Note: Always consult with your paediatrician or doctor regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.
Primary nutrition in 1st year:
“Introducing solid foods should complement the nourishment your baby receives from milk, rather than replacing it.”
Breast milk or formula milk provides most of your baby’s nutrition for their first 12 months of their life. So keep this in mind when first introducing solids part of BLW, the actual intake of food can be slow whilst bub develops her motor skills (picking up food, hand eye coordination, swallowing, exploring different tastes and textures, learn to chew, and strengthen the muscles that are important for speech, while developing healthy habits from early on.). Solid foods do help to top up certain essential vitamins and minerals for bub but this may take a few months for bub to get the hang of eating in BLW, but hub will soon get there. Mum/Dad be patient. AAP recommends for mum and bub’s health benefits, exclusive breastfeeding for the first year.
Products I personally recommend that helped us on our BLW journey:
- Baby led Weaning by Gill Raply book
- Baby led weaning by Gill Raply cookbook
- Ikea high chair easy to clean, great reach distance for bub to pick up food. All the other highchairs are too bulky and hard for bub to reach her food.
- Ikea full length bib: was great for the first couple of month of BLW as it fitted bub around the neck and helped with the mess!
- Explora Bibs (AA-MAZING) have been using these since 7m+, we are now at 11mo and i take them out with me if we lunch out, they are so easy to clean, roll up and pack in our bag.
- Phillips Steamer/blender: I did a lot of research into steamers that are BPA FREE and appropriate for steaming veg and meats etc and this was the best machine out there! It is so compact, I take this away with us when we go on holidays, I can leave the steamer on when I am busy with bub around the house, there is a safety switch and beep once steam has completely. I couldn’t recommend such a better product! It saves me so much time and preparation for lunches, dinners, preparing food for the week etc I mainly use the steamer, however I also use the blender to make nut butters, sauces etc
- Munchkin sippy cup: I have done so much research and have spent a fortune trying to find the best cup out there! We decided at 6m to forget starting bottles, straws, spouts etc we just wanted an easy leak free cup. This cup is brilliant, can take out and about and no leaks, bub gets use to the tilting of a cup. We started with the ‘trainer cup’ with handles at 6mo, now we have moved onto the same cup but with no handles, here.
Introduce solid foods around 6 months of age. Expose baby to a wide variety of healthy foods. Also offer a variety of textures. Babies have an innate ability to self-regulate their food. Responsive feeding helps foster self-regulation.(ref: AAP)
Some of our first foods included, steamed/roasted/boiled big chunks/sticks of vegetables (approx 5cm-7cm long): carrots, broccoli, potato, sweet potato, zucchini, pumpkin, cauliflower, spinach, squash etc you name it! (we tried most vegetables including eggplant, capsicum, soft onion, what ever tickles you fancy!) once we introduced vegetables we also offered big slices/chunks of fruit i.e. cut up big slices of avocado – was the winner for us! mango strips (leaving half the skin on for grip or mummy can help hold up a half a mango to bubs mouth), banana, strawberries, peach, apricots, baked or a soften apple (in the oven or microwave for a about 30sec).
Other first first foods may include – toast fingers with avocado, 100% peanut butter (see allergies about introducing nuts into bubs diet), pasta shapes, full fat greek yogurt… see some pics below of first foods!
But remember – there’s no reason what so ever why your baby can not have a pile of spaghetti bolognese, a mild curry, mashed sweet potato to dive into, risotto, a roast dinner, salmon steak and veg, if that’s what the rest of the family is having (just watch salt, sugar and processed ingrediants).
Preferred foods to introduce at 6 months Iron, Zinc and Vitamin B12:
Gill Rapley (author of BLW book) reinforces the importance of offering babies foods that are rich in iron, zinc and vitamin B12 from six months onwards. Some example of foods are below:
Food rich in Iron: Iron is a mineral found in high levels in meats, beans, dried fruits and fortified breakfast cereals, supports your baby’s physical and mental development. Foods include: breastmilk, meats (beef, beef & chicken liver, pork, turkey, chicken), oily fish i.e. sardines and salmon, dark green, squash, eggs, sweet potato, mushrooms, leafy vegetables i.e. kale and spinach, beans, dried fruit, grains, porridge, broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, kidney beams, soybeans
TIP – Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron from foods particularly from plant sources, so when you can, include them in the same meal. i.e. add a piece of fruit – orange, mango, tomato, citrus fruits, berries, green veg (broccoli, cabbage), peaches, apples. bananas
Food rich in Zinc: meat (lean beef, lamb, pork, chicken), nut pastes (pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, peanuts) spinach, green leafy veg, cooked chickpeas, mushrooms, wheat germ, pumpkin, squash, yogurt, cheese, bread, porridge, cereal, multigrain bread.
