After months spent not having to worry about anything but milk, the thought of starting solids (and knowing where to start) can be overwhelming. Some parents opt for purees, some prefer baby-led weaning (BLW) and some a mix of both. And sometimes the baby will let you know – in no uncertain terms – which they prefer.
Traditionally, when most parents start their babies out on solids, they opt for purees of vegetables, fruits and cereals. However, BLW has gained in popularity over the last few years.
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s letting the baby decide what and how much they consume rather than spooning food directly into their mouth – offering the baby (age-appropriate) foods and letting them grab, touch and explore it themselves.
This is a great option for parents with older kids who also need to be fed, saving time preparing separate meals.
Typical first BLW foods might include:
- Toast fingers
- Scrambled eggs
- Steamed veggie sticks
- Grated cheese
- Lamb chops
They probably won’t get a whole lot of food actually into their mouths initially, but it’s more about them exploring and interacting with the foods and getting a feel for different textures and tastes. Remember that enjoying food is a sensory (and messy) experience.
If you are introducing your baby to solid food through baby-led weaning, try not to limit their choices to “appropriate finger foods”, suggests Mandy Sacher from Wholesome Child. There are many other ways that you can offer foods where your baby will be able to learn how to self-feed. For example, you can offer porridge with some compote and make it thicker or offer bolognese over pasta shells so they can pick up and explore the shells covered in the nutritious sauce.
Purees and mashes
Purees and mashes are vegetables and fruits that have been cooked or are ripe enough to mash or blend into a soft consistency. These can be served on their own, mixed together or mixed with rice cereal, breastmilk or formula.
Some great first options for babies include:
- sweet potato
You can also give them plain or Greek yoghurt.
Depending on your little one’s age or stage in their solid food journey, it can be a good idea to offer the same foods they are eating in sold form, for example, in a mashed texture; they can use food as a dipper (e.g. cracker dipped in the mash or with a spoon) – if you are concerned that they might not be getting their required nutritional intake.
Don’t forget that it is also important that you are offering your baby the right amount of food to milk feed ratio. You can check your little one’s developmental needs based on their age in our Daily Rhythms.
No matter how you start your baby on solids, remember to keep it fun, know that it’s going to get messy and that’s ok – and remember to never leave your baby unattended while eating.