Some of you might be familiar with the Baby Led Weaning or BLW way of introducing foods to little ones. I was certainly unaware of the different weaning methods before having a baby. I always thought that babies eat purées or mashed food and at one point magically they start eating proper food, maybe when they start having teeth! As my little one was born prematurely, I had too much on my plate the first few months, so weaning didn’t concern me at all at that point. When she was around 4-5 months, I got a book from a cousin regarding introducing solids and it was only after, that I started doing some research and looking into my options.
The principle of BLW is that babies are introduced to pieces of real food and gradually they learn how to eat them and feed themselves. Unlike puréed baby food that is spoon-fed, with BLW the baby will try to hold pieces of food in their little hands, play with them, taste them and try to eat them. This is a learning process so just sit back and let them be messy and enjoy it! If you are interested and want to learn more, I recommend the book ‘Baby-led Weaning’ by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett.
Enough about the generics of BLW! What I will talk about here is How to prepare food for babies when you follow the BLW and the different stages till they reach their first birthday.
Baby age: 6-8 months
Around this age, most parents will introduce solids to their babies based on the signs of readiness. At this stage, you want to introduce finger sized cut food. Cut the veggies and fruits into stick-shaped pieces similar to your index finger. It’s better to avoid hard veggies and fruit, you could roast some carrots to get a bit softer or microwave some apple slices if they are too hard.
Bread should be toasted first, as it might get stuck to the roof of baby’s mouth, and then cut into finger sized pieces. You could add some spread on the bread or it can be used as a dipper for soups or sauces.
Meat should be offered in large strips or on the bone. It needs to be well cooked and tender for the baby to chew easily. A nice option at this stage is minced meat in the form of meatballs or small burgers. Check out my grilled meatballs recipe, it’s perfect for babies!
Some pasta shapes might be difficult to pick up as they are more slippery. I find that small pasta like fusilli, rigatoni, or farfalle that have a bit of a texture is easier to hold with their little fingers and they also hold more sauce on them. Leave spaghetti and other long pasta shapes for the next months when your little one’s skills develop.
Rice, grains and legumes are a bit difficult to hold at this stage as most babies haven’t developed the pincer grasp yet. A nice option here is arancini, which is coated rice balls with cheese or ham and veggies. You could also make patties with legumes or falafels with chickpeas.
Baby age: 8-10 months
Around this age, babies will start getting better with their fingers and gradually develop a pincer grasp. As you observe your little one experimenting and playing with food, you will find that they get better and better each time with smaller and more clumpy foods. At this stage, you could introduce smaller and more clumpy food along with the finger sized pieces.
You could introduce some smaller fruits like blueberries, strawberries or grapes cut in half or quarters. Same with vegetables, you could introduce for example peas or cherry tomatoes, and veggies cut in big cube shapes. Your little one will start getting better at this stage with rice, grains and legumes. Make sure that the legumes are thoroughly cooked and you could always mash them with a fork a bit to break them.
Baby age: 10-12 months
At this last stage before your little one’s first birthday, you will notice a big difference in how he can handle food. You could give him a fork or spoon along with his food so he can work out gradually how to use cutlery. You will notice that he is getting better at holding food. You could try some long pasta with a bolognese sauce. Be prepared for the mess!
Whatever the age and the stage your baby is, remember to enjoy this! BLW is indeed quite messy but it has great benefits for your little one. Check out my little fingers page for more ideas on recipes with finger-sized foods!