What the best first food when your baby is starting solids for the first time at 6 months? It may not be what you think. Here are registered dietitian approved safe and healthy first foods for baby led weaning - even if your baby has no teeth!
If you're feeding your baby in a conventional approach with purees, your pediatrician will likely tell you to start first with baby rice cereal, then with a single vegetable puree, then add another single vegetable puree, until you get through all the vegetables, then try fruit purees and meat purees, waiting a day to add each new food. At least that's what mine told me. That sounds a little stressful and outdated, no? Well guess what? It is!
Do I have to start with rice cereal?
You actually do NOT have to start with rice cereal, or go in any particular order when starting solids with your little one. There is no reason your baby can't jump right in with various solid foods! But if you aren't starting with rice cereal or purees at all, what DO you start with? If you're starting solids with a baby led weaning approach, your pediatrician may not be very knowledgeable or helpful with baby led weaning. That's why I'm guiding you through which foods to introduce to your baby first with baby led weaning!
What foods should I introduce first with baby led weaning?
The great thing about baby led waning is that it's SO flexible, so you can start with almost anything as long as it's an appropriate texture and shape. For adults, I'm not about food rules, but there are a few you need to follow for your infant.
General guidelines for baby's first foods:
- Food should be an appropriate texture. That means baby should be able to mash it with the tongue on the roof of the mouth. Can you mash it between your thumb and forefinger? Great! It's a safe texture.
- Food should be an appropriate shape. Babies that are at the age of starting solids (about 6 months) pick up objects by grasping and scooping with their palms. Foods cut into the size and shape of your finger are a good shape for babies to grab and bring to their mouths.
- No added sugar or salt until at least age 1. With salt, I'm a little more flexible (because you can't control everything) but if you can, leave the salt out of the food you're cooking and add salt at the table, or remove a portion for baby before adding salt to the family's meal. Babies bodies can't process very much sodium. Babies also just don't need added sugar. In fact, the new dietary guidelines that will be released soon recommend avoiding all added sugar until age 2, so that low nutrient foods don't displace more nutrient rich foods. That means no regular table sugar, honey, maple syrup, or other added sweeteners. Honey also shouldn't be given to infants under 1 year because of the risk of botulism, which can make infants very sick.
- Aim to give at least one iron-rich food per day. Starting around 6 months of age, the iron stores your baby received in utero start to deplete, so they need to start getting it from their diet, especially breastfed babies.
- Go high fat and high calorie. Infants need every little bit of nutrition they can get from each bite, so adding energy and nutrient rich foods is important. I add lots of foods like avocado, nut butters (just not big globs) and whole milk plain yogurt.
First foods for baby (About 6 months of Age):
Beyond the guidelines above, just go for it! Give baby a taste of whatever the family is eating. No need to stick with plain, unflavored vegetables. In fact, spices and herbs are great! I recommend starting with non-allergen foods, and introducing only one allergen food per day to observe for reactions (more on that in another post). Here are some great nutrient rich foods you can start introducing to your little one with baby led weaning. Just remember fruits and vegetables should be cooked to a soft texture and peeled if they aren't soft when raw.
Fruits and Veggies:
- Apples - cooked ONLY and with no peel
- Cucumber - in a big spear until baby has teeth, then grated
- Grapefruit - segments only
- Green Beans
- Oranges - segments only
- Peaches or nectarines
- Peas - gently mashed
- Summer squash or zucchini
- Winter squash
- Beans - lightly mashed
- Chicken - should be moist
- Eggs - scrambled, hard cooked, boiled, or as an omlette or casserole
- Fish or Shrimp
- Ground beef, chicken, pork, or turkey
- Meatballs - roll into a finger shape or cut big meatballs into slices
- Nut butters - spread thinly or stirred into something, with no added sugar or salt, if possible
- Soft cheese (I like whole milk mozzarella or ricotta)
- Steak - cut into finger-sized pieces (baby will suck the juices out and leave the rest)
- Turkey - should be moist
- Whole milk yogurt
- Baby muffins (with no added sugar)
- Pancakes or waffles (with no added sugar)
- Pasta - whole wheat or chickpea pasta (chickpea pasta is a good way to add iron and protein)
- Potatoes - wedges or mashed
- Sweet Potatoes - wedges or mashed
- Toast - lightly toasted no added sugar bread is a great vehicle for nutrient-dense spreads like nut butter and hummus
- Whole grains like quinoa and rice - made into balls with a bit of beans, or made into a porridge.
Tips For Starting Out:
- Don't get too stressed! It should be fun and a chance for baby to explore tastes and textures. The majority of baby's nutrition is still coming from breast milk or formula, so it's perfectly fine (and normal) if not much food makes it into his or her mouth for the first month or more.
- For feeding puree-like textures (such as yogurt, hummus, nut butter, etc) you can spread a thin layer on very lightly toasted bread, load a spoon and hand it to baby, or just let them pick it up off the tray by itself. It WILL get messy, but that's how they learn.
- Slippery foods may be rolled in something to help baby grip it (such as ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, or unsweetened shredded coconut). You can also leave the peel on a portion of the food to act as a grip (such as on half of an avocado slice)
- Other than salt and sugar, don't be shy to give baby foods flavored how your family eats them. Roasted veggies with herbs and spices, richly flavored sauces, and spiced oatmeal or breakfast porridge are all great ways for baby to explore new tastes. You wouldn't want to eat only plain, bland food every day, would you?
- Feeding baby is much easier when your family cooks at home and makes minimally processed foods. That said, if you know you'll be eating somewhere else that may not have appropriate foods for baby, be prepared with a few things baby can eat.
- Tiny bits of leftovers are great for babies starting out! Just a half meatball leftover from last night's dinner could be the perfect lunch for baby. They tend to eat anything at this age, so it really helps cut down on food waste.
What Does a 6 month old BLW Meal Look Like?
Here are a few example meals to give you an idea:
- Whole grain waffle spread with peanut butter or yogurt + scrambled egg + soft peaches (shown above)
- Sweet potato breakfast casserole cut into thin strips + Kiwi wedge with the peel on
- Thick oatmeal with mashed banana, whole milk yogurt and cinnamon stirred in
- Toast spread with mashed avocado + fresh mozzarella cheese + orange segments
- Chickpea pasta with pasta sauce + soft cooked frozen broccoli florets
- Leftover chicken + hummus + cucumber spear
- Ground taco meat (no salt added) + mashed black beans + sliced avocado + sliced tomato cut into strips
- Baked salmon + roasted sweet potato wedge + soft cooked green bean
- Grilled steak (finger-sized pieces) + soft asparagus spear + mashed baked potato
What questions do you have about baby's first foods with baby led weaning?Drop them in the comments!