Baby-led weaning is an alternative approach to starting solids where babies are offered soft hand-held foods from the beginning rather than just purees. Here are a few ideas for baby-led weaning starter foods if your infant is ready to start solids.
What is baby-led weaning (BLW)?
Baby-led weaning is a novel approach to starting solids where babies skip the purees-only phase and self-feed soft finger foods from the get-go. BLW is based on the premise that allowing babies to explore food and try a variety of textures promotes motor development, food acceptance, and appetite regulation. Studies show that introducing lumpy foods at 6 months can help reduce the likelihood of feeding problems and picky eating later in life .
BLW promotes self-feeding, allowing infants to join you at the dinner table and learn social skills that take place during family meals. Observational research indicates that eating finger foods and promoting eating autonomy is associated with advanced language in children 
Is baby-led weaning safe?
Yes, studies to date suggest that baby-led weaning is safe when properly executed. BLW has not been shown to increase the risk of choking or compromise intake of key nutrients such as iron. However, this is contingent on avoiding foods that pose a choking risk such as whole grapes and tough chunks of meats, and offering a diversity of nutrient-dense foods [3, 4]. Your child’s first BLW foods should be soft, free of added sugar, low in sodium, and easy to grip. In addition, infants should be closely supervised during mealtimes to avoid a choking emergency. (Read more about choking and no-go foods here).
Baby-led weaning starter foods
Babies are small and need small pieces of food, right? No, actually that’s not the case. At 4-6 months most babies haven’t mastered the pincer grasp and don’t have the dexterity to pick up small pieces of food. Instead, new eaters need soft solids appropriate for the palmer grasp. This means serving larger, thicker pieces of food in the shape of a log (roughly two fingers wide).
New to baby-led weaning? Here are some examples of starter foods:
- Cooked broccoli or cauliflower
- Cooked zucchini batons
- Avocado strips
- Banana cut into wedges
- Melon slices
- Soft mango batons
- Soft-cooked pear wedges
- Well-cooked wedges of sweet potato or pumpkin
- Scrambled eggs or a plain omelet cut into strips
- Cooked tofu strips
- De-boned cooked salmon flaked into pieces
- Whole milk plain yogurt
See this article on 150 baby-led weaning first foods for more ideas.
Can you offer purees as part of baby-led weaning?
BLW can include purees either offered as finger foods(!) or on pre-loaded spoons. In the early days of starting solids, your baby will most likely need a bit more guidance, and bringing soft finger foods up to their mouth or giving them a pre-loaded spoon can help them get the hang of eating.
Choking hazards and no-go foods
One of the best things you can do to equip yourself to deal with choking is to take an infant CPR course. With any luck, you will never have to use those skills but understanding what to do in a choking emergency can help bring piece of mind.
In addition, there are a number of things you can do at mealtimes to minimize choking risk:
- Feed your child upright, ideally in a high chair, during mealtimes.
- Supervise your child closely as they eat. Remember, babies aren’t skilled eaters at first, and they’re looking for guidance from you about how to do it.
- Avoid foods that pose a choking risk including :
- Raw veggies such as carrot sticks
- Unripe/ hard raw fruit such as pears and apples
- Whole cherry tomatoes, olives, grapes, and blueberries
- Dried fruit such as dried apricots and prunes
- Whole or chopped nuts
- Tough chunks of meat
- Untoasted white bread
- Baby-led weaning is a novel approach to starting solids where babies skip the purees-only phase and self-feed soft finger foods from the get-go.
- BLW has not been shown to increase the risk of choking or compromise intake of key nutrients such as iron if executed properly.
- Hand-held BLW foods should be soft, easy to grip, low in sodium and free from added sugar.
- Avoid giving your baby foods that are hard or can be swallowed whole such as raw carrot, grapes, and blueberries, to minimize choking risk.
- Northstone K, Emmett P, Nethersole F; ALSPAC Study Team. Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood. The effect of age of introduction to lumpy solids on foods eaten and reported feeding difficulties at 6 and 15 months. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2001 Feb;14(1):43-54. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-277x.2001.00264.x. PMID: 11301932.
- Webber, C., Blissett, J., Addessi, E., Galloway, A. T., Shapiro, L., & Farrow, C. (2021). An infant-led approach to complementary feeding is positively associated with language development. Maternal & child nutrition, 17(4), e13206. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.13206
- Brown A. (2018). No difference in self-reported frequency of choking between infants introduced to solid foods using a baby-led weaning or traditional spoon-feeding approach. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics : the official journal of the British Dietetic Association, 31(4), 496–504. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12528
- Boswell N. (2021). Complementary Feeding Methods-A Review of the Benefits and Risks. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(13), 7165. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18137165