The Best Foods For Baby Led Weaning (Monthly Chart w/ Recipes)
Are you planning to try baby led weaning with your little one?
Do you feel a little confused about the best foods for baby led weaning and how to choose good ones?
Would you like to have some solid information about which foods to give your baby at which stage and how to prepare them?
If any of these are true of you, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll give you a quick crash course in good baby led weaning foods, as well as the whole baby led weaning experience. You’ll learn the 7 characteristics of good foods for your little one and you’ll find out a little more about the different ways your baby may choose to feed himself or herself, too.
Finally, you’ll find suggestions for foods to introduce at every stage as well as the best ways to prepare these foods. You’ll never again have to wonder about what to feed your baby when you check out the baby led weaning food list below, and the baby led weaning experience is sure to go much more smoothly when you follow these tips, too!
So, are you ready to learn a little more about baby led weaning? Let’s get started!
7 Characteristics of Good Baby Led Weaning Foods
Choosing the right food is just one of the many important factors in baby led weaning. There are several characteristics that can help you narrow down the food choices you offer your child, and most of these come down to the safety of your baby. Remember to pay close attention to any advice your pediatrician offers about good first foods, too, to keep your child safe, healthy, and happy throughout the experience.
This is one of the most important characteristics of any good baby-safe food. It should always be bite-size and should never be too lumpy for your child to handle at whichever stage of development he or she has reached at the time. This is why parent-led weaning usually starts with purees, but you definitely don’t have to do this if you’re opting for baby led weaning instead. Try mashed avocado or mashed banana for a safe first food, or stick to a traditional baby oatmeal or cereal instead.
2. Not a known allergen.
Just about anything can potentially be an allergen, but it’s best to stay away from the known ones while your baby’s body and digestive system both are growing and developing. This is why you should never give peanuts to a young child, but you should also stay away from strawberries, tomatoes, eggs, soy, and shellfish until your child has reached the proper stages of the weaning process. If your baby is allergic to a type of food you offer, you want him or her to be developed well enough to fight off the allergic reaction with no ill effects.
3. One flavor at a time.
For many reasons, you should serve your child new foods one at a time until he or she is an established eater. Start by offering your baby’s first taste of solid foods and then waiting at least 4 days before you move on to something else. This will give your child time to show any signs of allergy or stomach upset so you can easily tell which foods are going to cause problems for your little one. Later on, several months into weaning, you can start combining flavors and foods to create small full meals for your child.
4. Nothing too fatty.
Your baby’s body doesn’t need any fat at this point in his or her life, and you don’t want to encourage any bad eating behaviors at this stage either. Stay away from offering much in the way of fat until your child is a little bit older. You can use a little bit of olive oil or butter after your baby passes the first couple of stages of the weaning process, however. This is especially helpful if you’re serving toast, noodles, or other dishes that generally are made with one or both of these ingredients. Do not use salted butter.
5. Only natural sugars.
Just like your child doesn’t need any extra fat in his or her diet right now, he or she also doesn’t need any additional sugars. There’s no need to add anything sweet to your baby’s diet at this stage, especially since your child can enjoy the sweet natural taste of fruits and some vegetables as-is. Be sure you don’t overfeed your child sweet fruits, but don’t hesitate to offer them at least once a day. Do not give your child any manmade sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal), Stevia, or any others, since these are chemicals that are not made for babies.
6. Nothing that can pack into baby’s throat.
You already know not to serve anything too large to your baby, but what about things that are too small? Foods like peanuts or blueberries can be especially dangerous when your child is still little and doesn’t know how to manage eating them just yet. You should also take care when giving your child foods like doughy bread which can become packed into your child’s throat and may pose a choking hazard. Stay away from anything that doesn’t break down easily or can’t otherwise be chewed by someone with only a couple of teeth!
7. Easy to self-feed.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s best to stay away from foods that aren’t easy for your child to self-feed. Does this mean you should never give your baby spaghetti since it’s going to be too tough for him or her to move from the plate to the mouth? No, but it does mean that most meals should be made up of more baby-friendly foods than this. You want your child to become a successful eater, so make sure you provide ample opportunities for your little one to be able to enjoy the process of eating. Don’t forget to offer some challenges along the way, too!
