baby led weaning first foods
Baby, Motherhood

Baby Led Weaning First Foods : What To Offer?

Baby led weaning is catching on in India. More and more millennial parents are practicing this new style of weaning baby.  One of the first questions any new parent on the baby led weaning journey asks is “What are the baby led weaning first foods?” How can I offer family food to my child?

In this post, I will take you through the different baby led weaning first foods you can offer the baby. All these ideas are suited for 6-9 months of age. At this stage, the baby is learning how to hold food, bring it to mouth, chew and swallow. Can you imagine the kind of skills and development that needs to take place? Therefore these first three months are crucial to success with baby led weaning.

For a brief introduction to baby led weaning and what it entails you can read my post on baby led weaning guide for Indian mothers.

Points to note before you start:

  1. There will be messes. Massive messes!!
  2. There will be gagging, lots of gagging. Watch this video to see what gagging looks like.
  3. It will look like the baby is not able to swallow anything. Their feeding style looks sloppy and you will feel like jumping in and helping. Don’t!! They are figuring it out. Sit back and observe, maybe even eat with them to model the skills instead of jumping in and feeding.
  4. Stay patient, its called baby led weaning because baby figures it out. You are a guide, cheerleader, and provider of nutritious food that’s it. The figuring out to eat part is to be done by baby only. It’s similar to any other skill baby learns, like crawling, walking etc. it takes time.

The approach:

I have read of families who took a slower and more traditional approach to introducing foods which includes offering a new food a day and waiting three days to check for reactions if any and others who jumped right in and offered all family foods modified for no salt, no sugar, and minimal spices from the beginning.

Choose what suits your family and baby. The important point to check here is that baby is 6 months of age at the time of start and readiness signs for starting baby led weaning. I will be adding an article on the readiness signs for solids in another upcoming article this week.

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BABY LED WEANING FIRST FOODS

Baby Led weaning first foods examples – Fruit

At 6 months of age, it is advised to cut all fruits in long strips or wedges such that it is easy for baby to hold in his palms and eat. Great first food examples (6-9 months) are:

Steamed Apple Slices

Steamed Pear Slices

Ripe Papaya

Watermelon

Mango

Chikoo

Banana

Muskmelon

Oranges (cleaned off the stringy bits and seeds)

Sweet lime (cleaned off the stringy bits and seeds)

Avocadoes

Baby Led weaning first foods examples – Vegetables

Cut vegetables in long strips such that the baby can hold in palms. Steaming vegetables is a great way to start on solids. Check that the vegetables are soft enough to turn to mush between two fingers.

Steamed pumpkin strips

Steamed broccoli florets

Steamed cauliflower florets

Boiled or baked sweet potato wedges

Boiled or baked regular potatoes

Cooked bottle gourd (cut into long large pieces)

Boiled root vegetables like taro (best to start closer to 9 months of age)

Baby Led weaning first foods examples – Cooked food 

Pancakes made with oats flour, wheat flour, ragi flour. [Mom tip: Use a ripe banana to sweeten the pancake batter].

Baby-friendly muffins

Dosa (Indian breakfast pancake made of rice and lentils) serve with a non-spicy coconut chutney.

Idli (Indian steamed rice cakes)

Rice and Dal balls (cook tur dal in a thick consistency and use this thick dal to make rice and dal balls)

Thick dal with mixed veggies like bottle gourd, and potatoes (easy to offer in a preloaded spoon or in tiny fist shaped balls)

Parathas cut into strips. Keep the ratio of potatoes more compared to the wheat flour for toothless babies.

[Mom tip: You can use parathas as a way to add a variety of stuffings like broccoli, spinach, paneer, bottle gourd etc.

I don’t recommend hiding vegetables, as a rule, to get babies to eat vegetables.  But early on when the baby is just starting to eat and not yet skilled this is a great way to introduce a variety of veggies in their food.

Remember to also introduce the same vegetables as a side in order to get the baby accustomed to eating vegetables on their own too. Don’t just stick to using vegetables in parathas. The baby needs to see what whole food looks like.]

Patty of all types vegetarian and non-vegetarian:  Add more potatoes to make it soft mix with soft cooked vegetables of your choice or tender mincemeat.

Baby Led weaning first foods examples – Family style meals

Many families jump right into offering baby family foods appropriately modified for baby. And this is easy to follow too.

Baby led weaning Indian meals

A typical Indian Family Meal consists of  dal, rice, chappati, and vegetables (Sabzi of the day)

Baby’s Indian meal plate: Dal and Rice balls, Chappati smeared with ghee/butter/coconut oil cut in long finger length strips, Vegetable cut appropriately for baby to hold in palms and cooked with minimum spices.

Mom tip: 1. Baby led weaning Indian recipes – Use a light tadka of mustard seeds, cumin seeds with spices like turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder. No chilly and garam masala at this stage. Can slowly introduce garam masala by 9 months and red chilly powder by 16 -18 months and see how your baby accepts it and modify as per their preference.

  1. Indian vegetables: Tinda cut in long strips, Baigan or aubergine cut in rectangular strips, cauliflower, and broccoli in florets. Make these sabzi’s in light spices like the ones mentioned above.

Other Family meal styles

Offer the baby a deconstructed version of the main family meal.

Mom tip: 1. If you are making a taco or burrito for yourself, you can use the components from these meals to make a baby plate. Offer the avocados, beans that are mushed and soft, tomatoes cut into wedges, plain rice made into balls or shredded meat pieces.

2. If you are having pasta made in a sauce that’s not baby friendly. Offer baby boiled pasta as a finger food option. Or make a separate baby friendly pasta sauce from tomatoes without salt.  Serve along with a few sides like steamed veggies, avocados and you have a complete baby meal.

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Do’s and Don’ts

  1. No honey until the first birthday.
  2. No added salt and sugar until the first birthday. [read here to know how added sugars contribute to childhood obesity]
  3. It is also advisable to practice caution with certain highly allergenic foods like shellfish, and nuts like walnuts. If you have a known family history of allergies it is best to talk with your doctor before trying these foods.
  4. Stay away from offering heavily processed foods to babies in the name of offering family foods for example; bread, biscuits, chips, french fries etc.
  5. Offer nutritious home-cooked meals.
  6. Foods like eggs and meats should be cooked well.
  7. Check all offered foods to see if they are soft enough to be mushed between two fingers and do not pose a choking risk in any way.[list of choking risk foods] So, if you eat beans, cook them until very soft, smush them between fingers and offer the baby.
  8. Offer water after every meal. If the baby is still consuming adequate formula or breast milk they don’t need more than 2 to 4 ounces of water per day. [source]

Once pincer grasp comes in around 8-9 months of age the baby gets more skilled at eating a variety of foods. And if all these strategies have been followed properly giving baby complete independence to eat, by 12 months of age most baby led weaning babies are eating the same family foods expect (maybe spicy foods) and also beginning to use cutlery to self-feed.

Once again, I will remind parents do not consider the age limit of 12 months for no sugar as the opening of the floodgates to sugary foods. Keeping processed junk foods to a minimum is extremely important for the long-term health of your child. Exercise caution about how much of these foods they are exposed to even after the first year. Home cooked nutritious foods first the rest can be introduced slowly in time.

I hope this article gives you a complete idea of some baby led weaning starter foods. Babies are quick learners once given the independence.

Stay tuned for more in the baby led weaning series. How did you manage baby led weaning with your baby? What was your babies first food? Let’s leave some ideas for new moms.

Disclaimer: This is a parenting blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and do not replace any professional medical advice. Consult your pediatrician and nutritionist for any concerns you may have.

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