I am not a medical professional or expert, but have found baby led weaning to be a wonderful way of teaching our baby to feed himself and enjoy a variety of real foods.
The thought process behind BLW is that you expose babies early on to various food textures (purees are not primarily used and some omit them altogether) and flavors (the food is prepared in much the same way you would normally prepare it for yourself). You allow the baby to feed his or herself and through this they strengthen their motor skills and learn to enjoy eating. They gradually wean themselves naturally as they consume more and more solid food. That said- prior to one year of age- the primary source of nutrition should be breastmilk or formula! A common motto of BLW is “Before ONE, food is for FUN!”.
I have included a few of the recipes I used in our early days of BLW (at this point our ten month old can truly eat anything we eat). They are generally considered appropriate for babies 6+month. Though you can begin BLW as soon as your baby is independently sitting up (they must be capable of sitting upright unassisted with head control to help prevent choking). We began providing solids when our little one was five months old.
I recommend introducing one new food every few days, individually, before combining into recipes. Most spices are safe for babies (and ours LOVES to experience new flavors). However, never add salt (too much sodium is harmful to babies and they receive what they need from breastmilk) or sugar (added sugars are simply unhealthy and unnecessary).
Most current professional opinions conclude that unless you have a food allergy in your immediate family it is safe to try foods that are “common allergens”. And in fact, there is an argument that offering these foods “early and often” can actually help prevent food allergies. One exception to this is honey; which should never be offered to a baby younger than one year old (it can cause botulism in babies and is potentially fatal). Honey is not even considered safe in baked goods- so use caution (it is present in many things including honey nut cheerios)!
Lastly, we are always sure to cut larger foods (avocado, eggs, broccoli, etc) into either large pieces they can hold and gum or very small pieces that won’t choke them! You can preload baby utensils for them as well to get them accustomed to using a tool.
These recipes are all very simple and follow the basic guidelines for safe BLW.
“Figgy Pudding” Oatmeal:
1 cup organic plain oatmeal (just oats, nothing added)
1/2 frozen fig (alternatively peach or apricot)
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Place fig and oatmeal in a small bowl, pour in boiling water, and begin slowly stirring. Oats and fig will soften. Use a fork to mash the fig into the oatmeal. You will notice the skin of the fig will naturally separate and can be removed. Once the oatmeal and fig are completely blended and softened, stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. As with all hot dishes allow to cool to a safe temperature before serving and always test it yourself. I recommend using a bowl that can suction on to the table or tray of your highchair (we use EzPz brand and LOVE it). Also, for this dish (and many others that are not conducive to handling the food directly) you will preload a spoon for baby and then hand it to them; allowing them to get it into their mouth on their own. We use baby utensils from a brand called Avanchy and highly recommend! This will make far more than your baby needs for one meal. It can be saved and reheated the following morning (or hey, eat the rest yourself!)
corn off the cob (I use about 1/2 cup frozen, defrosted)
roasted red peppers, very finely diced (I use approximately 2-3 tablespoons)
finely chopped fresh, organic parsley and cilantro (I use roughly a tablespoon of each)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
black pepper, garlic powder (not garlic salt!), ground cumin — all to taste.
Simply stir all ingredients together and season to taste. This can also be made on a larger scale for the whole family! I make a mixing bowl portion (adjusting amounts and seasoning) and serve it with dinner. Your little one will probably love getting their hands into this one… But a preloaded spoon works too.
Curry Roasted Squash and Brown Rice:
butternut squash diced (you can either dice small and mash it when complete or cut into larger hand held pieces for baby to hold and suck/gum)
curry powder (use high quality and make sure it does not have any added salt); I also add a little extra turmeric and cumin (roughly a tablespoon collectively)
cooked brown rice
Optional: serve with cilantro, scallion, or avocado
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment, lay cut squash in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle curry powder over the squash. Toss to evenly coat. Bake until softened. Serve with rice and optional toppings.
Ginger Salmon and Broccolini:
2.5oz of wild caught salmon
broccolini (2-4 pieces)
This “recipe” is not nearly as fancy as the title implies. It’s also extremely simple (aren’t all BLW recipes?), quick to make, and very healthy. Heat skillet, drizzle olive oil, and add both the salmon and broccolini. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top of both foods and then add the cumin and ginger (to taste). Flip the broccolini as it cooks and allow for some even charring on all sides (not really burnt, just creating flavor and texture). After 3 minutes, flip the salmon. When looking at the salmon from the side, you should see that the color has changed from both top and bottom, with even the middle cooked. Ordinarily I would leave it a little less than done, but for little one’s I err on the side of caution. Once cooked, use a fork to pull the salmon into small shreds and either allow baby to eat with their hands or preload a spoon for them as they go. The broccolini can be served as is; as the long stem makes for an excellent handle. Baby is likely to naturally suck on the florets.