This article ‘Foolproof baby led weaning recipes + essential tips for getting started!’ is a collaboration between ezpz Australia and Little Peeps Eats.
When it comes to learning how to feed you baby, there is a minefield of information out there. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by it all with my first. To make this process easier for you – I’ve included my hot tips to make the process easier for you, my favourite baby led weaning recipes, and other useful information.
Let’s start from when it all begins. When your baby is six months of age, they are likely now ready to start solid foods and move on from a diet that is made up entirely of breastmilk or formula. Solid foods are introduced gradually so that your baby gets used both to eating and to processing each type of food. There are two main methods of teaching your baby to eat; baby led weaning and parent led weaning.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning is the process of starting your baby on solid foods that is driven by your baby. Instead of you feeding your baby with a spoon and essentially controlling what they eat, you present your baby with age-appropriate food in safe portions and just them choose what they want to eat, when and how much.
This can be done is a number of ways, such as:
- Giving foods that are cut into finger-food sizes and placed in front of them to choose as they wish; and
- Teaching your baby to use their own spoon with liquid-like foods such as yoghurt, custard, cereal and purees.
You need to consider what your baby can grasp with their hands (usually in the fist at this stage) and give the freedom and opportunity to learn and guide through this process.
This can be a much messier process than parent led weaning, and a bit more out of control, but many parents and babies love it.
Parent Led Weaning
The more common and conventional method of learning to eat is parent led weaning (otherwise referred to as traditional weaning). You will puree the food and serve it to your baby directly with a spoon, and decide what your baby will eat, when, and how much.
Pros and Cons of Baby Led Weaning
Many parents find baby led weaning easier than parent led weaning, especially ones who already have older children.
I know that the second time round, when I did baby led weaning, I certainly didn’t miss the hours spent in the kitchen pureeing fruit and vegetables!
Through baby led weaning, your baby can join in mealtimes with the family, and you are not needing to sit your bubs down at their own separate time, allowing you to juggle other priorities and tasks.
This kind of eating is much messier than parent led and can involve more food waste, so you need to be able to accept these parts of it. It does involve more preparation than buying premade purees, but probably less than making your own purees.
Because a lot of food is going to get wasted, try not to get too stressed about preparation. It is easiest for the parent if you can be as relaxed about it all as possible.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
Baby led weaning may have some developmental and health benefits for your baby, including learning good eating behaviours and having a healthy relationship with food.
The benefits of baby-led weaning may include:
- They can be more likely to choose a range of healthy foods for themselves earlier in their development
- Your child may be less picky as they grow older
- They get better at being able to tell when they are full, and can have a reduced risk of obesity as an adult
- Eating together as a family has positive emotional benefits for children.
Easy steps for Baby Led Weaning
Sit your baby in a high chair and offer food at the same time as the rest of the family are eating. They will enjoy the interaction and learn to copy you.
Offer food that is the rough size and shape of your baby’s fingers or has a natural handle. Offer a few different things at once and let your baby guide the process. Don’t feel the need to hold back on serving vegetables just at dinner time – feel free to mix up the range of foods you serve at different times of the day.
You can also serve thick liquid foods like yoghurt and purees for your baby to feed themselves. It helps if you have a bowl or plate that will stick to the high chair tray, and a spoon designed for his grip at this age.
There are some fabulous products on the market these days to make the process that bit easier for you, and bubs!
The Avent bendable learning spoon is a nifty product that can assist your baby in feeding themselves. A slight bend of the spoon can really help them get that food into their little mouth when learning to self feed!
Pair it up with an ezpz Mini Bowl which actually suctions to the high chair – and it’s a match made inheaven! I can’t tell you how many bowls of yoghurt I’ve cleaned off the floor… which is just not possible with this awesome product (not to mention it being dishwasher safe + bpa free!)!
Tips for baby led weaning
Mix it up
Serve your baby a variety of nutrient rich foods such as meat, chicken, tofu, beans, legumes, leafy greens, mushrooms, cheese, eggs, and fish.
You will find that your baby may just suck on, mash or throw more of it than actually eat it when they first start out. Don’t stress out – this is completely normal and expected behaviour! Ensure that you are still giving as many breastmilk or formula feeds as before, so your baby is still getting the nutrition that they need.
Whilst it can be good to expose your baby to different herbs once they are starting to enjoy their food, try to avoid adding salt or sugar/artificial sweeteners to foods. Natural sweetener like pureed fruit is fine.
