Baby Led Weaning: First Food Suggestions

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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, and don’t boil them. You’re trying 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 “biltong” – dried, cured, salty meat” 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:

Fruit

  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Melon
  • Pears
  • 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.

Vegetables

  • 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.

Other

  • 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

Spices

  • 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!

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27 thoughts on “Baby Led Weaning: First Food Suggestions

  1. My third baby at the moment is just over six months old, I have been trying the pureed with a spoon approach for a few weeks now, only managing to get frustrated and baby not enjoying it. My two previous babies were food trained by nannies because I used to work so much. I will never understand how they did it.
    After an entire day or two of research and after baby not swallowing anything but breast milk (more times a day than before!)I finally found websites about Baby Led Weaning and eventually made it to yours. I love it! I tried straight away, and baby love it too. Loved making a mess, loved taking the food to her mouth. She has her two bottom teeth since she was four and a half months old. She is very capable of biting off big pieces of whatever I will give her, so I am at a loss as to how or how much to cook vegetables…like carrots..to the point of being mushy? and apples? the same?
    I just worry about her choking (like sooo many moms do) cause once I gave her one of those baby rice crackers and she did in fact choke, to the point of going purple and my hand going down her throat to fish out the piece lodged in there. VERY SCARY!!!
    So any help with cooking softness you can give me…Id love it.
    Thanks!
    And I love your blog so Im subscribing!
    orana’s last blog post ..Bangkok Noodle Soups our Toddler loves to eat and slurp.

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    Hi Orana, thanks for your comment! I am so glad you’re enjoying the blog and you found the post helpful. As I was reading, the first thing that struck me is that I think you need to understand the mechanism of ‘eating’. You mention breastfeeding, so I’ll ask you, next time your baby nurses, to observe her mouth. You’ll see she ‘sucks’ in a chewing motion. If you have a look at the mechanism of breastfeeding, you’ll see that it involves the same muscles as chewing. When you go from breastfeeding to a bottle or from breastfeeding to puree, babies have to change the way they ‘suck’ to actually becoming a suck. Think about when you eat soup from a spoon – you put the spoon to your mouth and inhale, almost, right? That’s what babies do with puree. They lose that ‘chewing’ motion. If you then give your baby solids, i.e. rice crackers, they automatically SUCK, thereby choking. However, if they go from breast/bottle to baby led weaning, they just seem naturally to be less prone to choking. They take the food, play with it, gum it, maybe even swirl it around in their mouths, but they don’t tend to try to ‘suck’ it down. My baby has raw apple, and everything else, like meat and so on too. HOWEVER – don’t expect a BLW baby to sit down and eat a plate of food. We say ‘food is fun till one’. Aviya turned one this week and IF she has two or three mouth fulls of food a day, that’s a lot. She is still mainly breast fed, and I’m fine with that. Ameli didn’t have a huge increase in food intake till almost 14 months.

    Really hard foods like carrots I’d probably just steam for the same length of time as I’d steam it if I was eating it. Crunchy but soft. Obviously a raw carrot is going to be impossible to eat with no teeth – although those gums are pretty strong, but I’ve found my girls get bored of trying to eat if eating is too difficult – so things like that I’d probably steam til I could cut them with a fork alone.

    I hope that helps? Please feel free to ask if it’s not clear yet – and never leave your baby eating on her own :)

    [Reply]

  2. Ghena

    Thank you for sharing this very useful article. It was totally amazing. Spices are really good and add taste for every recipe cooked. Its a great idea, i don’t have further questions about it.

    [Reply]

  3. i read this post few days back.I have given the above listed food items to my child. He seems happy. Thanks for this post

    [Reply]

  4. Sam

    Thanks for this awesome article. Just one question, what do you do about breakfast? Do you give cereal, or do you only do the BLW at lunch / dinner? How would you start? Im breastfeding on demand, Do you just let baby “help themselves” whenever you are eating to whatever
    they want…

    [Reply]

    Nickie Reply:

    For breakfast, you can do baby cereal bars (I usually break it into four even pieces for easier handling), fruit, cherrios (original not honey nut) or baby finger cereal from the baby section. On Sunday mornings, we have pancakes or waffle which are fun.

