Weaning your baby onto solids can be super stressful.
All that anxiety about how much they should be eating? What little Jonny down the road ate when he was weaning. And then all the weaning stuff you were meant to fork out for. It took me right back to those first weeks of breastfeeding panic.
Plus weaning has usually been associated with purees. And producing a freezer full of mush your child then refuses to eat only adds to the stress!
The good news is that weaning doesn't have to be stressful and it doesn't just have to be about purees.
"Baby led weaning" is based on the idea that babies will enjoy food more and be much less fussy if they can feed themselves with handfuls of stuff.
And that babies can actually eat an awful lot of what the rest of the family is eating which means they never get the idea food will be specifically produced for them.
We didn't get off to a good start with weaning first time round. We waited until 6 months on the dot which I wouldn't do again. And I followed the puree only advice of a "guru" which resulted in dull as ditch water food that my daughter didn't want to eat.
We did do lots of hand held meat and cheese and guess what?
I have a three year old who munches on great chunks of parmesan and can devour an adult sized rare steak but cannot stand the texture of a single piece of fruit or veg!
So I would highly recommend a baby led introduction to solids. That doesn't mean that you can't do some purees as well ... like almost everything in parenting there's a lot to be said for muddling along in the middle :-)
As I'm by no means the expert on baby led weaning, I've pillaged a load of great ideas for hand held food from a couple of friends who really rocked baby led weaning and now have the least fussy eaters you can possibly imagine.
If you're looking for more ideas on baby led weaning check out the links at the bottom of the page including great posts from Cook Like a Champion, Hobo Mama and Accidentally Kle in which they share their experiences and link up to other useful baby led weaning resources.
And if you're looking for a fabulously funny take on the whole proceedings, check out this hilarious post from Eeh Bah Mum.
Ideas for Hand Held Baby Food
- Mango - lots of babies love it, but it is sooo slippy
- Banana - cut length ways easier than it is in rounds
- Citrus Fruit - wait until 8 months if any history of allergy
- Avocado - must be ripe, may turn to guacamole in their hands, but heh :-)
- Peaches - unless really ripe, lightly steam or bake in halves in oven with knobs of butter and scoop out from flesh from skins when cool
- Pears - lightly steamed or cut into chips & baked with cinnamon
- Nectarines - lightly steamed unless really ripe
- Melons - cut into good sized pieces
- Strawberries - allergies quite common so introduce in isolation
- Plums - if not really soft, steam slightly
- Apples - cut into chips & bake with cinnamon
- Grapes - peeled as skin can stick in throat - can freeze, but watch for choking
- Blueberries - watch for choking
- Steamed Carrot - gently steamed batons so soft but firm enough to hold
- Cucumber - raw chips, some may prefer peeled if skin bitter
- Broccoli - can roast or steam, but try to cook so you want to eat it as well
- Cauliflower - roasted or steamed - as with all veg try to cook so you want to eat it
- Squash - roasted or boiled
- Sweet Potato - roasted or boiled
- Courgette - steamed, roasted or grilled
- Aubergine - roasted, steamed or grilled - cook really well so not rubbery & bitter
- Cauliflower & Parmesan - boil cauliflower florets for about 10 minutes. Drain & add oil, lemon juice, 50g parmesan and thyme to a roasting tin and roast at 200c for 15 minutes
- Roasted Root Pasta - peel & if needed core a mix of good roasting veg e.g. carrot, squash, sweet potato, parsnips & potato. Cut into fat chips. Put in roasting tin with olive oil & split garlic cloves. Roast for 1 hour. Stir up with penne or fusilli and grated cheese
- Veg Curry - Sweat onion for 5-10 mins then add garlic, ginger, and turmeric stirring for 2 mins. Add tin of tomatoes and cook for 15-20 min. Add big chunks of root veg and/or peppers, broccoli, squash or pumpkin, a tin of chickpeas and ~400ml stock & simmer for ~45 mins. Stir in yoghurt and a little garam masala. Serve with rice and give baby the rice with big chunks of veg but avoid chickpeas
- Felafel - Soak dried apricots for 15 mins. Fry onion & garlic for until soft. Blitz apricots, onions, garlic, tin of chickpeas, breadcrumbs, chopped coriander, parsley, squeeze of orange juice and 1 tsp of cumin in food processor until smooth. Mould into flat patties and cook for 20 mins 190c on a baking tray - turn over after 10 mins
- Spelt Biscuits - Rub 75g of unsalted butter into 200g spelt flour & 1/2 tsp of baking powder and then bind together with ~75ml of apple juice. Roll-out and cut out shapes. Cook for 15 mins at 180c
- Apple Muffins - Make basic sweet muffin mixture adding cinnamon to flour. At end add peeled and grated desert apple. Can use half spelt flour
- Soup & Toast - Dip strips of buttered toast into whatever soup you’re having
- Bread Sticks - Very popular, but watch out for salt content and choking
- Dry Cereal - Look for low sugar / low salt varieties and some organic brands do spelt versions which may be better if there is a risk of wheat allergy
- Cheese - Sticks or grated - avoid blue cheese or soft cheese
- Hard Boiled Egg - Need to be very wary of allergies so introduce on its own
- Yoghurt - Very messy but most love - avoid goat and sheep’s milk
- Pancakes - You can make pancakes with milk rather than egg and cut into strips. Make quite thick so not too floppy, Avoid honey or syrup
- Omelette - If you’re sure there’s no egg allergy well cooked omelette strips
- Eggy Bread - Beat 1 tbsp milk to each egg & pour over slices of bread in adish. Fry for ~2 mins on each side in sunflower oil over medium heat. Make sure egg all cooked through. Cut into slices
- Baked Fish - Either put fillets on a baking tray, brush with oil & cook for 10-20 minutes (depending on size) at ~190c OR wrap in foil with some parsley & lemon juice at about ~180c. Flake the fish making sure there are no bones. Could serve with a white or tomato sauce to make more interesting. Avoid shark, swordfish or merlin due to mercury levels
- Polenta Chips - Bring polenta with stock to boil stirring well, simmer for 5 mins. Remove from heat, stir in parmesan & leave to set on plate. Cut into chips and fry for a few minutes with thin layer of oil
- Chicken Stips with Yoghurt - Cut chicken breast into hand holdable pieces mix up with natural yoghut and very well ground dried sage. Put strips on a baking sheet & bake for 20 mins at 200c
- Lamb Shanks Brown shanks with oil in casserole dish. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and about half a litre of water. Bring to boil and then put in oven with lid on for 2 hours - turn meat half way through. Meat should be very tender so can give strips of meat to baby to chew
- Cooked Pasta - If there could be a risk of wheat allergy can get gluten free - some babies prefer if sauce, chunks of veg & pasta kept separate
- Spices - Can add e.g. garlic, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon from early age plus stronger spices if you like