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Baby Led Weaning in the Kitchen

Jessica C.
JESSICA C.
Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and IBCLC
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Join Jessica Coll, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and IBCLC to talk about Baby Led Weaning. Jessica is an expert in all aspects of BLW and is here to answer questions about recipes, meal prep and more! Check out Jessica's profile for more info.

Jessica describes Baby Led Weaning as a way of introducing solid foods to babies. The traditional puree stage is skipped and babies eat pieces of food like meatballs, roasted vegetables and fresh fruit.

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Ask Jessica, our Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and IBCLC!

Message Jessica
JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Teeth question
JO, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD

Hi there, my 9mo loves eating and is willing to try most things. Do you have any recommendations for BLW type foods that would work even though he only has 2 bottom teeth?

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Jo,

You can offer the same foods as I mentioned in Azminia, Eva and Rebecca’s posts. Your 9 month old can bite down quite strongly with his gums and can manage a huge variety of foods. If you put your finger in his mouth, you’ll see what I mean! So go ahead and offer slow cooked meats, meatballs, roasted veggies and fruit. You can find more inspiration in my BLW Recipes iBook at jessicacoll.com/book if you’re interested!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Meat/Dairy/Eggs
AZMINA, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD, 16 MONTH OLD

Hi Jessica - there are so many contradictory opinions out there on when to start babies on meat, dairy and eggs. What's your recommendation? Are there meats we should try first?

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Azminia,

You’re right, there are so many contradictory opinions about those topics. I’m going to give you the information that’s the most up-to-date and backed by research. Let’s start with meat. Meat contains lots of iron and zinc, which are really important nutrients for babies 6-12 months old. So you can offer your baby meat starting at 6 months old. There isn’t one particular type of meat you should try first.

Meat tends to be tough and difficult for babies to take bites from so here are some of my ideas to make it easier:

MEATBALLS

You can take 1 lb of ground meat (any meat, so chicken, beef, lamb, veal, bison), add spices and herbs, shape it into meatballs that your baby can easily grab. A 6 month old’s hand movement ability is quite limited and they can’t pick up small pieces of food. They don’t even have the ability to re-position a piece of food in their hands so I found that log-shaped meatballs work best. About the length of an adult pinky finger. That way, the baby will grab the log-shaped meatball and some of it will be sticking out of their fist so they can easily take bites. You can experiment with different shapes like golf ball sized meatballs once your baby gets more practice. You can bake them in the oven at 400F for about 20 min. Meatballs are super convenient because you could freeze them and take them out when you need them, if what you’re eating isn’t really appropriate for your baby. My favourite meatballs are Indian-style meatballs made with ground chicken, curry, minced onion, ginger and cinnamon. If you’re feeling creative you can even add some chopped up veggies to your meatballs.

HOMEMADE SAUSAGES

I’m not talking about store-bought sausages because those can be quite tough, salty and might contain some ingredients that aren’t appropriate for babies. I’m talking about easy homemade sausages without any casings. My favourite sausages are made from a pound of ground lamb and toasted spices (1 tsp cumin and 2 tsp coriander). You just combine the toasted spices with 1 tbsp paprika, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ cup fresh cilantro, 2 garlic cloves and your 1 lb ground lamb. Then you roll the seasoned lamb mixture into small sausages about 5 cm long and 3 cm of diameter and cook them in a skillet on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Those are great dipped in homemade mayo and sauerkraut. I have tons more recipes in my BLW online course at blw.jessicacoll.com and my Baby Led Weaning Recipes iBook at jessicacoll.com/book.

KEBABS

You can make kebabs from ground beef or bison, mixed with your favourite herbs and spices about 10 cm long (like long meatballs), thread the seasoned mixture onto a skewer and cook on the barbecue for about 10 minutes.

