. However, there are so many foods that are extremely nutritious. Here are some of my favorite foods and tips to start with when baby led weaning:
- Avocado: roll slices of very ripe avocado in ground flax seed, nutrition yeast, or hemp seeds to help baby grip the slice.
- Black Beans: opt for no sodium, or low sodium (rinse black beans in a colander). Mash up black beans by themselves to let baby play and eat!
- Banana: serve one half of a peeled banana, or mash up and serve with a spoon. If baby is having a hard time holding the peeled banana, you can roll it, similar to the avocado.
- Butternut Squash: roast slices of butternut squash, and sprinkle some paprika or cinnamon on top to bring in extra flavor.
- Sardines: don’t be weirded out, but sardines are one of the best fish options for babies! Healthy fats are so important for brain development. Serve as a whole filet without the bones and skin, or mash up with avocado or greek yogurt. Plan for baths in advance after this one. 🙂
- Full-Fat Greek Yogurt: I’ll say it again – babies need fat! Opt for the full-fat plain greek yogurt. This is made with whole milk, and the plain version guarantees no added sugar. We love to add chia seeds, ground flaxseed, and cinnamon to ours.
- Peanut Butter: check off a major allergen when trying peanut butter. You can add a little bit to plain greek yogurt, or spread a thin layer on whole grain toast, cut appropriately for baby’s age.
- Ribs: cooking a rack of ribs for your family? Hand over an almost meatless bone to your babe and let them knaw on it. They will be able to get small bits of the meat and practice their chewing skills at the same time.
- Broccoli: Steam large heads of broccoli with some seasoning. Bigger is better when starting out, and the steamed broccoli will literally fall apart as baby explores. Broccoli is also a great food to pair with plant-based protein; it contains Vitamin C, which helps absorb iron.
- Eggs: The nutrition powerhouse! Eggs are a staple in our house; they are so versatile. Start by making an omelet and serve strips to baby.
Final Thoughts and Resources
As parents, we have learned a lot through baby-led weaning with both of our daughters, and we continue to learn! As a Registered Dietitian, I’ve been able to bring in my own expertise, and have learned to incorporate my research, but also to trust my gut and know the way we choose to introduce foods to our kids works best for us. It helps them try as many foods as possible, gets them involved in the kitchen, and means we aren’t making multiple meals for everyone. Throughout our entire journey, I’ve used quite a few resources, with some being my favorites:
- Solid Starts: This is hands down, the first resource I always recommend to anyone asking about babies and food. Their team includes chefs, pediatricians, dietitians, speech therapists, and more. They provide an amazing website, app, and social media presence that helps parents feel confident in feeding their children.
- The Baby Dietitian: Another great resource I recommend to friends. When you are looking for really in-depth research on nutrients but also easy ways to introduce food to your babies, Cindy provides in a manner that is easy to understand.
- Boon Grub High Chair: We’ve used this with both of our girls and really love it! Trust me, we researched a lot of high chairs, and this was literally the only one that lined up to our island since that is where we eat the majority of our meals.
- Bibs and suction bowls: Bibs are a great option, especially when you start with baby-led weaning. Grab some suction bowls baby can’t pull off of the high chair tray.
Have you incorporated baby-led weaning with your little ones? What is a piece of advice you have to share with others?