What are the best first foods for baby led weaning? Should you introduce one food at a time? While I always encourage aiming for variety, here's a list of TOP foods that offer the essential nutrients babies need to grow and thrive.
Best age to start solids
While it was once recommended to start solids as early as 4 months, the major health organizations, including World Health Organization and The American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend starting at around 6 months of age.
However, age is just ONE of the factors. What's most important is that your baby meets ALL the developmental signs of readiness. Unsure what those are? Click on the link below to grab my FREE handout that will help ensure you start at the safest, most optimal time.
How to get started with weaning
There are two general approaches - spoon-feeding and baby led weaning. I go into great detail discussing the pros and cons of each and much more to empower you to make the best decision for you and your family!
I also share a third approach you may not know about, so be sure to give the linked post a read! I'll be here waiting 😉
Now, if you've already decided that you're going to do baby led weaning, here's everything you need to know and can prepare to expect during the first month.
And Here are some blw must-haves!
Best first foods for babies
As a registered dietitian, here are my top recommendations. They all meet the criteria of being nutrient-dense to make every bite count. They are also great for flavor and texture exposure and can easily be incorporated into your baby's diet.
I highly encourage you to click on these links for a super in-depth dive into all of these foods.
- Bitter vegetables - dark leafy greens (e.g. kale, collards, spinach), brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, etc.
- Vitamin C rich fruits
- Peanuts and tree nuts
- Seeds (particularly pumpkin, chia, flax, hemp)
Best time to introduce the allergens
As soon as your baby is ready to start solids, usually around 6 months.
For years, it was recommended to delay introducing highly allergenic foods until around 2-3 years of age as protection against food allergies. This is outdated advice. In fact, research shows that delaying these foods could actually promote the development of food allergies.
I go into greater detail in this egg post, another top allergen, but to summarize, the current recommendation is to introduce highly allergenic foods EARLY and OFTEN. By doing so, you can dramatically reduce the risk or actually help prevent the development of food allergies.
Some babies are considered high risk if at least one parent or sibling has an atopic condition (such as eczema, food allergies, allergic rhinitis, or asthma) or if baby has any of these conditions themselves.
If this is the case for you, I highly advise you to work with a pediatric allergist early on to develop a course of action, as research suggests that introducing the allergens as early as 4 months may be beneficial for high risk babies.
How to introduce the top allergens (what order?)
The top allergens in the United States are:
When it comes to introducing these foods, you do not have to follow a particular order. But because most of the evidence for early introduction comes from research around peanut butter and egg, I personally like to recommend introducing these first.
You do not need to introduce one food at a time. This is again, outdated advice. But do introduce one allergen at a time so if your baby does have a reaction, you'll know which food is responsible.
Feeding Baby - Top Questions Answered
I know it can be difficult to wrap our heads around, BUT our babies do not need teeth to handle table/finger foods!
Their gums are super strong and more than capable of mashing, grinding down the food. Now, the real chewing is done by the molars not the front teeth, which don’t come in until much later. And you do NOT want to wait until then to introduce them to non-pureed foods.
If you've decided to start with purees (which is perfectly fine), do be sure to move forward with texture by no later than 9 months.
I've also got some tips for you if you feel you're like stuck on purees.
However much your baby wants to eat! Every baby is different and the beauty of practicing responsive feeding is that you FULLY allow your baby to take the lead. I know as a type A personality mama this is super hard to do at first.
I remember so wanting to take charge and make sure baby eats xyz amount. But that will only lead to miserable mealtimes and a baby who loses their innate ability to self-regulate. And if you have an older child, you may have come to realize that pressuring doesn't work.
The eating habits established early on can last a lifetime, so it’s really important that we focus on setting a strong foundation from the start.
So I highly encourage you to consider this time a learning experience, to recognize your baby's hunger and fullness cues and to respond appropriately rather than coming to the table with the agenda of "I need my baby to eat everything on this plate."
Most likely your baby will not eat much, if anything at all, at first, especially when taking the baby led weaning approach. But before you throw in the towel and think, "what am I doing wrong?!", I always encourage parents/caregivers to keep their expectations in check.
These first days, weeks are all about building the skills and confidence necessary to self-feed and less about consumption.
That WILL come if you persist and continue to offer solid food AND provide a safe, positive environment for your baby to EXPLORE. That means no matter how frustrated and anxious you may be, try to smile and feign indifference.
Babies are so keen to a parent’s energy. Encouragement and support from their most trusted person is what they most need!
Continue to offer around the same volume of breastmilk and/or formula. As your baby starts to eat more, their milk intake will naturally decrease gradually.
Again, follow your baby's lead. But to give you a general time frame, at 6 months, start with one meal a day. Then work up to 2 meals by 8-9 months and 3 meals by 10-11 months.
Related: Best Foods for 8-9 month olds
While babies don't need to eat finger foods, it is very important that the texture is age-appropriate. If you can smoosh the cooked food between your fingers then it is safe. Here are some additional tips as well as pictures to help guide you.
Here are foods that can cause choking and so should be avoided:
Hard or crunchy texture - raw fruits and vegetables, whole nuts, crackers, popcorn, etc.
Sticky texture - a glob of peanut or nut butter
Cow's milk - it's fine to add to recipes but shouldn't be offered as a drink
Honey - can lead to botulism
Best First Foods for Baby Led Weaning
As much as we want to delight our babies with all kinds of foods, seeing too much food can be overwhelming for them. So keep it simple and always be sure to include an iron-rich food. Have fun exploring this new world of food through the lens of your baby!
I want to mention this again because it's that important! Come to the table with No expectations. No agenda. Lots of smiles, encouragement, and curiosity.
Finally, rather than watching your baby, make yourself a plate, preferably the same foods as your baby, and enjoy your meal alongside your baby. Teach your baby how to feed themselves by SHOWING them.
Here are the exact meals I served to my baby during her first month of starting solids. Hope this provides you with some ideas! Simple. Well-balanced. Delicious!
I actually filmed EVERYTHING I made for her as well as my toddler, husband, and me from Day 1 to Day 84 (so 3 months) in real time and turned them into an easy to access and follow program!
You are here because you’re spending time researching everything you need to know to give your baby the best. I have a feeling you're spending a lot of hours googling, going to all the different sites seeking answers to your burning questions, gathering recipes, etc.
What if I handed you a complete roadmap that would show you through daily videos and photos of what foods and how to serve them to your baby AND the rest of the family at the same time? Everything you need to know all in one place.
Here's Baby Led Feeding Journey Program if you're looking for such resource ;).
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen
Best First foods for baby led weaning
- ¼ cup cooked oatmeal, lentils, full-fat plain Greek yogurt , or mashed sweet potato
Mix-ins (choose one)
- 1-2 teaspoons smooth, unsalted peanut/nut/seed butter OR
- 1-2 teaspoons flax seeds, hemp seeds, or chia seeds OR
- ¼ hard-boiled egg, mashed
- 1 tablespoon no-salt-added canned sardines or salmon OR
- 1 tablespoon minced beef or chicken OR
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cooked broccoli OR
- 1 tablespoon mashed beans OR
- 1 tablespoon mashed banana
- To the base of choice, combine whatever mix-ins you wish! Such an easy way to invite variety and serve a well-balanced meal. You can preload onto a spoon and hand it to your baby, but most likely they will go straight in with their hands.
- For oatmeal, lentils, and mashed potato, you can shape into balls or fingers to make it easier for your baby to grab (see note)