Tips For Baby Led Weaning (With Fruits And Vegetables)

a baby's hand picking up pieces of banana

As a family business, we designed Fruutbox to meet the needs of not only our young family, but of other young families with fruit-mad kids too. It’s why we offer a (very popular) Toddler Box, and why the contents of our set boxes don’t change.

Babies can be introduced to solid foods from around six months old; a process known as weaning or complimentary feeding. Their main source of food and nutrition will continue to be milk, be that breast milk or formula feeds, until one year of age so these first forays into “solid” foods are all about them getting used to the experience and experimenting with textures, tastes, and developing their co-ordination. In the UK the average annual birthrate peaks around the end of September, meaning that many families will be starting to wean their babies six months on around the end of March (hence the timing of this article).
There are some amazing guides and resources produced by the NHS, NCT, and other paediatric or early-years medical professional-led sources, and you should absolutely check those out. It’s important to stress also that there is of course no “right” way to introduce solid foods to your baby, only the way that is right for your baby and you. That might be baby led weaning or it might be spoon-feeding purees, or it could be a combination of the two. Our two were introduced to solid foods through baby led weaning, as were many of our friends’ children, and here are some of the things that we learned about the process.

 

It’s Going To Get Messy

There’s no getting away from this fact. And you’re going to watch a lot of perfectly good food get thrown on the floor. Part of the fun of experimenting with food for tiny children is learning what it feels like in their little hands, how squishy it is, how satisfyingly is smears across flat surfaces and their face and hair, and how it disappears and makes a nice ‘splat’ noise when dropped off the side of the tray table. An easily wipe-able highchair is essential. Tiled or laminate floors are infinitely preferable to carpets. A plate or bowl, even one that suctions onto the table or tray table, is entirely optional in your child’s opinion. Forewarned is forearmed!

 baby led weaning

What Foods To Offer When Baby Led Weaning

Soft fruits and vegetables are great for introducing your baby to solid foods. If it’s naturally soft (such as ripe banana, avocado, or berries) then it can be offered raw, but harder raw foods such as carrots or apples should be cooked, as should any vegetables that you’d cook to eat anyway, such as sweet potato or broccoli. Soft, because your baby may not have started teething yet, and even if they have, it’ll be a while before they get the molars that they actually use for chewing, so they’ll most likely be using their gums for the time being. It’s often advised to offer 2-3 different items at each meal and vary that from day to day, so that your baby doesn’t get bored of being offered the same thing every day. This process is about getting them to experience solid foods and to begin to develop a healthy relationship with food, so try to offer a variety of tastes and textures.

a baby's outstretched hand at dinner time

Baby Led Means Baby Led

The clue’s in the name, right? With baby led weaning your baby is in charge of what they pick up and what they do with it. They might go through an entire meal time (or several) doing nothing but smooshing food around their face and plate and not actually putting any near their mouth, and that’s just fine. They’re learning about and familiarising themselves with food and as touched on earlier, this isn’t about eating for nutrition’s sake yet. Try to avoid the temptation to offer or put food in their mouth; if your baby is feeding themselves they can control putting the food in their own mouth as opposed to you placing food in their mouths and it potentially falling to the back of their mouth before they’ve had a chance to “process” it. Which leads us onto the topic of gagging and the risk of choking…


Gagging And Preventing Choking

Gagging is a common reflex in babies who are feeding themselves solid foods for the first time. It is a safety mechanism that the body uses to keep large or un-chewed pieces of food out of the wind pipe and moves it further forward in the mouth to be chewed, whilst they are learning how to deal with solid food. Gagging is not choking, but if your baby gags it can cause any parent to panic so it’s important to know and recognise the difference and to remain calm if your baby gags so that your baby doesn’t pick up on your panic. Gagging is an audible reflex. Choking is silent (so it’s crucial that you watch your baby while they eat and make their mealtime a sociable affair). It’s caused by the windpipe being blocked, and the risk can be massively reduced by ensuring that your baby is sat upright and supported in a suitable highchair or on your lap, and also by cutting their food up into suitable sizes and shapes. Regardless of the risk of choking, we’d advise any new parents to familiarise themselves with baby and toddler first aid and to download the excellent British Red Cross baby first aid app.


Cutting Up Grapes, Blueberries And Cherry Toms

Small, round foods that could easily fall into and block your baby’s windpipe are the enemy to all parents, so be sure to cut up produce such as grapes, blueberries and cherry tomatoes and only introduce these when your child is old enough to handle them (when they have developed their "pincer grip"). We discovered this grape cutter made by Oxo (yup, the stock-cube people) and never looked back – it quickly and easily quarters any small circular foods making them much safer for small people to eat.

 

Getting A Grip On Finger-Sized Finger Foods

At six months old, babies use their entire hand to grip things and pick them up. They only get the whole pincer grip thing that’ll allow them to pick up small things like cut-up blueberries a few months further on, and that can vary, as we all know that every baby is different. To start out with food should be offered in a size that they can pick up but not be able to fit all of it in their mouth at once. Cut to about the size of your adult finger is a good guide.

 

colour wheel made of fruit and vegetables cut up for a baby or toddler to eat

 

Leaving the skin on some fruit and vegetables will make it easier to pick up and hold (in the case of cooked apple wedges, it will also hold it together). You can leave some of the the washed skin on a piece of banana or kiwi fruit like a handle, only peeling one end, so that your child can grip that (because bananas and kiwis = slippery). Another great solution is to get yourself a crinkle cutter and cut your baby’s food into different sizes and shapes using that, making pieces much easier to hold. Be warned though, that you might end up using that to cut up everything, even for your own meals….

Hopefully those of you about to take on the messy but wonderful task of starting to wean your baby onto solid foods will have found this article useful and helpful. Like everything in bringing up babies, you know what is best and right for you, your baby, and your situation. Guidance, advice and suggestions are just that, so do what works for your child and don’t let anybody tell you that’s not the “right” way. You’re doing a great job.