Itty Bitty Babes

How to Cut Food for Baby-Led Weaning Safely

Are you beginning to feed your baby and wondering how to safely cut food for baby-led weaning? This post will explain how to cut food for the different stages of baby-led weaning from six to twelve months, and which foods you should and should not serve your baby.

Baby-Led Weaning FAQs

If you’re starting baby-led weaning, you probably have a lot of questions. You can read my post on the first week of baby-led weaning to start to gain an understanding of what baby-led weaning is like.

You can certainly expect a mess (you can learn how to reduce the mess of baby-led weaning here), but you’ll also enjoy watching your baby experiment and learn to eat new food. This is truly the greatest sensory experience you can provide baby!

What Foods Do You Start with for Baby-Led Weaning?

The beauty of baby-led weaning is that your baby can start with any of a variety of different foods. It really depends what you’re comfortable with.

Some families choose to start feeding their baby whatever they are serving for a family meal (as long as it is honey-free and does not contain too much sodium).

Other families prefer to start with traditional fruits and vegetables. You can easily ensure fruits and veggies are cut appropriately in the correct shapes (more on this later), and see that they have a mushy texture.

Another great first food is meat. This might sound a little crazy, but babies, especially breastfed babies, need iron (meat is an excellent source or iron, although there are many plant-based sources of iron as well). Meat is actually recommended as one of the first, if not THE first, food you give baby.

What Foods are NOT OK for Baby-Led Weaning

So you may be wondering if you can feed the baby anything you’re eating. Well, not exactly.

Choking Hazards

Obviously, you’ll want to avoid giving your baby foods that are choking hazards. Nuts are not recommended for children under three. Small fruits like grapes and cherries should be sliced in half or quarters. Stone fruit should be pitted. 

Salty Foods

Babies should only consume a small amount of salt, as their kidneys cannot handle high levels of sodium. You need to be very careful about your baby’s salt intake, particularly in the first year. 

Be cautious not only of adding salt to your food while cooking, but also of salt already contained in food. Be especially cautious of processed foods, sauces, gravies, cheese, bacon, ham, bread and canned food.

Cooking homemade meals and providing lots of fresh foods will help cut down on sodium consumption, which is healthy not only for baby, but your whole family. That is just one of the many benefits of baby-led weaning.

Sugar

Obviously a diet with too much sugar is unhealthy. Be aware that many foods contain hidden sugar, even commercial baby food. 

Remember babies have a brand new palate. You’ll be surprised at how much they enjoy unsweetened foods, even foods like plain yogurt, oatmeal. Although you may prefer these foods sweetened, babies do not need it.

Honey

Honey is unsafe for babies before the age of one due to the possibility of infant botulism.

Additives

Be cautious when providing baby with processed foods, which often contain other food additives that are not great for baby (or anyone). These include preservatives, artificial sweeteners, MSG, etc. 

Again, cooking homemade meals with fresh foods is always the best course of action, if possible.

Allergy Triggers

Although most doctors agree that there is no need to wait to introduce allergen foods in the average baby, if your family has a history of food allergies, be sure to speak to your doctor before introducing these foods. 

Baby-Led Weaning Starter Foods

Here are plenty of ideas for baby-led weaning starter foods:

Fruits

Most fruit can be served in long, thin slices. You can choose to keep the skin on soft-skinned fruits like pears.

  • avocado
  • pears
  • melon
  • papaya
  • mango
  • nectarines
  • bananas
  • berries
  • grapes (cut in halves or quarters)
  • apples (only is steamed)

Vegetables

Cook hard veggies until they are mushy, but still hold their shape. Cut into finger-shape sticks. 

  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • sweet potatoes
  • parsnips
  • potatoes
  • green beans
  • steamed baby corn
  • steamed sugar snap peas
  • egg plant
  • zucchini
  • cucumber (raw–this veggie is soft)

Meat

Serve meat in large pieces so baby can gnaw and suck the juices. Cut meat, especially poulty, along the grain so it’s not so crumbly.

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • steak
  • pork
  • fish (great because it’s flaky, but can be difficult to pick up during the first few weeks of BLW)

Grains

  • toast fingers (easier to manipulate than untoasted bread)
  • flat bread
  • pita
  • naan
  • rice cakes (unsalted)
  • breadsticks
  • pasta (fusilli, bows and shells are easiest to grasp; plain pasta is easier than pasta with sauce).
  • rice (can be difficult to maneuver in the first few months of BLW: cook until slightly sticky to make things easier)

Dairy

Most dairy need will be fulfilled by breast milk or formula. You can try a little cheese, but not too much due to the sodium. Many babies enjoy yogurt, but this might be tricky for baby to self-feed at first (however you’ll be surprised how quickly BLW babies start using a spoon when given practice).

What Size Should Food be for Baby-Led Weaning?

When you start baby-led weaning, most foods should larger than you would think. You might think you need to cut food up very small so baby won’t choke. However, a six month old baby will not be able to pick up such small pieces. 