Food rich in Vitamin B12: helps the body make DNA, keeps blood and nerve cells healthy, keeps the brain working properly and helps process food. A lack of B-12 can make your baby tired and constipated and can cause weight loss. (http://oureverydaylife.com/baby-foods-high-vitamins-b12-d-11530.html) B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, yogurt, salmon, cod, cheese, eggs.
We have found that some fruits are very slippery and frustrating for bub to hold, there are many ways you can help bub out! Try dipping the avocado, banana, kiwi in 100% grounded almonds, coconut, quick oats, whole oats, breadcrumbs etc great for breakfast or lunch and adds nutritional value to their meal OR leave half the skin or all of the skin on a mango! Watch your baby at all times if there is tough skin left on food.
No bowls, use the tray
Put finger food on the highchair tray (IKEA is the best highchair, easy to clean and comfortable for bub) or table. FORGET bowl, plates, highchair padding etc (its just more cleaning up for mum/dad) and the bowl will go flying across the room! It is all a learning experience for your baby so forget the mess and let your baby have fun whilst discovering how to eat. Don’t put too much on the highchair tray at the one time. Just a couple of pieces of food will stop them feeling overwhelmed.
When to offer food
Between milk feeds seems to work best and when your baby is not tired!
Weekly Food Preparation
We found this is the best way to ensure bub always has food in the fridge and if mum and dad decide not to cook a family meal, bub then always has something… I usually steam and store in fridge on Monday – Wednesday and Friday ? and mix the veg and proteins up every wk. Bub is 8.5mo. Suitable for 6mo+ ? great way to organise for the week! Even get hubby to do a steam batch. You can also boil or roast veg.
Don’t push bub to eat
Let your baby put the food in their own mouth NOT mum or dad or another relative. If your baby does not want to eat or is being really fussy in the highchair, forget it and try again later at her next meal. Respect your babies decision, don’t worry about it, they are getting their calories from milk anyway.
Check bub’s mouth after each meal
It is called chipmunk face! Babies tend to hide foods in their cheeks after meals… we make sure after each meal that there is no food left in bubs mouth which may lead to a choking hazard if bub is placed down to sleep or play. Here is a tip for checking bubs mouth after a meal… Watch here
Use an easy-clean highchair
Ikea highchair is the best! cheap, easy to clean and does the job from 6m+ now at 11mo we still use the same highchair. Expect mess in BLW! it does get better after a few months when bub begins to eat a lot more food. Tip: we put a tablecloth under the highchair so it is easy to clean up afterwards.
How to serve foods?
6 months +
Ensure foods are offered as big and long chunks, approx 5cm long, suitable for bub to pick up. Think sticks of food! You may notice in the first few months bub will suck, may swallow bits of food, however they may not be able to open up their fists up to reach the food inside their fists (their pincer grip has not been established), this is why the food will need to be BIG:
9 months +
Around 9 months old bub may now be able to pick up little bits of foods with her thumb and index finger, this is called the pincer grip! Once they have established this, you can start offering smaller bits of food such as peas, little squares of toast, blueberries, small bits of chicken/meat etc its a whole lot of fun for bub mastering and practicing this skill and entertaining to watch for mum and dad haha! Note: we still offer a mix of small and big chunk items! bub can choose what she wants to eat or experiment with.
How we clean our dirty highchair after each meal works so well and is completely natural. I bought a pack of 4 face washers that I rotate and use for the high chair only, I let the face washer dry on a chair after each meal. Purchased a empty spray bottle, available from most supermarket. Great for cleaning around the house and bubs toys I have also heard lemon peel and water works wonders as well!!
1/4 cup vinegar to 2 cups of water.
Be First-Aid Ready:
- Are you prepared what to do in the unlikely situation where your baby or toddle may choke??