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  5. Thanks so much for this post :) My bubba is just 9 mths and I have found I’ve been doing BLW without even realising that’s what I’ve been doing :) But at the same time, I’ve been so nervous of him choking, that I end up swiping my finger thru his mouth every time I think he’s bitten off too big a piece. I felt I was worrying without good reason, which is why I began googling, which led me here! SO interesting about the whole gagging reflex. My daughter (who is now 8 ) used to gag a LOT, and I always thought she was choking, which freaked me out, and meant that I did not experiment much with her food. I have been absolutely loving watching my little boy now just be so INTO food, & I am excited about feeling more confident to let him try things he so wants to get his little hands on :) Thanks again :)
    Jacaranda Mum’s last blog post ..Introducing WordAds

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  6. @Justine, No need to apologise. We also used wheat products, and have had no reaction to it. As you say, there are differing opinions, as with everything, and immediately following the statement that wheat should be avoided, I said “‘Regulations’ and ‘recommendations’ vary from country to country and over time, so do what you feel is right for your baby.”

    We did, and apart from the one thing I’m allergic to, which we avoid anyway, we’ve not avoided anything in our foods.

    Thanks again for your comments – as I said, these are recommendations for first food ideas as a lot of people like the idea of baby led weaning, but don’t know where to start. But each mother and father have to make the decisions for their own children, and doing so based on research (as you have done) is laudable.

    [Reply]

  7. Justine

    A final note: WHEAT: I don’t agree with you on this topic either (sorry). Both my children have had wheat products as babies with no reaction. see: http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/wheatforbaby.htm

    excerpt: In 2006, a study published in the journal Pediatrics, there was a conclusion that the “Timing of cereal-grain exposure was associated with wheat-allergy development. Delaying exposure until after 6 months was associated with an increase risk of wheat allergy, not a protective effect. In addition, these findings confirm the role of family history of allergy as a predictor of food allergy outcomes in children. Our results support continuing the current recommendations of first introducing cereal products between 4 and 6 months of age”.

    There are differing opinions. Grains are hard to digest, but if your child has plenty of raw fruit and veg, she/he will get the enzymes in his/her diet to break down hard to digest proteins such as gluten (wheat) and casein (milk). Grains should probably not form a main part of your childs diet – so a pasta dish should contain far more sauce than pasta, but a bit of pasta should not harm unless there are allergies in the family. An intolerence may be cured by an increase in raw vegetables taken daily (a cold-press juicer is a good way to do this) – my oldest daughter was cured of her intolerences in this way (she drinks 100ml of fresh carrot juice every morning and is otherwise back on a normal diet). My youngest daughter (9mo) eats everything happily and has showed no intolerences, but has had a high proportion of raw food in her diet from day 1 (of weaning obviously).

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  8. Justine

    I personally avoid sugar, but if they have something sweetish I go to lengths to avoid anything that says “low sugar” as these products are normally riddled with artifical sweetners; the worst of them being Aspartame (E951)which is in products aimed at children -such as Fruit Shoots and even some child medications. (Aspartame, by the way, is NOT ok. Especially so for very young children and pregnant women.) Make sure your kids eat anything sweet as part of a meal rather than as a snack to avoid tooth decay. While Xylitol (E967) is regarded as safe at low levels, large doses can cause diarrhoea and have caused tumers in rats. When you are talking about a very small person a large dose is really quite a small dose. Xylitol is generally used as a humectant/ stabiliser and is made from the waste products of the pulp industry. It is found in ice cream, chocolate, jams, confectionery, chewing gum, toffee, mints etc. While it is not one of the E numbers you should avoid, I personally believe that as long as your child follows a good diet and you follow mesures for good oral health, there is nothing safer than a bit of cane sugar or honey (if over 1). They are natural, have not been modified or messed with, just use them in moderation. On a side note the ingredients of “low fat”/ “diet” products (which are not suitable for young children anyway) are also pretty suspect. Eat normal food, just eat less of it and stay clear of nasty E numbers as much as possible. If you are unsure you can buy “What’s Really in Your Basket?” by Bill Statham. There are even iPhone apps that will allow you to scan in lables and it will tell you what the product contains. Also eat as much raw food as possible. Cooking destroys enzymes – enzymes help your body to digest the food and extract nutrient – ergo cooked food is harder to digest and less nourishing. Lastly, I am not sure why you recommend to avoid goats cheese before 1. Cows milk is highly indigestable and many children struggle with it. Goats milk products can provide a wonderful alternative and will often get rid of eczema (note, it’s the removal of the cows milk not the goats milk itself that does this). The recommendation is generally to give young children pasturised cheese but whether it comes from a goat or cow makes little difference except to say that goats cheese may have more salt, so you will need to watch the amount your little one eats. Same rules apply to all soft cheeses regardles of milk source but you can buy hard cheddar like goats cheeses.