SLOW COOKED MEAT

You can cook meat in a slow cooker or pressure cooker (pulled pork, stews- just don’t add salt while you’re preparing the meal because babies really don’t need a lot of salt). Meat on a bone works really well because there is an integrated handle so babies can get a good grip (garlicky chicken drumsticks and rosemary lamb chops are some examples). You can even offer the meat from your soup because it’s usually quite tender (chicken soup for example and take out the chicken)

LIVER PÂTÉ

The most smooth textured and the highest in iron is liver pâté (recipe on my blog at jessicacoll.com/blog but it’s really easy and inexpensive to make your own). You can spread the liver pate onto a cucumber stick and enjoy some for yourself as well!

Dairy doesn’t contain lots of iron and that’s part of the reason we recommend not including lots of it in your baby’s diet until iron-rich foods are eaten twice a day. What’s more, the calcium found in dairy tends to block iron absorption. So dairy here and there is OK starting at 6 months old but just not on a regular basis. If there is some dairy in recipes, it’s OK. Just not regularly because their iron needs are so high.

What types of dairy products? You don’t want to choose low fat or fat free milk products because babies need fat for their development. So choose Greek yogurts and Mediteranean yogurts with lots of fat and no sugar added. Also, look at the ingredient list to choose the yogurt with the least amount of ingredients possible. Cheeses tend to be high in salt content so don’t offer them daily. You can choose hard cheeses and cut them in sticks.

Eggs are a great starter food. They contain B vitamins, good fats and even some iron. You can include them starting at 6 months of age. In the past it was recommended to wait until 1 year old to prevent allergies, but the current research concludes that babies may be more protected against allergies if they’re exposed to eggs earlier (6-9 months).

I hope this clarifies everything for you!

AZMINA

Thank you so much! My son turns 9 months on Saturday so I'm glad I can feel more comfortable about incorporating these items in his diet.

Jessica
JESSICA

My pleasure! Have fun!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Breastmilk and BLW
SHEFALI, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi,

I want to do some BLW starting at 6 months- how do you recommend i continue to nurse? Should I nurse before the 'meal' or after or both? I just want to make sure he is getting enough breastmilk but at the same time also give adequate opportunity to eat. Maybe its not a concern now but as we move forward with BLW.

Also in BLW do the parents assist the baby at all? Like if the food slips out of their hands?

Thanks!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Shefali,

You can continue nursing on demand, just like you’re been doing since birth. He will satisfy his hunger from drinking milk and not from the foods offered. At the beginning, he won’t eat a lot of food since he will need time to learn and practice.

Just include him at the table when someone in the family is eating and see if he’s interested. You want to choose a time when he’s happy, not tired and not hungry so maybe you’ll nurse him before. Continue satisfying his needs by nursing on demand. Food that he will ingest will be “extra”. Once solid foods will be introduced, you don’t want to the number of nursing sessions decrease dramatically. That’s how you will know he’s getting enough milk. You can browse the previous questions for more information about starting out with BLW .

As for the “helping out”, as long as the foods are prepared in a manner that the baby can easily grab them, parents don’t have to assist them. Check out my answers to Azminia, Aimee and Melissa’s questions for tips on how to make it easier for your baby. Also, I have tons more information on my BLW online course at blw.jessicacoll.com and you can even continue asking me questions there. One tip that comes to mind now is leaving the peeling on the fruit and veggies in the beginning stages. This will help prevent the food from slipping out of your baby’s hands. All you need to do is scrub the fruit or vegetable (kiwi, pear, plum, sweet potato) under water and leave the peeling on. Cut it in sticks larger than an adult pinky finger and offer to your baby. You’ll want to roast the veggies because they’re too hard so usually 20 minutes at 400F works well!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Solid Veggies
JENNY, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Jenny, did you mean to post a question? I can't see it.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
How to start?
LINDSAY, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

I have a 4.5 month old baby and am interested in BLW. How do you recommend starting? He is sitting up (assisted) and very interested in food when he sees us eating. I was thinking of getting him started on puffed cereal / puréed food in the next 1-2 months, until his fine motor skills are better, but am curious what you recommend.