- Are you about to begin BLW & are nervous??
- Or you have already started and are still nervous about offering solids??
My Husband & I before we began BLW both did a first aid course for babies just in case so we were both prepared with what to do in an unlikely situation of choking. Babies or adults can choke on anything at anytime, so it was best to be prepared. Can I just say, this was the BEST thing we ever did in our preparation of BLW. People ask how we prepared ourselves for BLW, my answer is -read the #gillrapley blw book & do a first aid course for babies (A MUST).
The difference between gagging and choking?
Gagging as opposed to choking is a safety response to food travelling too far back into the mouth so when we see our bub gagging (coughing and splattering) they are actually handling the problem and it’s best just to stay calm and wait until she coughs it up or carries on. If its a bad gag i always offer some water in her sippy cup!
How to avoid choking?
Doing a first aid course for babies, boosted our confidence in offering food to bub, we were a lot more relaxed and calm at meal times & because we were more relaxed, bub was more relaxed with accepting solid foods we also ALWAYS ensured bub was sitting up in a highchair or an inclined seat pram at meal times or upright on my lap, we also ensured she remained in control of her food at all times, I would never push food into her mouth, I would only offer by placing food on her tray or handing her a pieces of food. PLEASE don’t feed your baby laying down or in a car seat that reclines or a bouncer, would you eat laying down??This could lead to choking.We also always watch our baby when she eats at all times, especially if we hand her a piece of fruit or veg that has skin left on it for grip ie banana skin or avocado skin. We also downloaded this amazing first aid app called “baby and child first aid by british red cross”it’s free and always accessible on your phone in cause u forget what to do in case of any baby or toddler incident. Australia also follow the UK recommendations for choking, if u are from the US or other countries u may have different guidelines, there may be another app for u to be able to download & local first aid course u can go on!
Foods that are choking hazards:
Grapes (always cut long ways in halves *or quarters if you don’t feel comfortable), cherries (remove stone), cherry tomatoes should be cut in half or quarters (longways), whole nuts and popcorn (avoided til at least 3yo) either crush them in foods or serve peanut butter or other nut butters, watch out for bony fish, cut off gristle on meats or anything that may contain hard pieces, cut sausages long ways.
A FEW TIPS TO TAKE AWAY: Always sit with your baby or watch your child when they are eating. Discourage your child from walking, talking, watching television, lying down, or doing anything else while eating that might distract him/her from his meal.
Make mealtimes fun
Babies need to be able to ‘trust’ the food you are giving them. This means being able to play with, mash and throw the food, so that they get a good feel for what he’s eating. Go with the flow on this one, and just try to minimise mess with long-sleeved bibs, a waterproof table cloth on the floor. If you let them get on with it, some food will end up in their mouth eventually.
How mum and dad can help?
When bub gags (coughing, remember that it’s their way of moving food around in the mouth and don’t panic) We found that making exaggerated chewing faces and noises reminds bub to get back on track and chew. We also did a babies first aid course so we know what to do in the unlikely choking incident.
Offer a varied diet
Do keep offering vegetables at each meal. Try frozen mini vegetable pieces if you’re fed up with constantly preparing fresh vegetables which are left untouched; ultimately, he’s bound to give in and nibble on a piece of carrot. You can also mix vegetables in with other meals such as by blending them into a pasta sauce or cottage pie. If your little one is particularly resistant to veggies, for your own peace of mind, top up his vitamin levels with plenty of fruit.
Where to go for BLW Support & Ideas forum from other BLWer Mums & Dads?
Please join my support group Facebook group ‘Baby led weaning support & ideas group’, I created this group for mum, dads, grandparents, caregivers, childcare workers etc to have somewhere for BLW support. The group has hundreds of mums/dad etc seeking support and can ask the other members questions about BLW to help each other out, post photos, encouragement and motivation along their BLWing journey and food discovery. This group does not provide professional advise its just a forum for sharing experiences. Please consult your paeditrition and speak with your health visitor or doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s eating. Many health centres offer weaning ‘clinics’ and advice on different meal options.
- American Academy of Pediatrics – Infant food and feeding www.aap.org/en-us
- Baby Led Weaning Book – Gill Rapley
- World Health Organisation Guidelines