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    Hi Justine, Thanks for your comments. You’ve not said anything I disagree with actually. We avoid Aspartame too – I’ve read that it’s one of the highest carcinogenic products in our foods today, and we don’t use any ‘low fat’ products for that reason – especially when it comes to children’s foods. By ‘low sugar’ bars, I simply mean bars that are made of i.e. dates, honey etc, rather than sugar, I don’t mean a sugar replacement. We use xylitol instead of sugar for teas and coffees, so the doses are low, and we’ve seen definite improvement in my dental problems since doing so. We don’t use the xylitol to replace sugar, as much as to actually have xylitol – the drinks are a vehicle, if that makes sense.

    As for goat’s cheese, again, I agree and there’s nothing, including honey, that we avoided during the first year – however, the ‘guidelines’ say that soft cheeses shouldn’t be given to children under one, and while I might not personally agree with it (as I said in the introduction – guidelines vary by country and year) I can’t tell people to go against ‘recommendations’ either. The NHS guidelines say not to use goat’s milk under one year of age as it doesn’t contain the right balance of nutrients. I assume they say that to prevent people from using goats milk instead of breastfeeding or formula. Cow’s milk is also not recommended before one. The NHS website does, however, say that it can be given as a cooked cheese sauce or custard after six months. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/milk-dairy-foods.aspx

    Obviously I am not a scientist or a health care professional, so I can’t ‘advise’ or ‘recommend’ that people go against the guidelines despite the fact that we did, and have no regrets about it.

    [Reply]

    Justine Reply:

    @Luschka, You can buy goat milk based formula called Nanny Care. I wish I had known about it when my LO was under 1 as, no, the NHS don’t recommend it or tell you about it, but switching to regular goats milk at 16 months eventually got rid of bad reflux, diarreah, eczema and behavioural/developmental problems. All I was told was to burp her better and use E45. The NHS are pretty sh*t. They don’t tell you how common cows milk intolerences are and they may be out of their comfort zone recommending goats milk, but they don’t even tell breasfeeding mothers to try to cut out dairy to see if it solves the problem. The English are a bit stuck on their cows milk, other countries are far more used to using goats and sheeps milk. If you go to Spain you will find it much easier to buy mixed milk cheeses and sheeps cheese than cows milk cheese… I personally think a bit of research will get you far better answers than a GP – but no, I know what your response to that is, I agree you can’t tell people that. On which note, you should probably have a disclaimer on this site stating that it is opinion only (maybe you do).

    [Reply]

  9. Katie

    Hi there,

    I have just found this post also and wanted to say a huge thank you! I’m getting nothing but grief from my mother, mother in law, and other parent friends when I told them I wanted to try BLW and reading your post has not only reinforced my desire to wean my little one this way but has also given me some facts to show them I’m not condemning my boy to death via choking as they’re convinced. Mind you they’ve been trying to convince me to put him on baby rice since he was eight weeks old because he’s “such a big boy, you can’t possibly give him all he needs” I just politely smile and nod but was not looking forward to having to hide how I was weaning him and now I don’t have to! :) I can throw some info at them from one successful BLW mumma! One question I do have is regarding age. My little boy is 24 weeks so just over 2 weeks to go till he is six months but is really showing an interest in food when we are eating and gets quite upset when we won’t let him have any as he reaches for it, he has also suddenly started feeding alot more and waking in the night to feed (all signs Im told show readiness for weaning if using purees) I was wondering if I should try and hold out for another fortnight or whether there would be any harm in starting him slowly now with a few soft foods. Would he be able to digest them or will I be causing him problems? Any help would be greatly appreciated and again thank you again for such an informative post :)

    Katie x

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Katie, Hi Katie, I’m really happy to be able to help you :) Well done to you for sticking to what you believe in.