Jessica
JESSICA

Feel free to check out my previous post for Rebecca about why I recommend waiting until around 6 months of age. I strongly recommend waiting until your baby is really ready to start solids because his digestive system isn’t ready to accept foods earlier than that (among other reasons). At 4.5 months old, it’s normal that your baby is showing interest in food when he sees you eating. He will show interest in everything that you will do (playing with pens, talking on the phone, etc) but it doesn’t mean that he is ready. He doesn’t make the connection between “I’m hungry” and “this is food and I want to eat it to make me feel full” yet. It’s coming soon though! My take on it is to wait until his fine motor skills are developed enough to grab pieces of food on his own. That way, it’ll be easier for you and less frustrating for him. Does this make sense?

LINDSAY

Thanks Jessica. So, to clarify, you recommend ONLY breastmilk/formula until solids at 6+ mos? And not offering anything like puffed cereal or puréed foods before that time?

Jessica
JESSICA

Yes that's right! Breastmilk/formula provides everything your baby needs until he starts solids.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
7mo started with purees, how to get her interested in real food
AROW, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica! I started my 7mo daughter about a month ago on purees fed to her with a spoon. How do I get her interested in food she can grab, and what do I start with (e.g. how big are the avocado pieces, what else do I cut up and put on her tray?).

She sometimes grabs food from me and attempts to put it in her mouth. However, I put some mashed up avocado on her bumbo tray during mealtime the other day and she had zero interest in even playing with it.

Also, do you recommend "puffs" or anything that's not a whole food? If so, which ones?

Thanks!
Aimee

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Aimee,

A 7-month old’s coordination is quite limited so she can’t pick up small pieces of food like cut-up pieces of avocado or mashed avocado. She can only close her fist so sticks of food work best because the food will be sticking out and she’ll be able to take bites easily. At first, it’s normal that she picks up the piece of food and sucks it (that’s how she drinks milk and easts purees). Soon enough and with practice, she will learn to take bites, chew and swallow the foods. A rule of thumb is to offer pieces of food about the size of your pinky finger or larger. So sweet potato fries, meatballs shaped like logs and a chicken drumstick are great options. You can check out my answer to Melissa’s question for suggestions on how to make the experience more stimulating for your baby. At this point, you can offer your baby pieces of food when she is happy, not tired and not hungry (maybe snack time?). That way she could explore just for fun. You’ll probably see her interest in purees go down and progressively replace her puree meals with pieces soon enough. You could also totally stop offering purees at this point and just offer pieces of food. It might be easier for her. In this case, she might ask for more milk for a short period of time, while she adapts. Feel free to check out my other answers for more info about starting out BLW!

As for the puffs, I don’t recommend them since they don’t have the right nutrients that babies need. Here are there it’s OK but since their stomachs are so tiny, they can get full very easily and may not be able to ingest the foods they really need. I have tons of “to-go” recipes in my newest Baby Led Weaning Recipes iBook at jessicacoll.com/book if you’re interested! Another reason I’m not into the puffs is that they’re usually too small for 7-month olds to pick up on their own so not as safe as large pieces of food. Take care!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Cooking for 10 month old and 4 year old?
EVA, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica! Thanks for answering questions today. I would love some ideas for meals I can cook that both my 10 month old and 4 year old can eat (bonus if even the adults can eat it too!). Especially things I can make Sunday to last us the week. They're both pretty good eaters but I am finding myself in a rut and would like to give them more complex, flavorful foods. Thank you!

