I’ve been meaning to write about this for so long. The time has finally come!
When I first started researching baby led weaning (BLW), what I most wanted to know was HOW. As in, the details. As in exactly what foods to start with, what shape / size to cut them in, and how / how long to cut them.
While I loved the idea of BLW, I was also a little fearful of choking. I read plenty about how the baby’s gag reflex is further up on their tongue to prevent choking, but I was still a little scared.
I am by no means an expert (please talk to your doctor if you have any questions / concerns about how to feed your baby), but I wanted to share what foods worked well for James when he was first beginning, and the best ways we found to prepare them.
We chose avocado for James’s first food because a ripe avocado is so squishy that I didn’t worry about choking. I of course also love that it is a super healthy food full of good for you fats. I also liked that I didn’t have to worry about cooking it to the right consistency. Easy all around! Reflecting back, I think avocado is a fine first food, but maybe a little bit difficult for baby to grasp due to how slippery it is. You can coat the slices in ground flax or something similar, but I didn’t want to introduce two foods at the same time at first, so we didn’t do this for a while.
James found a solution by bending over and slurping the avocado off of his place mat like a catfish…so it all worked out in the end. Next time though, I would probably start with something else like….
2. Roasted Sweet Potato
This was James’s favorite food for a long time and I think it was in part because of the taste and in part because it was so easy for him to eat. The first time I made sweet potato for him, I cut it in thin strips and roasted it. This didn’t work well for him, probably because I cut the strips too thin (again, fear of choking).
I then started cutting them in rounds with a crinkle cutter and true love was born! I coat them in lots of coconut oil or avocado oil (using lots of oil makes them softer…and delicious) and roast at 400 degrees for thirty minutes. Sometimes I sprinkle with turmeric or cinnamon. I leave the peel on and James has learned to spit it out, but I would probably remove the peel if I offered it as a first food. I think roasted sweet potatoes would make a great first food!
3. Steamed Broccoli
This is a messy one, but James has always loved it and still does today. It is super easy for baby to hold the stem of the broccoli and gum the florets off. I tried roasting because I think it tastes better, but at least for James, it was much easier to eat when steamed because it gets softer. I got a steamer basket and I steam it for about ten minutes, until a form goes easily into the stem part. I like to drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic. I buy frozen broccoli (and also frozen green beans) so that I always have it on hand and it takes very little time to prepare.
A ripe banana is super easy for baby to eat. I read that you could just give baby half a banana, removing a ring of peel around the top, so that it’s still easy for them to hold (as in the above photo). I tried this, but James was taking huge bites and it made me nervous. I now separate the banana half into three sections using my fingers – this is easy if it’s ripe. At first, I would cut these three sections in half length-wise to prevent choking, though this may be totally unnecessary depending on how ripe the banana is.
We didn’t plan it, but one of James’s first foods was seedless watermelon. We were out at an event and they had some beautiful looking watermelon and I realized how easy it would be for him to eat. He loved it and I actually think that’s where he really made the connection that food is to eat and tastes delicious because he was much more into eating, rather than just playing with his food, after that day. He ate pretty much the whole slice…and was covered in sticky juice.
He still loves melon of all kinds and I think it’s a particularly great food to offer during teething. It can take James a long time to eat a big piece of melon, and if it’s cold from the fridge, it seems to be a good way to help ease the discomfort on his gums.
These are of course just a few foods you could begin with, as many doctors are now saying it is safe to give baby most foods from the beginning, if they are starting solids 6 months or later. I think the biggest thing I learned was to experiment with the shapes / cooking method to find something that works for your individual baby.
We didn’t offer it until recently because I just didn’t think of it, but I also think beets would be a great first food (golden beets if you don’t want the mess). They sell pre-steamed beets with no other ingredients at Trader Joe’s that I’ve started buying for James and he loves them! Other early foods we had success with included thin strips of pears (microwaved a bit if not soft enough) and egg yolk (fried and cut into strips, or scrambled once baby can grasp smaller pieces).
If you eat meat, salmon and meatballs have been the easiest forms of meat we’ve found for James (I used the meatball recipe in the Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook).
Now James can eat pretty much anything, but I have very fond memories of his first adventures in eating.
I should also mention, we wound up doing a hybrid of BLW and offering foods with a spoon, which I’ll likely write more about soon.
If you have kids, did you try baby led weaning, spoon feeding, or a mix? What was baby’s first food?
What is your earliest food memory?