I started my daughter eating solid foods at 6 months old following the baby led weaning (BLW) approach. BLW is a more natural, independent way for babies to learn to self feed by offering regular table foods, instead of pureed baby food. Despite the fear that many parents may have against it, it’s a great way for babies to explore new foods and a fantastic sensory and fine motor experience.
The BLW approach says that you should give your baby the same foods as you’re eating using very little modifications. There are only a couple foods that they can’t have, for example honey is not recommended for children under 1 year old. It can be hard, depending on what you are eating to be comfortable feeding it to your baby.
Our journey with solid foods
I was very nervous when we started solids. Especially because I wanted to use this new approach and I was giving my little baby large chunks of food and expecting her to chew and swallow as an adult would, with no previous experience. I had to watch choking videos, CPR instructions, and researched a lot on what foods to give and how to make eating an enjoyable, not scary, experience for my baby.
So I decided to make more modifications and didn’t stick to the strict BLW policies, but kind of went my own route when starting to feed my baby. BLW says that you shouldn’t puree any food, but the baby should be given whatever you are eating and in it’s natural form (how an adult would eat it). I did stick to that rule, but didn’t always offer her exactly what we were eating and usually made her own food for mealtimes.
Feeding went great for her! My 6 month old loved food and the whole experience of it. She was so excited for mealtime and dove right in. We only had a couple gagging episodes, but she had to experience that in order to learn how to chew and swallow the right way.
Tips on getting started
Most foods should be able to be cut into ‘finger shape pieces’ (think like a thick french fry or potato wedge). At 6 months, your baby won’t have a pincer grasp, allowing them to pick up small pieces of food between their thumb and index finger. Therefore, they need large pieces of food to hold in their hands. As you start to see that grasp developing, you can give smaller foods like puffs, peas, and cheerios. These are great foods to start practicing their pincer grasp with.
Try not to be nervous. Eating is a natural process for babies and they pick it up very quickly. Your baby might gag several times, but this is how they learn! If your child is choking, they won’t be able to make any noise and then you should intervene. If they’re making noise, that’s just your baby learning how to maneuver the food in their mouth. Try watching videos on gagging vs. choking so you don’t freak out the first time they gag.
At this age, always nurse your baby or give the bottle before meal time. Remember, solid foods are just for fun at and they still should be getting their primary nutrients from breast milk or formula.
ALWAYS cut in half or squish hard round foods- grapes, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, etc. as these can be choking hazards.
Here are some ideas for the perfect starter foods for your baby because they are soft and easy to chew. All of these foods will be soft enough for your baby to chew on with just their gums and they will begin to learn the different textures of foods. You are still making homemade food for your baby, but it will just be in larger pieces instead of purees.
Also, see my post on How To Make Meal Time Less Messy for some other feeding recommendations.
These veggies should be cut into finger length strips and roasted in the oven. You can cook them as soft as you feel comfortable, but remember that you want them to be able to hold it, without squishing or it slipping out of their hand, so make sure they don’t become so soft that they fall apart. Feel free to leave the skin on as this will make it easier to hold.
Drizzle with olive oil and don’t be afraid to add a bit of seasonings and spices (pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin or whatever spices you tend to use a lot in your cooking). Babies don’t need to eat plain, boring foods. In fact, it’s better to get them used to eating foods with flavor because it will make the transition to real table food easier.
These vegetables should be boiled/steamed in water to soften them up enough. Leave the stalks on as a means for baby to hold them.
Baby Carrots/Carrot sticks
These can be served as is (without cooking), just make sure they are ripened and soft enough. Cut into finger length strips and it also helps to keep the rind or peel on to make them easier to hold for baby. They may just end up sucking them off the rind, instead of actually chewing, which is perfectly fine. If you take it off, they may squish it with their hand or be too slippery to hold.
Banana (keep the peel on the whole banana, just cut off a small bit from the top for baby to eat from)
These fruits can be steamed or roasted because they’re a little tough for baby to chew:
Give pieces in larger chunks. It doesn’t have to be finger length, as these foods don’t really come that big, but make sure the baby is able to hold it in his/her hand and still have enough to chew on while holding.
Ground beef as a meatball/hamburger
Chicken- dark meat will be softest
Beans (will be hard to grasp so these may be when the baby has developed more of a pincer grasp)
Nut butters (see below)
Pasta – Rotini or penne is easiest for the little hands to hold. Use light sauce (just so it’s not as messy). Also, lasagna and baked ziti your baby may love.
Bread- Lightly toasted with thin layer of peanut butter, almond butter, avocado, jelly, cream cheese. This is a good way to introduce peanut butter to your baby to make sure he doesn’t have an allergy. You CAN give baby peanut butter at 6 months old.
Pancake – This is a great recipe for 2 ingredient ‘pancakes’, so no added sugar, just a healthy way for baby to get their nutrients in a different form. Cut into fingers, these are super easy for them to eat.
Muffins – Here’s another healthy recipe for simple, healthy muffins that babies love. You can just cut these in half to leave them in large size so baby can hold it and take a bite.
It’s ok to spoon feed soft pureed foods if it’s in the natural form as adults would eat them, like yogurt, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese. You can also have them use their hands for a great (messy) sensory experience!
Soft cheeses (pasteurized)- mozzarella or string cheese will be easiest to hold and chew
Using cups, plates, and utensils
When you first start solids, you should offer your baby a sippy cup with water. This is the start to transitioning them from a bottle to sippy cup and will help them understand that they drink water with their meals.
My favorites are straw cups because it’s best for oral motor development. I love these Munchkin Weighted Straw Cups for when baby is just learning to use a straw. The 2 handles are super easy for your baby to hold and it’s simple to learn to suck through this straw. Avoid regular hard spout sippy cups because these can mishape the mouth and cause speech and dental issues.
Get them used to using their own utensils from the start. Put a little bit of food on a spoon, put it down in front of the baby, and have them pick it up and bring it to their mouth. You can do hand over hand (place their hand on the utensil with your hand over theirs to guide them) to let them understand how the utensils work. Use small utensils and hand over hand. Grabease has the best utensils for little hands. My daughter picked these up right away an started using them.
At this age, they shouldn’t be that strong to pull off the bowls or plates so I recommend just putting the food on your high chair tray. However, if you’re just using the table or want to get started using plates and bowls, go with strong suction so they can’t throw them off. Make sure you wet the bottom of the suction as well as the tray to get a nice good stick. These plates (EZPZ)have worked great for suction. I get the ‘mini’ ones because I found out that the regular size mats are too big for most high chair trays. These bowls are fantastic as well!
Mealtime is going to start getting very messy, especially with this BLW approach. Keep your baby and their clothes nice and clean with these Bumkin bibs. They are so easy to clean, you just have to rinse them off. These long sleeve ‘smock bibs’ are especially good in the colder months when baby will be wearing long sleeves.
Have these foods been easy for you to start with your baby? Leave a comment and let me know your experience!