You can start with pretty much whatever you like, assuming your baby is six months. Many people start with sticks of fruit and veg, but you can just dive straight in with meals if you prefer. On Eli’s first meal, we offered sticks of banana plus a little banana mashed on a preloaded spoon (I wouldn’t bother with this if I was you; I was full of day one nerves and worried he wouldn’t be able to pick up the banana sticks!) and sticks of ripe, juicy melon. We did a day or two of mostly fruit and veg, plus some pre-loaded spoons of yoghurt, then we moved onto real meals.
Though you can offer your baby anything you like, some things will be easier to manage in the first couple of weeks. Good things to start with include:
- Fingers of roasted, steamed or boiled veg, like carrot, sweet potato, babycorn, courgette, butternut squash, pepper, potato or aubergine. If offering hard apple or pear, I usually steam this in the microwave for a minute to soften too.
- Raw fingers or slices of softer fruit and veg, like melon, mango, cucumber, tomato, peach, avocado or banana.
- Florets of cauliflower or broccoli,boiled or steamed.
- Small fruit like grapes, strawberries, blueberries or blackberries. Slice grapes lengthwise (I quarter them lengthwise) as whole grapes are a choking risk. Berries can be served whole.
- Toast cut into fingers. Good toppings include cream cheese, mashed banana, mashed avocado, mashed berries or peanut (or other nut/seed) butter. I avoid jam because of the sugar. Some people like to give marmite occasionally – be aware it’s very salty, and bread itself is fairly salty too. Hummus, guacamole, tuna mayo and lentil daal all make good savoury toppings.
- Rice cakes, English muffins, pitta bread strips or corn cakes with any of the above toppings.
- Breadsticks, either on their own or with dip.
- Strips of cooked chicken.
- Cooked pasta shapes – sauce can make them slippery to start with, though they soon like sucking the sauce off!
- Cheddar cheese cut into fingers, or mozzarella cut into slices.
- Mini fishcakes or fish fingers (preferably homemade).
- Falafel or little veggie burgers.
- Porridge fingers.
- Muffins (sweet or savoury) broken into chunks.
Adapting family meals
Though some people see BLW as “finger foods instead of purees”, there’s no need to stick to traditional finger foods like those listed above. When cooking a meal, it’ll soon become second nature to consider how your baby will manage it – and you’ll be surprised at how much they can manage within a few weeks.
Don’t add any salt to foods that you’ll be serving your baby – add it to your own after dishing up your baby’s if you like. You’ll also want to be careful with stock cubes, which are really salty. Either use very low salt stock cubes (you can also use less of the cube than it suggests to dilute further) or add bouillon powder to your meal after taking your baby’s out.
Babies can like surprisingly flavourful food but you might not want to jump right in with fiery curries. Generally I’ll serve food with any other spice as normal, but either reduce the chilli or add chilli flakes to ours after taking Eli’s out. I’m gradually trying him on hotter dishes but I don’t want to cause any trauma or bad nappies!
If your baby is right at the start, try and incorporate some easy-to-pick up shapes in everything you serve – like keeping the veg in a stew in big chunks, for example. You can make mini burgers or fishcakes in breadstick shapes rather than circles if you like, though I found cutting burgers into wedges worked well too.
If your baby struggles with rice, you can overcook it slightly to make it sticky, mix it into clumps with some of the sauce from your dinner or yoghurt or press it into a small dish to make it stick into finger shapes. The last two tips work for couscous too.
Mix sauces in with rice, or dip bread into hummus. You can use preloaded spoons for thick things like yoghurt but they don’t work well for things that don’t stick to the spoon, like soup (bread dippers work well for a pureed soup. If it’s a chunky soup, drain off most of the liquid and let your baby pick up the chunks.