Check out our three toddler nutritionist-approved baby-led weaning recipes, plus more ideas for simple finger foods to start your baby off right.
Baby-led weaning can seem intimidating, but turns out it’s actually pretty simple.
The beauty of baby-led weaning (“BLW”) is that as long as it is offered in safe shapes and sizes, you can give your baby the same food that the rest of your family is eating! 🎉
Really, just about any food can be made baby-friendly with a few simple modifications.
To get you started, we’ve got three baby-led weaning recipes perfect for your babe, plus lots of other ideas for simple first finger foods.
And if you’re new to baby-led weaning, don’t worry.
We’ve got you covered.
In this article: 📝
- What is baby-led weaning?
- When should you start baby-led weaning?
- How to start baby-led weaning
- What foods should babies avoid when led weaning?
- How can I make baby-led weaning easier?
- Baby-led weaning recipes
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning basically means that you skip purees and head straight to finger foods.
Rather than spoon-feeding your baby, you let them explore food with their own hands.
“You can also do a combination with purees and real food,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Kacie Barnes.
“In fact, us adults eat many textures that are also considered purees (like guacamole, hummus, applesauces, etc), so it’s okay to do a hybrid approach.”
“BLW means you don’t spoon feed them from a baby food jar, but they will still learn all the textures – from purees on up!”
Talk about expanding baby’s horizons.
When should you start baby-led weaning?
To make the leap straight to finger foods, it’s important to make sure your baby is ready.
Here are some signs that your babe is ready for baby-led weaning:
They’re about 6-months-old
Many doctors give the range 4 to 6 months, so make sure to talk to your baby’s pediatrician!
“We like to suggest that babies start closer to 6 months”, explains Barnes, “as they are normally showing more signs of readiness than at 4 months.”
Baby learning to sit up on their own is journey in itself, beginning as early as 3 months and usually nailing it around 9 months.
You’ll want to start BLW somewhere in the middle, but luckily sitting up with assistance is enough.
“We want good head and trunk control,” says Barnes, not slumping down in a high chair.”
They seem interested in food
If they watch you while you eat and reach for your food, you know baby is ready to start exploring.
Notice that their lack of teeth have very little to do with them eyeing up your cuisine.
“Its a common misconception that because they don’t have teeth, they won’t be adept with certain foods,” Barnes explains, “but that’s actually not true.”
“They can chew and mash remarkably well with their gums, as those teeth are right below the surface anyway.”
They’re able to bring things to their mouths, like toys or your finger
And there’s no stopping them!
Mouthing is all part of normal development and typically goes into overdrive once they hit that 6-month milestone.
As for the why? Well, experts suggest it may have to do with calibrating their immune system while they’re still safe under the weaning umbrella.
In any case, it’s a sure sign baby is primed for finger foods.
How to start baby-led weaning
Once you’ve decided your baby is ready, you can start off with almost any food you like.
Just make sure the food is cut into a shape that the baby can grasp easily and isn’t a choking hazard.
“We want long and spear-like in shape so baby can hold it in the palmar grasp,” Barnes says, “and soft and mushy enough that you would be able to squeeze it between two fingers”.
Something like a softened slice of mango about the size of an adult finger is good.
Some other easy, plain foods you can start with:
- Apple slices steamed until very soft 🍏
- Roasted sweet potato wedges 🍠
- Avocado 🥑
- Banana (Tip: if you push on a peeled banana from the top, it easily splits into three banana “sticks.”) 🍌
- Toast cut into finger-size pieces 🍞
- Steamed whole broccoli florets 🥦
You can give your baby pretty much anything your family is eating.
But keep in mind some safety and health guidelines.
How to safely do baby-led weaning?
For safety, always make sure any food pieces baby gets are easy for them to grasp in their palm and the right size to avoid choking.
Pieces have to be pretty big for them to hold and gnaw on safely.
So say you’re making roasted potatoes, try making them as finger-size wedges instead of cubes.
“At the early stages, they wont’ have mastered what it feels like to chew a cube or small piece,” Barnes explains, “so we offer the larger piece for them to explore and eat of off.”
If you’re serving fish, get rid of all the bones in your baby’s piece.