Jessica
JESSICA

It’s always great to save some time when you have kids! If you can make meals that are appropriate for all the members of the family, that’s even better. Your 10-month old should be starting to get pretty good at picking up small pieces of food with his/her pincer grasp so the sky is the limit as to which foods you can prepare. You don’t need to be a short order cook and prep individual meals for everyone. Here are some of my time-saving ideas:

MEAL PLAN

You can meal plan in advance. Usually I plan 4-5 meals and make a grocery list. Make sure you do the groceries ahead of time so you can get down to business on Sunday. I love to have breakfasts planned ahead of time because the kids always seem so hungry in the morning. I love preparing waffles ahead of time so I can just pop them into the toaster. Here is my favorite waffle recipe:

Apple Pie Waffles (make 8 large waffles)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup almond butter
4 eggs
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
3 tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground cloves

Plug in waffle maker and grease both sides with coconut oil. In a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Allow to cool before serving to baby. Offer about ¼ waffle to your baby at a time, cut into a stick as shown in this picture. Pour into waffle maker and cook for 5 minutes.


BATCH COOK

I usually batch cook for 2-3 hours on Sundays to prep everything for the week. Uninterrupted, you can get a whole lot done! Usually I prepare 2-3 meals completely and just prepare the ingredients of 2-3 other meals (cutting, measuring). That way, you don’t have to worry about meals for the next few days. Mid-week, you can prepare one meal per day but there won’t be much prep needed since the ingredients will be ready. I usually like to have those meals be in the slow cooker or pressure cooker if you have one. You can just throw the ingredients in before you leave for the day and some home to a nice meal without hassle.


HAVE READY-TO-EAT FOODS PREPARED

I usually like having hard boiled eggs, cooked sweet potatoes, cooked rice and roasted vegetables always available and ready to go. This makes it easier when you can’t prep a meal at all one evening (we all have those evenings!).


BUY SOME MINIMAL PREP FOODS

Frozen vegetables, washed and packaged leafy greens, canned salmon, pre-made guacamole, marinated meats and cut up fruit and vegetables can be so practical. Don’t feel like you need to make everything from scratch. This can be huge time-savers!


RECIPE IDEAS

I included my favorite recipes in my Baby Led Weaning Recipes iBook that can be found at jessicacoll.com/book but I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at the recipes to show you that they’re all totally appropriate for the whole family.

Here are some of my favorites: 3-ingredient breakfast cookies, spinach soufflés, rosemary lamb burgers, garlicky chicken drumsticks, coconut shrimp cakes, salmon sliders. There are more than 45 other ones in the book! I’m sure you’ll find them inspiring.

To finish off, I have to give you my salmon sliders recipe because it’s so easy and loved by everyone! There are so many flavors.

Salmon Sliders

2 cans salmon in water no salt (213 g each)
2 eggs
zest of 1 unwaxed lime
1 tsp pepper
½ cup spinach or kale
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp cooking fat (unsalted butter or duck fat)

Drain and pat dry canned salmon. Mix all ingredients together (except fat). Shape into sliders about 3 tbsp each. Heat skillet over medium heat, add fat and pan fry them 5 minutes on each side.

I hope these tips will be helpful!

KATRINA

Following :)

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
7 month twins' interest
MELISSA, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica, I have started BLW with my 7 month twins (born at 36 weeks, so 6 months age-adjusted). One of the boys has shown some interest in starting solids, while the other has shown absolutely no interest at all. We've had the best success with breads, avocados and steamed carrots, in that order. We've also tried steamed cauliflower, sweet potatoes, broccoli, pears, mangos, and penne pasta, with less success. Anything that I can do to increase their interest, and at what point should I get concerned about their lack of interest? Thanks in advance,
Melissa

