Answering common questions about feeding Marie with her first foods using Baby Led Weaning and sharing tools and resources I recommend.

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Baby Led Weaning Q&A and Feeding Essentials - Tara Rochford Nutrition #babyledweaning

At about 5 1/2 months, we started incorporating Marie into our family meals (breakfast and dinner to start). While she didn’t eat any food or put food in or near her mouth the first few times we sat her at the table, she is now well on her way to becoming a confident eater. As I started sharing more of our journey on Instagram, I received many questions about how we are feeding Marie and what tools we are using. I’ve compiled the questions I’ve received and made a list of my favorite items for Baby Led Weaning as well as some resources so you can learn more about how to feed your baby real food from the start.

This is not a substitute for advice from your pediatrician, but you can talk with your care provider about Baby Led Weaning to learn if it is a good choice for you.

Baby Led Weaning Q&A and Feeding Essentials - Tara Rochford Nutrition #babyledweaning

Questions about Baby Led Weaning

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What is Baby Led Weaning?

Baby Led Weaning is a self-feeding approach for introducing solid food to baby. You set up the “what” “where” and “when” of baby eating (example: salmon, broccoli and butternut squash at the table in the high chair at dinner time with the family), and baby decides “if” and “how much.” Baby is allowed to eat as much or as little as they please by feeding themselves age appropriate food (more on that below).

How do I know what kind of food Marie can have?

When serving babies food in the first couple of months (6-8 months), a good rule of thumb is to make sure the food is about the size of an adult pinky and can easily be smashed between your fingers. This is because babies at this stage use a “palmer” grasp to pick things up and they are still developing the “pincer” grasp which uses just the forefinger and thumb. You want the texture of the food to be soft enough for them to mash in their gums. Once they have mastered the “pincer” grasp, you can serve smaller pieces of food.

How do I make shredded chicken to serve Marie?

I simply put the chicken in the slow cooker (using this recipe) and serve it in pinky sized shreds that are easy to mash between my fingers.

Why can’t babies have salt?

I have read in several books (in the resources to follow) that it is important to limit sodium intake in infants, but I have yet to find a specific recommendation. That being said, when cooking from scratch a small amount of sodium or added salt is probably ok. This post from Lily Nichols does a great job of digging into the research on sodium intake in infants.

We typically will pull a small portion of our meal out for Marie, then add salt to the rest of the dish for the family.

Baby Led Weaning Q&A and Feeding Essentials - Tara Rochford Nutrition #babyledweaning

How do you know when baby is ready for food?

There are a few cues to look for.

  • Baby should be able to sit up independently.
  • The tongue thrust reflex is gone (when you put something on your baby’s lips, their tongue will push out with this reflex, which prevents them from eating food other than breast milk or formula).
  • Baby should be able to grasp items and put it towards their mouth.
  • Baby should show interest in food that you are eating. (Marie started looking at us during meals with a “where’s mine?” look.)

How can I introduce potential food allergens?

If you have a healthy baby, you can introduce allergenic foods as soon as baby is ready to eat (typically around 4-6 months). Guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggests an early and often introduction of peanuts and eggs (two potential allergens) can reduce the risk of allergies.

Once peanuts and eggs have been introduced in the diet, it is important to keep them in the diet at least 3 times a week.

Tips for introducing a potential allergen:

  • Start early in the day, give yourself 2 hours to observe your baby.
  • Start with a happy and healthy baby. You don’t want to confuse a cold or stomach bug for a food allergy.
  • Do NOT serve whole peanuts, they are a choking hazard.
  • Do NOT serve a large glob of peanut butter, this is a choking hazard.
  • Peanut powder is a great way to introduce peanuts by mixing into breast milk, yogurt, applesauce, mashed banana, etc.
  • When introducing eggs, make sure the whole egg is cooked.
  • Scrambled eggs is a simple and easy way to give your baby eggs.
  • There isn’t a ton of research on other allergenic foods (wheat, dairy, sesame, shellfish, fish, soy, tree nuts), but it is currently being conducted.
  • Introducing other allergenic foods early looks appears to be safe, but we aren’t sure if it reduces the risk of allergies.
  • Milk – blend into smoothies, yogurt
  • Tree nuts – thinned nut butter, swap for peanut butter in recipes, almond flour in recipes
  • Fish/shellfish – serve with soft rice
  • Wheat – toast fingers with avocado thinly spread on top
  • Soy – baked tofu fingers
  • This site shares lots of ideas for introducing peanut foods. 