What foods should babies avoid when led weaning?
Obviously choking-risks aside, you want to be sure baby is starting nourishing eating habits early.
Unfortunately, our adult palates often prefer food that is too salty for babies.
When cooking at home, consider leaving salt out of your food and then salting your own portion after you’ve given some to your baby.
And if you’re eating takeout or prepared foods, it’s probably best to make something else for your baby.
It’s also important to be mindful of sugar, especially during infancy.
“We don’t recommend added sugar until age two,” says Barnes, “but between one and two it gets harder to keep it at absolute zero, so be mindful of the snacks and foods you choose for your baby to keep the added sugar at a minimum.”
This might mean reading labels more closely.
Even pasta sauce can have a surprising amount of sugar.
But it’s also a great toddler meal.
So if you’re feeling a pasta dish, either leave the sauce off baby’s portion or try our baby-friendly pasta sauce recipe below.
And on the topic of sugar, remember, babies under one year old can’t have honey because it carries a risk of a food poisoning called botulism.
How can I make baby-led weaning easier?
By keeping in mind that baby-led weaning doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Success lies in flexibility (and curiosity).
If you want to give your baby some purees, go ahead.
You can spoon-feed them purees if you’d like, but you can also put some hummus or yogurt right on their tray and let them explore.
And hey, maybe take off their onesie and put a mat down on the floor because things can get messy.
It’s all part of the BLW experience.
Baby-led weaning recipes
Okay, let’s get started!
Here are some baby-led weaning recipes perfect for little ones just starting out on their food journey.
And the rest of your family will probably love them, too!
1. 3-ingredient banana pancakes
In need of breakfast baby-led weaning recipes at 7 months because your baby is already a pro with toast and scrambled eggs?
Try these simple pancakes from BabyFoode.com
- In a bowl, mash 1 medium banana until smooth.
- Add 1 large egg, 2 tablespoons of flour, and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon (optional).
Mix until combined.
- Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray.
- Over medium heat, drop 1 tablespoon of batter per pancake on the skillet and let cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes until both sides are golden brown.
2. Baby pasta sauce
Pasta is a great food for babies, but store-bought tomato sauces can have too much sugar and salt.
Try this simple pasta sauce from Healthy Little Foodies nstead.
It’s even got lentils for added protein.
Pro tip: freeze it into ice cube trays, so you always have a perfect portion ready for your baby’s dinner.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan.
- Sauté 1 onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, and 3 cloves of garlic (all chopped fine) on low heat until softened (about 10 minutes).
- Add 1 red bell pepper and 1 small zucchini (both diced) and sauté one more minute.
- Stir in ½ cup (95g) red split lentils, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.
- Add 2 cups tomato puree, 1½ cups low sodium vegetable/chicken stock, and 1 bay leaf.
- Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bay leaf and blend until smooth (with a stick blender or in a large regular blender).
- Serve with pasta.
3. Salmon fritters with sweet potato
These fritters from Abbey’s Kitchen
are a nutrition powerhouse for your baby.
The salmon provides healthy fats for optimal brain development.
And if you’re looking for iron-rich baby-led weaning recipes at 9 months (when baby’s existing iron stores can start to decline), the sweet potato and spinach in this recipe are good sources.
- Remove the skin and bones from ¾ lb of salmon and chop them into small pieces.
- Cook 1 medium sweet potato (oven, microwave, or Instant Pot are all good methods) and scoop out the flesh.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add ½ an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger (all chopped fine).
- Saute until softened, then place in the bowl of a food processor.
- In the same pan, saute 2 cups of baby spinach, minced, until wilted, and set aside.
- In the food processor, add the salmon, 1 large egg, cooked sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, and 1¼ cup oats.
- Pulse to mix, then pulse in the spinach until just combined.
- Add a coating of oil to the same pan, and oil your hands as well.
- Roll the salmon mixture into finger-shaped fritters.
- Pan-fry in batches until golden brown, then place the fritters on a baking sheet.
- Bake the fritters in the oven for about 10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145 F.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
These three recipes will get you and your baby off to a great start at baby-led weaning.
Once you’ve got the basics down, the sky’s the limit!