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Melissa,

As you know, babies show interest at different ages and some don’t show any interest until much later. Your twins are only 6 months adjusted now so you don’t have to worry. As long as they are following their growth curve and continuing to breastfeed/bottle feed on demand, you don’t have to worry. You certainly don’t want to force them to eat because you don’t want them to associate eating with forcing (I’m sure you’re not doing that though). I suggest including your “uninterested baby” at the table at times during the day when he is happy, not tired and not hungry. You know him best so you can choose at what time during the day that is for him. That way, he won’t be irritated and will be more willing to explore. Remember, BLW is all about exploration and discovery. Some babies don’t show any interest until much later so be sure that the foods that you are offering them are filled with calories and the nutrients they need. I talk about that in detail in my BLW online course at blw.jessicacoll.com. Focus on foods like meats, liver pâté, eggs, avocados and try to limit foods like bread, pasta and foods without much nutrients. You’re already doing it but one thing that helps with babies starting out is to vary the shapes and colors of the foods offered. It will make it more stimulating for them. If he doesn’t want to sit in a high chair, maybe have him sit on your lap. That way, he might feel more confident. Those are the tips that come to my mind for now but you are definitely on the right track. Keep it up Melissa!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Introducing food to 4mo old
REBECCA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica,

I'm breastfeeding and getting ready to introduce 'real' food to my 4mo old (who loves watching and mimicking us eat!). What is your advice for starting--e.g. Which foods to introduce first (rice cereal? Veggies or fruit?) and how much? When should we expect that food will replace some or all of one of his feedings?

Thanks!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Rebecca, how exciting! It is normal that your baby is showing interest at this age but doesn’t mean that he/she is ready to start just yet. The World Health Organization recommends starting solids at around 6 months for many reasons: safety reasons, prevention of choking, allergy prevention and maturity of the digestive system. So before starting, make sure your baby is showing all these signs of readiness: able to maintain a sitting position with minimal help, able to bring objects to his/her mouth with precision, around 6 months of age and of course you want him/her to show interest (which he/she already is doing).

When you feel like your baby is ready, you can start with foods that are easy to grab because a 6 month old’s coordination is quite limited. Pieces of food the size of an adult pinky finger (or larger) work best. That way, the food sticks out of his/her fist and he/she can chew on it. So you can start with large pieces that are firm enough so your baby can hold them but soft enough that he/she can take bites.

Since your baby’s iron needs are so high, you can prioritize foods packed with iron like meats, fish and eggs. It’s true that there is some iron in rice baby cereal but it’s not well absorbed in his/her body. So a long piece of plain omelette is a good starter food. For size, refer to your pinky and make sure it’s about that size or bigger. You’ll notice that your baby may not be taking bites for the first few days and that’s normal. He/she only knows how to suck at this point. With practice, he/she will learn to take a bite and chew. It’s important to let your baby take his/her time.

Other ideas of foods that have lots of iron are: meatballs made with ground beef or bison, meat cooked in a slow cooker, a skinless chicken drumstick (just be sure to remove the small pointy bone) and salmon sliders. You can then let your baby explore roasted veggies, ripe fruit and so on. You can stay away from honey until 12 months old and undercooked eggs, raw fish, raw meat and excessive amounts of salt, sugar and unhealthy fats.

If you’re interested in BLW recipes created especially with baby’s nutrient needs in mind, feel free to check out my Baby Led Weaning Recipes iBook at jessicacoll.com/book.

The quantity that the baby eats per meal will vary a lot. The principle behind BLW is to trust that your baby knows how much to eat. So include your baby at the table whenever someone in the family is eating and see if he/she is interested. You might start with only one food and let him/her discover the food offered. You’ll progressively offer more food as your baby shows interest. You’ll continue breastfeeding on demand and shouldn’t see the number of feeds decrease for a few months. Happy BLW!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Our Q&A starts now!
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Welcome Jessica Coll! Jessica is here to answer all of your baby-led weaning questions about introducing flavors and textures to your baby, cooking meals for the whole family, and more!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi everyone, I'm excited to be here today to answer all your questions about BLW in the kitchen! Thank you for having me. I'm a registered dietitian, lactation consultant and mom of two kids who did BLW. I'm also the author of the Baby Led Weaning Recipes iBook that can be found at jessicacoll.com/book and the creator of the BLW online course. If you'd like to find out more about me, I'm at jessicacoll.com and on instagram.com/jessicoll. Have a great day!