Self-Feeding Methods for Baby Led Weaning
Letting your baby self-feed is another important aspect of successful baby led weaning. Baby led weaning is all about letting your child explore and enjoy food at his or her own pace, and sometimes that means being willing to deal with a lot of messes! Your baby is sure to make a big mess with any food you offer, but you should always let him or her do this. This is a great way for your child to understand food at an early age. Many parents have a lot of success with putting down a tarp or an old tablecloth under their babies’ high chairs at mealtime to help improve the cleanup process, too! Make sure you always sit next to your child and monitor him or her with any food.
Fingers and hands:
This is the most common way you can expect your little one to self-feed. Your baby is going to want to explore the world of food with his or her hands and fingers first, and then put it all in his or her mouth! Pretty much anything you put in front of your baby is going to have a hand shoved into it at some point, so prepare for the potential mess this is going to make. This is one of the many reasons why your baby should have a pincer grip before you start the weaning process.
Using a cup:
The ability to drink out of a sippy cup is another self-feeding skill your child is going to need to develop sooner rather than later. You can introduce a sippy cup even if you haven’t started your child on cow’s milk yet. Try putting breast milk or formula in a sippy cup and see how your baby responds to it. This is a great way to encourage complete weaning early on and help your baby become a more self-sufficient eater, too. Eventually, you can let your child drink from a standard cup with no sippy top.
Using a spoon:
Throughout the baby led weaning experience, it’s best to let your child handle food in his or her own way. Because of this, many parents don’t choose to introduce utensils or even bowls or plates for a little while until their children are more established on solid foods. When the time is right, you can start letting your little one play with utensils and dishes. He or she will eventually be able to reason out the ability to move food from one place to another using a spoon, especially if you and the rest of the family are frequently modeling this behavior at the dinner table.
When all else fails, if your baby can’t figure out how to self-feed something, he or she may just dive in face-first! If this happens, you may want to stop your baby because of the potential mess that’s about to happen. However, for the purposes of baby led weaning, it’s best to let your child do what he or she wants in terms of eating the food—at least unless it’s going to become a safety hazard. As long as everything is safe and your baby isn’t at risk of choking, however, just grab the camera and let him or her eat in whichever way is best at the time!
Best Foods for Baby Led Weaning by Stage
Working stage by stage, it’s easy to figure out which foods you should offer your little one on a baby led weaning program. In this section, we’ll give you a list of some of the most common foods to introduce at each stage of the process. Although there may be some others you might want to introduce aside from just these, this list can give you a great framework to help you get started.
Baby Led Weaning Food Chart
- Rice cereal
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Green beans
- Wheat bread
- Yellow squash and zucchini
- Sweet bell peppers
- All berries
- Citrus fruits
- Hard cheeses such as cheddar
- Whole cow's milk or soy milk
- Soft Cheeses
How to Prepare Common Baby Led Weaning Foods
Below, we’ll give you some tips for how to prepare some of the most common baby led weaning foods you may want to serve to your baby. Depending on the stage of development your child has reached, some of these foods may be more appropriate than others. Just be sure to serve your child something that’s safe for his or her age range and abilities. You should have no trouble encouraging your child to try lots of new foods as long as the ones you offer are safe for your little one to enjoy.
Baby Led Weaning Finger Foods
When you’re trying baby led weaning, you’ll soon find out that just about anything can become a finger food. However, there are some foods that are more useful for on-the-go snack time, so we’ve chosen one of our favorites to help you get started. Remember, too, that toast pieces, fruit and vegetable slices, and sticks of cheese can all be excellent finger foods for your little one as long as you steam or otherwise prepare them to the correct texture.
1. Porridge Fingers
- 2 tbsp milk (breast milk, formula, cow’s milk or soy milk will work)
- 3 tbsp rolled porridge oats
- ½ ripe banana, peeled
- 1 pinch of cinnamon
1. Combine oats and milk in a small bowl and let stand to allow the oats to absorb some of the liquid.
2. Meanwhile, mash the banana into mush.
3. Stir the mashed banana into the oats and add the cinnamon.
4. Spread into a microwavable dish with a flat bottom.
5. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then let cool to room temperature.
