Once you understand how baby-led weaning works, it's actually quite simple. Now you can enjoy the fun part of the process - letting your baby try new foods! We've broken down the best baby-led weaning starter foods, ones to avoid, and general rules to help make this a seamless process for you and your baby.
First Foods for Baby-Led Weaning and How to Prepare Them
Parents should make sure they understand just what baby-led weaning is and how to get started. Once that's clear, choosing the foods can begin. When selecting any food for your sweet baby to try, you always need to consider if it is a choking risk. If so, can you modify it? Parents can reduce choking hazards by cutting or softening the food to remove the threat of obstruction. Preparing solid foods correctly can help you safely offer a wide variety of foods to your little one. Once you've cut, cooked, or otherwise prepared your baby's food safely, the world is your oyster!
Most parents note that the best baby-led weaning first foods are softer options, like bananas, avocados, and cooked sweet potatoes, but there is really no right answer when it comes to where to start. This baby-led weaning foods list offers great starter options for your little one as they are getting used to solids.
Fruit is sweet, juicy, and delicious! It also requires minimal preparation. This makes it one of the best options for BLW.
- Avocados - Slice your avocado into 1/2-inch wedges or consider mashing it and spreading it onto sliced toast.
- Bananas - Due to its soft texture, you can cut a banana in half and then quarter the two sections - or you can serve it whole to those more experienced BLW babies. You can also mash the bananas and them spread on toast or mix them into oatmeal. If circular banana slices are larger than the space between your thumb and pointer finger, you can also serve them with no modification.
- Berries - These superfoods are firm, so you always need to halve or quarter these fruits, depending on their size.
- Grapes - Contrary to traditional methods, parents need to quarter these fruits in a lengthwise direction.
- Kiwi - Due to the soft texture, you can cut these into 1/2-inch circles or strips.
- Mango - This is another soft fruit parents should slice into 1/2-inch wide strips.
- Melon - Slice cantaloupe and watermelon into 1/2-inch wide strips or wedges.
Cooked Fruits and Vegetables
If the fruit or vegetable you plan to serve has a crunch to it, then you need to cook it prior to serving. The intent is to make it firm enough to pick up, but soft enough to squish in between your fingers. Here is how to prepare these healthy foods after cooking.
- Apples - Slice into 1/2-inch sections. If you want to serve these raw, then your baby must be able to snap them in between their fingers. In other words, they need to be paper thin.
- Pears - Follow the instruction for apples - cut into finger-sized sections or thin enough to snap in between your fingers.
- Sweet Potatoes - Slice into finger-length strips.
- Carrots - Slice into two to three-inch sections and then quarter. If circular carrot slices are larger than the space between your thumb and pointer finger, you can also serve them with no modification.
- Broccoli - Once cooked, you can serve the broccoli florets with no modification
- Corn - This is a fun one! You can serve the corn kernels or let your baby gnaw on the cob!
Parents always need to fully cook eggs and meat products before serving them to their baby. It's also important to serve more tender cuts of meat to ensure that your baby can break them down with their gums.
- Eggs - Safe to serve when boiled, cut into strips, or scrambled.
- Chicken - Serve in finger-sized strips or shredded.
- Steak - Remove all gristle and tougher section or the meat and then serve in finger-sized strips.
- Sausage - Hot dogs and sausages should always be quartered lengthwise. Medallions are not considered a safe option.
- Ground Meats - As long as the pieces are less than half an inch in size, ground meat is a great option for BLW and you can serve it with no modification.
- Fish - Serve in finger-sized strips.
- Nuts - While whole nuts are not recommended, finely chopped nuts and nut butters are a great choice for BLW. Remember to spread nut butters thinly to prevent choking. Items that are too sticky or have a thick consistency can be an issue. Also, watch for allergic reactions with this food choice.
- Beans - For smaller lentils, like black beans and pinto beans, parents can serve with no modification. In contrast, kidney beans, chickpeas, and edamame should be halved or mashed prior to serving.
- Cheese - Serve in finger-sized strips or shredded. Just like hotdogs, if you are serving a cheese stick, quarter it lengthwise.
- Yogurt - This is a fantastic option to serve that requires no modification.
Starches are another great choice for baby-led weaning first foods, and they require minimal prep! You can serve pasta and rice with no modification. This is also the case for bread, waffles, pancakes, muffins, and other bread based products. However, slicing them into strips can make them more manageable for babies with smaller hands. It is also always better to toast bread when possible.
Foods to Avoid
Food exploration is extremely exciting, but some foods need to be left out of your child's diet for safety reasons.
Foods Unsafe for Children Under 12 Months
Parents should avoid serving some foods to young children because they can bring the risk of dangerous bacteria. While adults can normally overcome these pathogens, they can be extremely dangerous for babies under one year of age. Thus, make sure to keep these items off the BLW menu.
- Unpasteurized meats and cheeses
- Raw bean sprouts
- High mercury seafood
It is also important that parents only serve their baby breastmilk, formula, and water prior to the age of one. Juices, soda, and cow's milk can make your baby feel full, which prevents them from getting their necessary nutrition.
Foods That Have a High Choking Risk
While you can modify some items on this list, others are not safe for babies and toddlers. When choosing your first foods for baby-led weaning, always consider size, shape, and consistency. Sticky, exceptionally chewy, and dense foods are best to leave for later in life.
- Whole nuts [Modify by chopping]
- Raw vegetables [Modify with cooking]
- Fish with bones [Modify by removing bones and cutting into sections]
- Uncut round fruits and vegetables (cherry tomatoes, grapes, fingerling potatoes, etc) [Modify by cutting]
- Other uncut round doods (hot dogs, string cheese, carrots, etc) [Modify by cutting]
- Undercooked meats and eggs [Modify by cooking fully]
- Large dollops of nut butter
- Hard candies
- Bread with hard crust
- Chewy foods like licorice, bubble gum, taffy, caramels, dried Fruits, or jerky
- Ice cubes
Starter Food Tips for Success From Real Moms
Here are a few secrets to success from moms who have been on the baby-led weaning journey!
- Make slippery foods like bananas and avocados easier to grip by using ground flax, chai, and hemp seeds.
- Don't forget about spices, seasonings, and condiments! This can further expand their palate. However, try to avoid salt and excess sugar.
- Teaching your babies to sign words like "more" and "all done" will enhance the experience and potentially prevent a mess!
- Purchase a training cup for water when you start BLW. This will make your baby's transition away from the bottle much easier.
Have Fun on the Baby-Led Weaning Journey
Remember that this is supposed to be fun! Don't feel pressure to squeeze in 100 foods in the next six months. Just focus on letting your baby explore new foods and flavors. Also, build upon what they have already tried. This can expand their food options and allow them to join you in eating the family meal.
Parents need to keep breastmilk and formula as their main form of food, but the goal is to have your baby eating three meals a day with one to two snacks by the time they are one. At that point, they can switch to cow's milk and continue to add to their list of new foods.