Baby Led Weaning Q&A and Feeding Essentials - Tara Rochford Nutrition #babyledweaning

Pictured above: salmon, butternut squash soup, avocado rolled in wheat germ to help with gripping

Can I roast vegetables in olive oil?

Absolutely! Fat is very important for your developing baby and it adds flavor to the vegetables and allows them to roast better.

How do you wash the sleeved bib shirts?

We love these bibs and just toss them in the wash.

What are the recommendations for added sugar?

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that children under 2 should not consume foods with added sugar. 

How messy is baby led weaning?

Depending on the meal, it can be pretty messy! Foods like Greek yogurt, smoothies, and soups are very messy. Foods like salmon, steamed vegetables, and foods that are not saucy/puree textured are much less messy.

To help with the mess, we undress Marie for meals and put her in a shirt bib. Our dogs help lick the floor!

Baby Led Weaning Q&A and Feeding Essentials #babyledweaning

How many meals a day should I offer baby?

You want to set yourself up for success! Feeding baby is a learning moment for you too, so starting with one or two meals a day is totally fine because baby is getting most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula still. We started with dinner, then after we got the hang of our dinner routine we started offering breakfast and plan to do that for a couple of months. Our goal is to be offering 3 food meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) by 8 months of age.

For this, it is important to pay attention to your own baby and how he or she is responding to eating foods and talk with your pediatrician.

Is it time consuming to make food for baby?

Because I am already used to cooking and being in the kitchen, I do not notice a huge time difference with food prep now that Marie is eating.

A tip I picked up from the First Bites book is to prepare 1-2 breakfasts at a time, 1-2 vegetables at a time (like roasted sweet potato wedges, or steamed broccoli), and 1-2 main meals at a time. I do this and then store excess in the freezer. Some meals I serve a version of what we are eating and then thaw some sides from the freeze.

Baby Led Weaning Q&A and Feeding Essentials - Tara Rochford Nutrition #babyledweaning

Must Have Products and Resources for Baby Led Weaning

EzPz Mini Mat – I really like the sections on this mat so we can divide up certain foods or give small amounts of soups or softer textured/more runny foods. This mat does not stick to our high chair tray, which is a tad bit annoying but we haven’t had any issues yet.

Bumkins Chewtensils – We preload this spoon and Marie feeds herself with it.

Bumkins Sleeved Bib – We use this every at single meal!!

Homemade Baby Food Flexible Freezer Tray – I made some homemade applesauce and pumpkin puree to freeze and add to meals on occasion with this tray.

Pre-Spoon Gootensil – We put food on this spoon then hand it to Marie and she puts it right in her mouth.

Baby Led Feeding Book – This book also has great recipes, a great plan with suggested portion sizes for starting to introduce foods, and pictures for how to prepare single ingredient foods.

Plant Based Juniors First Bites E-Book – I love the recipes and the images of how to prepare certain foods for certain ages.

Born to Eat Book – This book really explains a lot of background for everything baby led weaning.

Peanut Powder – This is great for mixing into oatmeal, mashed bananas, breast milk, yogurt, or applesauce for introducing peanuts early and often.

Tiny Cup – Based on my research, drinking from an open cup rather than a sippy cup helps strengthen mouth muscles necessary for early speech development.

Baby Led Weaning Q&A and Feeding Essentials #babyledweaning

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