Keep an eye on safety
Make sure that you are providing your baby age-appropriate foods cut into shapes they can easily hold. They won’t be able to use pincer grip yet, which is where a baby will pick up things between the thumb and forefinger.
The food should be soft enough for your baby to eat without choking.
Don’t give anything that your baby could choke on. Don’t offer raw carrot or apple sticks until they are much older, but grated carrot or apple is fine.
Do not give small, hard or round things such as nuts, grapes (unless they are chopped up), corn chips, popcorn etc, as these can get caught in the windpipe.
Dealing with the mess
One of the hardest parts about baby led weaning is dealing with the mess. I think that more parents would take this eating option, if they knew of all the products on the market designed to make it so much easier.
Definitely try baby led weaning in an area that can be wiped down; stay away from carpeted or rugged areas to begin. Use specially designed bowls or plates such as these super cute ezpz mini mats which suction to the tray or table.
Another great idea is a full-torso bib such as the Silly Billyz Long Sleeve Bib. This kind of eating can get a lot more interactive than parent led, and often requires more bib coverage than usual. The sleeved bib is practical and easy to clean.
Baby Led Weaning Recipes & Meal Ideas
When you start your baby on solids start with 1-2 solid meals a day, usually at lunchtime.
Fruit and vegetables that they can grab are great, such as:
- Grated apple or carrot
- Steamed chunks of vegetable such as pumpkin, zucchini or sweet potato, spears of broccoli or green beans
- Slices of banana or soft pear or chunks of watermelon
You can then progress to adding meals across the day and developing eating patterns.
It can easiest to let your baby eat at the same time as the family eats, so it might make sense to divide his food up into breakfast, lunch, snacks etc.
Because your baby can safely have things like herbs and spices, oils etc from now on you might find it simpler to make the same meals for the whole family. It certainly made my life easier the second time around!
- Wholegrain toast fingers topped with mashed avocado or banana, and cream cheese or cottage cheese.
- Home made pancakes (throw in some pureed spinach to the mix for extra goodness!).
- Pieces of fruit served with yoghurt for dipping.
- They could also serve themselves yoghurt or porridge from a bowl and spoon. For some fantastic and very easy yoghurt recipes see here.
- For more breakfast recipe ideas go here.
- Cooked pasta such as spirals or penne
- Slices of ham, cubes of cooked chicken or fish
- Baby spinach and sticks of cucumber
- Chicken nuggets – we particularly love this recipe
- Fish fingers – check out this recipe (other recipes on this site are wonderful too!)
- Chicken bites
- Spinach Pumpkin Corn and Pasta Muffins
- Grated cheese or cheese sticks
- Fruit such as blueberries, slices of cantaloupe, mango, orange or mandarin
- Mini rice cakes
- Sandwich fingers with:
- Scrambled eggs
- Cream cheese and tuna and corn
- Sliced ham and cheese
- Cheese and vegemite
- Food sticks he can grab such as boiled eggs chopped into wedges, thick cooked pasta, wedges of tomato and slices of capsicum, soft cooked meat such as roast beef or little meatballs. You could also try tofu sticks or sushi rounds.
- Tuna cakes – see this awesome recipe
- Mini pizzas
- Chopped strawberries
- Cubes of cheese
- Rice cakes with dip such as tzatiki or guacamole
Important things to remember
- Educate yourself on what to do if your baby chokes.
- Solids should not replace breast milk or formula. It is recommended that you provide this to your baby until at least 12 months of age.
- Ensure your baby is showing signs of being ready for solids before you start their food journey (good head and neck control, shows interest and reaches for food, and is at least four months old (traditional weaning) or six months old (baby led weaning).
- It is recommended to not delay introducing solids past six months as your baby needs additional iron and nutrients found in food.
- The information in this article is general in nature and it is always recommended you speak with a qualified health professional regarding introducing solids to your baby.
I wish you all the best in your journey introducing solids to your baby! If you have a favourite baby led weaning recipe, please share it in the comments below!
Information Resource: Baby Center
Rachel Cassidy is the author of this article and the founder of Little Peeps Eats. She is a passionate food blogger and brand ambassador, but her most important job is being a mum! Little Peeps Eats helps families take the stress out of mealtimes by providing healthy, kid approved recipes, as well as fussy eating tips and tricks. Their website hosts a directory of nutritionists, resources and mealtime products to ensure that you have everything you need at your fingertips when it comes to feeding your family.