    While I would say wait for six months, we did actually start a week before my daughter was six months and I would do the same again. I wouldn’t want to discourage that interest in food, myself. I don’t think 10 or so days is going to make a massive difference, but that’s just my opinion – I can’t say for certain. The main thing to remember is that they actually consume so little of the food initially as they gum it, play with it, smell it, squish it and so on that really, I would’t worry about it. In my experience, BLW babies eat a lot less solids than puree fed babies up to probably about a year and then they suddenly ‘switch on’ to the actual consumption of food and everything changes.

    Perhaps start with courgette, banana and so on, things that are easy to hold and easy to digest. This is just my opinion, but I’d say just give him some food – chances are very little of it will actually go down his throat, and most of it will just be about discovering the texture, taste, smell and so on.

    I hope that helps :)

    [Reply]

  10. So I just found your post and I want to thank you so much for writing it! I just found out about BLW as I was trying to find something to make homemade baby food lol :) Then I couldn’t find a list of recommended first foods! This has helped tremendously! My baby girl will be 6 months in December and I can’t wait to watch her try her first foods! Thanks so much and you have gained a new follower! :)
    Sarah @ A Runner’s Heart’s last blog post ..Heartbroken…

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Sarah @ A Runner’s Heart, Thank you Sarah! I’m so glad you found it useful – and I hope you find more around here that will help you and do feel free to ask!

    [Reply]

  11. Mmm interesting list for fruits :)_
    Jett’s last blog post ..Good Names

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  12. Thanks for this post! We have started BLW too and it is so much fun!
    I am a little confused about goat’s milk: I thought one should avoid cow’s milk before one, but goat’s milk is better. It was even given to babies whose mothers couldn’t breastfeed some time ago.
    I haven’t figured out a strategy on salt yet, at the moment I end up cooking everything without salt and my husband would just add some to his food later while baby and me eat from one plate. But I guess a little salt is no problem at all.
    Natalia’s last blog post ..Elimination communication- we go diaper-free!

    [Reply]

  13. One word on the spices — be careful with a baby who likes to smear food on his face. I put some cinnamon on my 11-month-old’s carrots, and he rubbed it in his eyes! Not sure what the solution is for this one, except to be very sparing with spices that could be irritating. I don’t know if cinnamon is very irritating or if he had an allergy issue, but everywhere he’d gotten it on his face, his skin turned red and puffy for about an hour. Scared me, but he had no other reaction. It just didn’t go as well on his skin as it did in his tummy.

    [Reply]

  14. Great introductory post … not sure why you steam fruits though – even early on BiP would enjoy practicing biting chunks off and then spitting them out as they were too big for her to manage … I think it helped her work out how to make she didn’t bite off more than she could chew, well, gum!
    MummyinProvence’s last blog post ..My 10 straight up Tips on Starting Baby-Led Weaning BLW

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @MummyinProvence, We’ve never steamed fruits, but a lot of people do – because they’re scared of hard fruits being a choking hazard. It’s really just an idea, but we also didn’t give hard fruits – i.e. apples until my daughter had a good few teeth.

    Good point though. Thanks for commenting.

    [Reply]

  15. Tina

    Thanks so much for these ideas! I am pregnant with my first right now, and my mother-in-law wants to buy me a food mill just like the one she used to puree food for my husband when he was a baby. This made me wonder, why would I need to puree food for my baby if I am going to provide the main source of his/her nutrition until a time that the kid can eat on his/her own? Oh well, I’ll probably just graciously accept the mill and make some awesome tomato sauce with it, while still doing baby led weaning with the kid!

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Tina, Hi Tina. Your comment made me smile. It’s so hard doing things different to the way everyone around us is doing it, isn’t it! Tomato sauce sounds like a great idea to me! You can pour it over the pasta that your little one feeds him/her self! :) Best of luck with the rest of the pregnancy and everything else, and fire away if you have any further questions!

    [Reply]

  16. We love BLW! Today Sebastian tasted some broccoli stems and pork tenderloin! Nothing cuter. Great guidelines and interesting about the gag reflex being located at a different spot – That makes total sense.

    [Reply]

    Luschka Reply:

    @Janine, Excellent! And broccoli is so useful with that natural handle too.

    Thanks for commenting!

    [Reply]

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