The Best Baby-Led Weaning Foods
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning skips purees and lets little ones self-feed as soon as they start solids. The benefits include greater hand-eye coordination, advanced chewing skills, and promotion of healthy eating habits. "The ultimate goal is to educate your baby's palate and let them learn to like the foods that your family is enjoying," says Natalia Stasenko, a pediatric dietitian and mother of three.
Baby-Led Weaning First Foods: What to Look For
When preparing baby-led weaning first foods, you should be mindful of three components: texture, size, and ease of eating.
Texture: Foods should be soft enough to smash between your thumb and forefinger with gentle pressure. Raw hard fruit and veggies are a choking hazard, so steam or roast them first.
Size: Size also matters, both for safety and because if a baby can’t pick up the food, then what’s the point? Few 6- to 8-month-olds have mastered the pincer grasp (thumb and index finger), so they’ll pick up foods with their whole palm. To make it easier, cut foods about the length and width of an adult pinky finger.
Ease: Remember that many foods are slippery! When serving bananas and avocado, for example, leave some of the peel on to make it easier for your baby to grasp. Using a crinkle cutter can also be helpful with certain foods.
Long, easy-to-grasp pieces of soft raw fruits like banana, peaches, very ripe pears, melon, avocado, and strawberries are a great option for baby-led weaning first foods. Stasenko recommends washing bananas and avocados and serving them partially peeled to make them easier to hold.
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Eggs are a good source of protein, iron, and fat—which babies need everyday—and they are incredibly easy to prepare. Babies can dip a toast soldier into a boiled egg, eat scrambled eggs, or nosh on omelet strips.
Meat and Fish
Cooked meat and fish provide the iron, protein, and fat babies need at this stage of development. Stasenko likes soft meatballs, thin slivers of steak, or chicken. "Your baby may end up only sucking and gnawing which is fine—that's how she'll learn eating skills."
Cut toast into long graspable pieces, whether plain or smeared with a little butter, olive oil, hummus, or nut butter for some extra nutrition. "This can be a relatively mess-free breakfast or snack," Stasenko says. Toast the bread just lightly to prevent it from becoming too dry.