Baby-led weaning -- the practice of allowing infants to feed themselves solid foods -- has grown in popularity in recent years as an alternative to purees and baby food. It’s a fun way to provide a balanced diet and introduce a baby to the social experience of a family meal. My wife and I started the process with our 10-month-old at about six months -- the age at which the World Health Organization recommends infants begin to eat solid foods as a compliment to breastmilk or formula.
Giving our baby little bits of what we eat -- largely unmodified and in manageable pieces that he can hold -- has been rewarding, and we’ve learned that the little guy loves to eat. Of course, we’ve also learned that he loves to play with food and make a mess, and some foods have worked better than others. For parents considering baby-led weaning, I submit my five “model foods” for first-timers:
Avocados are a perfect baby finger food because they take practice to grasp and are easy to chew. They’re also fun to smoosh and finger-paint with, so get a washcloth ready.
Broccoli, served steamed and allowed to cool off, is a great food to use to introduce your baby to the texture of a vegetable. They are easy to hold and simple to chew (even for those of us with no, or few, teeth).
Cheerios, and other “O”-shaped grain cereals, provide a baby with a chance to learn how to dissolve food in their mouths. We serve our baby his O’s cold, without milk or a spoon.
Black beans are great for a baby who is learning the pincer grasp, as the legumes take some dexterity to lift from tray to mouth.
Quinoa is a fun challenge for a baby who is starting to master the pincer grasp. It will get everywhere (in the baby’s hair, on the floor, all over the highchair, etc.), but it’s a great source of protein.
One word of warning: it’s always wise to consult with your pediatrician before introducing new foods, as some present hazards. And remember, food is supposed to be fun! Bon appetit!