When you let your baby take the lead and provide them with real food to nosh on instead of spoon feeding her, it’s called baby-led weaning. Some foods, however, make better choices than others.
Always feed your baby when seated, preferably in a high chair or on a parent’s lap. When you give the food to your baby, resist the urge to chop it up into tiny pieces. Babies who are starting on solid foods are usually in the 6 to 9 month age range and might not have perfected their pincer grasp. Smaller chunks will not only frustrate her, but if she manages to get it in her mouth, it can be a choking hazard.
Avocado is a very popular choice for a baby’s first solid food. It’s full of healthy fats and antioxidants, and the smooth, creamy texture is perfect for your baby’s first experiments in her high chair. Cut them in wedges instead of small bits so your baby can get a good grip on it with her entire fist.
Banana is another very good first food for a baby to try. Similar to avocado, it has a soft and smooth texture. Peel a banana and break it in half, or in quarters — again, so your baby can grasp it with her whole hand. Most of the food will likely end up smashed, in the baby’s hair or flung on the floor, but she will really enjoy playing with, licking and trying to scrape some off.
This fun vegetable is packed with nutrition and happily comes with its own little handle. Steam your selection so it’s easy to munch on and enjoy the show. Broccoli isn’t the easiest mess to clean up, so be sure that your high chair has a detachable tray or is otherwise easy to clean. Some baby-led weaning parents even stick their chairs in the shower to hose them off.
Sweet potatoes also do well when steamed, but you can also roast them if you have the time or inclination. These veggies that are loaded with beta carotene (which helps raise our blood level of vitamin A) work well when cut up into French fry shapes. While you may enjoy your sweet potatoes spruced up with butter, cinnamon or marshmallows, your baby will love them just as they come out of the garden.
Most vegetables are handled well — and totally loved — by babies as long as they are steamed or cooked (not raw). Carrots, zucchini, butternut squash and red bell peppers are good choices. Fruits can be fun too, such as watermelon (remove seeds if present), apples (give in slices, or remove skins and steam for a bit to soften), mangoes and peaches.
Giving your baby a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from the start helps expand her palate and will hopefully lead her to love the bounty of produce that gardens have to offer. As she grows, you can add toast, meat and pasta, but make sure you watch her carefully and follow her lead as she dives into eating real food — and have that camera ready!
More on baby nutrition
The 4-1-1 on baby-led weaning
To purée or not to purée
How to make your own baby food