You will actually need to have larger, stick-shaped foods, about the size of a finger for the first few months of baby-led weaning. As baby’s pincer grip (the ability to pick up smaller items between their thumb and pointer finger). develops, you’l be able to serve food in smaller chunks.

How to Cut Food for Baby-Led Weaning 

The way food is cut for baby-led weaning depends on the age and development of your baby. Every baby develops at a slightly different pace. These age ranges are just an estimate. If you have concerns about your baby’s development, speak to your health care provider.

How to Cut Food for Baby-Led Weaning: Six Month Old Babies

At six months, as your baby begins baby-led weaning, he or she has a palmer grasp. This means she can use her first to hold things, but can’t necessarily let go of the object she is holding. 

The palmer grasp is perfect for baby led weaning. At this age, babies are equipped to hold long sticks of food (about the length and size of your finger).

This way, baby can pick up their food, grasp it in their hand, and take a little taste from the end.  Because at this stage babies aren’t able to let go of what they’re holding, you won’t have to worry about baby getting too much in their mouth.

Here are some examples of how to cut food for babies at six months:

Baby-led weaning how to cut cauliflower

Cut cauliflower normally, but be sure it is cooked well.

Baby-led weaning how to cut steak

Cut steak into long strips. You can also buy stir fry strips that are pre-cut. Sucking the iron-rich juice out of the meat is more important that eating the meat at this point.

Baby-led weaning how to cut sweet potatoes and carrots

Cut sweet potatoes and carrots into finger-like sticks. Ensure they are cooked well.

Baby-led weaning how to cut strawberries

Cut strawberries into slices. Larger strawberries will be easier to cut at first.

Although you may want to introduce foods individually, to watch for allergies, you can begin serving multiple foods at mealtimes as soon as you’d like. Remember introducing more than one food at a time will not prevent an allergy. However, introducing one food at a time does make it easier to identify if an allergy is present. 

For my children, I didn’t stress about introducing most fruits and veggies, but introduced one common allergen (eggs, peanut butter, shellfish, etc.) a week.

How to Cut Food for Baby-Led Weaning: Seven to Eight Month Old Babies

As your baby develops, they will be able to let go of their food.They can take handfuls of food and manipulate the food into their mouth.

At this age, babies can start eating some mashed foods, like potatoes and squash. Pasta and rice are some other good options now.

Here are some examples of food cut for a seven to eight month old baby:

***I love these siliplates from Kushies. So very cute and functional!!***

BLW Weaning food for 7-8 month olds

cucumbers, kiwi and whole grain bread with hummus

BLW Weaning food for 7-8 month olds

chicken, strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli

How to Cut Food for Baby-Led Weaning: Eight to Ten Month Old Babies

Between eight to ten months, your baby will begin to develop pincer grip (i.e. they will be able to pick up smaller items between their thumb and pointer finger).

Developing pincer grip is a great step for babies and opens up the door to many more foods. Blueberries and cheerios are smaller foods that are very popular options for this age.

At this point, you can also begin cutting other foods into small pieces, because babies can pick them up with ease. Meat is one example of a food that can be cut. 

Here are some examples of BLW food for 8-10 month olds:

BLW food for eight to ten month old

macaroni with diced tomatoes, peas, steak strips and carrots

BLW food for eight to ten month old

strawberries, diced chicken, blueberries and toast strips

How to Cut Food for Baby-Led Weaning: Ten Months+

Baby has probably developed their pincer grip quite nicely. You don’t need to keep serving food in long strips anymore. You can cut their food into smaller pieces and be confident that baby will be able to pick them up.

Now is also the time to introduce cutlery! Although your baby may not manage a spoon or fork well, they will be anxious to give it a try, after watching you use your cutlery for months. These starter-spoons are an absolute must-have to make it easier for babies to begin to manipulate a spoon (you can see more of my BLW must-haves here). 

 

How Do You Baby-Led Wean If Your Baby Has No Teeth?

Lots of parents wonder how their baby can possibly eat without teeth. Actually, babies have been eating without teeth for millenia. If you stop and think about it, babies managed food long before we had modern blenders or baby food sold at grocery stores. 

If your baby doesn’t have teeth, it won’t stop them from baby-led weaning. Ensuring you provide soft, well cooked foods will help baby be able to eat without choking. Babies’ gums are very strong and can mush food up quite well!

The Baby Led Weaning Book

If you’re looking for more information on baby-led weaning, I highly recommend Baby-Led Weaning by Gillian Rapely. It is THE original baby-led weaning resource and is full of essential information. It walks you through baby-led weaning and gives you all the background information you need to feel totally confident about your decision to baby-led wean. 

There is also a Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook, which is full of easy, healthy recipes for baby-led weaning (and they’re also great for the whole family!)

 

Well moms, if you’ve been wondering how to cut food for baby-led weaning, I hope you’ve had your questions answered. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

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