Can You Do Baby-Led Weaning Without Teeth?

In many cases you can do baby-led weaning if your child doesn’t have teeth. However, there are a couple of milestones that your baby should surpass before you start offering them soft, handheld foods.

Being a parent of a 4-6 month old is an exciting time for a variety of reasons. Each day your child becomes a little more interactive, mobile (!), and interested in the world. Moreover, this is usually the time when you can start serving-up first foods.

One of the most common questions I get from parents about starting solids is: ‘Can I do baby-led weaning if my child doesn’t have teeth’? The answer is yes for many kids however, there a few things they need to accomplish first.

Signs of readiness to start solids/ baby-led weaning

Teeth are not required to start baby-led weaning (those little gums are hard) but your baby should have reached the following milestones before offering soft solids:

  • Can hold up their head and sit in a high chair
  • Open their mouth when food comes their way
  • Can move food from spoon to throat
  • Weigh least 2x their birthweight
  • No longer exhibit the tongue thrust reflex (automatically pushing food out with tongue)

Note that babies should not start soft solids before 4 months, even if they have all the signs of readiness down pat. Research suggests that starting solids before 4 months may increase risk of overweight/ obesity later in childhood [1].

Furthermore, babies born prematurely or who have medical conditions such as cleft palate may need a little more time before they start solids and you should consult your pediatrician before offering food.

Baby-led weaning first foods for kids without teeth

Teeth or not, baby-led weaning first foods should be extra soft, and free of added salt and sugar. In addition, they should be easy to grip with the palmar grasp. A good rule of thumb is to cut food into strips roughly two fingers wide.

Examples of baby-led weaning first foods include:

  • Soft-cooked cooked broccoli or cauliflower
  • Soft-cook cooked zucchini batons
  • Avocado strips
  • Banana spears
  • 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

Baby-led weaning and choking

Baby-led weaning has not been shown to increase choking risk providing that you serve food and textures appropriate for your child’s developmental phase [2]. That means avoiding foods that are hard, easily swallowed whole, or difficult to chew such as:

  • 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
  • Popcorn
  • Whole or chopped nuts
  • Seeds
  • Tough chunks of meat
  • Untoasted white bread

Key takeaways

  • Babies without teeth can do baby-led weaning provided that they meet key milestones for starting solids.
  • Baby-led weaning first foods should be extra soft, easy to grip, and free from added salt and sugar.
  • Foods that are hard, easily swallowed whole, or difficult to chew pose a choking risk. These foods should be avoided until your child is much older.

Ready to start baby-led weaning? Get the complete guide to baby-led weaning including 60+ pages of handouts, printables, recipe ideas and more HERE.


[1] Wang, J., Wu, Y., Xiong, G., Chao, T., Jin, Q., Liu, R., Hao, L., Wei, S., Yang, N., & Yang, X. (2016). Introduction of complementary feeding before 4months of age increases the risk of childhood overweight or obesity: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.)36(8), 759–770.

[2] Fangupo, L. J., Heath, A. M., Williams, S. M., Erickson Williams, L. W., Morison, B. J., Fleming, E. A., Taylor, B. J., Wheeler, B. J., & Taylor, R. W. (2016). A Baby-Led Approach to Eating Solids and Risk of Choking. Pediatrics138(4), e20160772.

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