6. Cut into strips and serve or store in the refrigerator.
2. Baby Led Weaning Cereal
The right way to prepare cereal for baby led weaning is the same method you’d use to mix it up for traditional parent-led weaning, too. Baby cereal isn’t as commonly used in baby-led weaning as it is in parent-led weaning, but it still makes a quick and easy breakfast you should keep in mind for busy mornings.
1. Add 1 tbsp of baby cereal to 4 tbsp of breast milk, formula, soy milk, or cow’s milk.
2. Stir to combine.
3. As your baby gets better at self-feeding, you may want to increase the amount of cereal and reduce the amount of milk until you have a proportion that’s more like an adult’s bowl of cereal would look.
4. You can add mix-ins when your baby gets a little older, such as mashed banana or small bites of steamed soft fruit.
4. Baby Led Weaning Rice
According to a forum for parents who have successfully tried baby led weaning, rice is definitely a possibility! Some parents remain concerned about serving rice to babies since it can be a potential choking hazard, so make sure you know your baby’s abilities before you give him or her any rice.
1. Prepare brown rice the same way you would prepare it for an adult. Do not add any salt or other seasonings, however.
2. You may choose to give brown rice in a small pile along with other foods, such as baby-safe vegetable pieces. Do not mix these foods together until your child is a little bit older.
3. Be sure you don’t offer too much rice at once to prevent your baby from choking on larger bites of it.
4. Expect rice to make a mess!
5. Baby Led Weaning Toast/Bread
You can’t go wrong with a little bit of toast or room temperature bread, especially when you’re looking for something tasty to treat your little one to during a busy day. Do not give untoasted or very doughy bread to young babies who are still newcomers to the weaning process. Once your baby has passed the hurdles of some potential choking hazards, however, he or she can enjoy bread in any form.
1. Toast a piece of bread lightly so that it’s crispy but not burned or bitter.
1. Toast a piece of bread lightly so that it’s crispy but not burned or bitter.
2. Spread a little bit of organic unsalted butter on top and cut the toast into strips.
3. Serve the strips to your baby as-is for a quick snack.
4. For something a little more, spread mashed avocado or mashed banana on top of the bread.
5. After your baby starts eating nuts, if he or she isn’t allergic, you can put peanut butter on these toast pieces too.
6. Try toast with hummus for a yummy treat the whole family will love!
6. Baby Led Weaning Meat and Protein
Meat and protein are the areas in which most people are concerned with baby led weaning. It can be a little shocking to see a young baby being served meat, but as long as you wait until the proper stage in the weaning process, there’s no reason why you can’t give meat to your little one early on. Just remember to prepare it properly for maximum safety!
1. For chicken, grill it until it’s completely cooked through and then cut it into strips about the size of a French fry.
2. Try ground beef or ground chicken rolled into small meatballs and then cut in half. You can serve this with some homemade baby-safe sauce and even noodles as your child gets a little older.
3. Never serve your child raw meat of any kind, even if it’s safe for adults to consume.
4. Do not introduce fish or shellfish until after one year of age.
5. Other proteins, such as eggs, should be thoroughly cooked. Serve eggs scrambled or boiled until 12 months, at which time you can introduce fried eggs if you choose.
Has our baby led weaning food chart inspired you to start preparing new and exciting foods for your little one? We hope that we’ve helped you understand a little bit more about the different types of foods you can introduce to your child at every stage of the weaning process. We understand that baby led weaning can be challenging, but with the right tips and hints, you should have no trouble giving your baby the perfect food no matter which stage of development he or she has reached!
You don’t have to be limited to traditional meals and snacks either. When you want to serve your baby more than just plain cereal or yogurt baby led weaning can help you do so much more. Just remember that, no matter what you choose to feed your baby, you should always speak to your child’s pediatrician before making any big changes to his or her diet. Be sure to do your research if you’re unsure about any food item for your baby, too. A little research goes a long way toward ensuring the safety and happiness of your baby.
With the right information, baby led weaning will be fun and exciting for you and your child both. Good luck, and happy weaning!