It’s normal to feel a little anxious when you start baby-led weaning, but soon you’ll start to see the benefits of baby-led weaning for both you and your baby. Once you’ve decided to try this method out, the next question is simply: What foods should I actually try my little one out with at mealtimes?
What are the best starter foods for baby-led weaning?
First, foods need to be of a manageable size. A six-month-old tends to use their whole hand to pick things up, so they need to be able to close their fingers around the food in front of them. Cutting their food into batons of 5cm means they can hold half in their hand while the other half sticks out.
First foods must be cooked until they’re soft—but not mushy, otherwise your baby won’t be able to pick their food up and hold it. It’s probably best to wait until they’ve got teeth before trying harder foods like raw carrot.
Steaming vegetables is the best way to cook them without losing their vitamins.
- Broccoli florets (with the stem to hold on to)
- Sweet potato (can be roasted)
- Carrot batons
- Butternut squash (roasted and cut into thick pieces)
- Parsnips (roasted)
- Green beans
Select fruits that are soft and ripe. You can wash them and leave the skins on to avoid them being slippery. You can also try rolling pieces in desiccated coconut or almond or oat flour to make them easier to grip. Take the skins away when your baby has finished, as they require a fair amount of chewing and could present a choking hazard. And of course, remove pips, seeds and stones.
- Pear (very ripe)
- Blueberries (squished between your fingers)
- Kiwi (remove inner core)
- Strawberries (halved)
- Grapes (quartered)
Harder fruits like apples and less ripe pears should be cooked to soften them.
Meat and fish
- Soft strips of roast chicken
- Fish cut into chunks of 1 square inch, such as salmon and white fish, as well as tinned tuna in springwater
- Meatballs made from any kind of minced meat, including beef, pork, lamb and turkey. You might want to elongate the meatballs into more of a sausage shape to make them easier to hold.
- Steak: well cooked, not too rare, and sliced into finger pieces. If it’s pink in the middle, select pieces closer to the outside, as they’ll be well done.
- Slow-cooked casseroled finger-size pieces such as lamb or beef. Slow cooking means the meat falls apart more easily in the mouth.
- Cubes of cheese
- Whole natural yoghurt. (As the name implies, baby-led weaning means your baby feeds themselves, but with yoghurt you may still need to load the spoon for them.)
- Omelette strips
- Boiled egg (cut in half lengthways)
- Scrambled egg with milk (or cream) and unsalted butter
- Eggy bread
- Frittata cut into wedges
Starchy carbohydrates and grains
- Larger pieces of pasta (like penne)
- Baked sweet potato cut into wedges
- Crumpets cut into strips with a little unsalted butter
- Toast or bread fingers. (Wholemeal bread has a more manageable texture than white.)
- Unsweetened cereal and porridge (with a spoon)
Fats and oils
Don’t be afraid to cook with fats and oils for your baby—they’re growing at a tremendous rate, so these energy-dense foods can form part of a normal and healthy diet. Tossing their steamed broccoli in olive margarine or unsalted butter before serving or stir-frying their food in olive oil is okay. You can obtain healthy fats from vegetable and seed sources:
- Rapeseed oil
- Olive oil
- Oily fish like salmon
What baby-led weaning foods should you avoid?
There are several foods to be aware of in baby-led weaning. After all, it’s easy to get carried away and try every food you can find in the cupboard once your baby gets the hang of it!
- Honey until 12 months—it can contain a bacterium that causes food poisoning in those not used to eating honey
- Whole peanuts (but do introduce peanuts early by way of peanut butter, as this reduces your child’s risk of developing a peanut allergy)
- Sugary and salty foods. This also means not cooking with gravy or stock cubes.
- Don’t use cow’s milk as your baby’s main drink until they’re 12 months, as it’s not rich in iron when compared to breast milk or even formula. (Cow’s milk can be safely used for cooking, however.)
- Highly processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, burgers, shop-bought meatballs, nuggets, goujons, ham and bacon. They’re too high in salt for babies.
It can be hard knowing where to start when you decide to take the baby-led weaning path, but this wide variety of finger foods will help you successfully introduce your baby to the concept of self-feeding, and instil in them a love of trying new foods! And remember: don’t worry how much or how little your baby eats when you start baby-led weaning. At this stage, it’s all about giving them a range of flavours and textures. That’s the best way to kickstart their journey to fuss-free eating!