Annabel Karmel's Tips on Baby-Led Weaning
If you’re anything like we were, you want to adopt some of the principles around baby-led weaning but don’t necessarily feel comfortable doing it exclusively.
Annabel’s new cookbook champions a flexible approach to feeding; lots of finger foods and family recipes that can either by fed exclusively, or used alongside spoon-fed weaning.
If you’re thinking of incorporating baby-led weaning into your baby’s routine, Annabel Karmel shares her top tips for getting started:
Traditional first foods such as fresh fruits and sweet root vegetables are still core when entering into baby-led weaning. Start with softer fingers foods - batons, wedges and sticks of banana, avocado, cooked sweet potato and carrot are ideal. Although it’s best to wait until your baby has teeth before you offer harder foods like raw carrot.
Around six months your baby will tend to use her whole hand to pick things up. She will need to be able to close her hand around the food so I would start with pieces that are big enough for your baby to hold in their fist with some sticking out. Fairly long pieces (roughly 5–6cm) stand a better chance of being picked up.
Make sure you let your baby pick up food with her fingers. This is because babies must learn to move foods safely around their mouths by themselves, so resist putting food in her mouth. This way she will only pick up foods they can manage.
As predicted, baby-led weaning can get a little bit messy at times, particularly when first starting out! It’s often easier to forgo bowls or plates altogether and just place the food straight onto her highchair tray or choose a highchair without a tray, bring it up to the table and put the food straight on there.
In preparation for it getting a bit messy, invest in a wipe-clean bib and a splash mat for the floor. Alternatively, shower curtains make for a great option here and can be bought very cheaply.
One of the key selling points of baby-led weaning is that it helps make family mealtimes a real social experience. Finger foods are important, particularly when starting out but you can also serve a portion of a family favourite such as roast chicken, risotto or cottage pie. Just be sure to leave out the salt.
It’s very likely that your baby won’t like all the foods you give her but don’t worry – it’s important that she discovers a variety of foods herself, figuring out different tastes and textures, what she likes and doesn’t like. However, be careful not to put too much food in front of her as it might be a bit overwhelming. A couple of pieces of food or a small portion of a family meal is just right.
It’s important to be aware of the foods which your baby shouldn’t eat under the age of 12 months.
Make sure your baby is ready. These are some of key signs to look out for:
She should be able to sit in a highchair unassisted
She will have lost the tongue-thrust reflex (automatically pushing solids out of her mouth with her tongue)
She will have developed sufficient hand-to-eye coordination to pick up food and put it in her mouth
She is able to chew, even if she has few or no teeth
She is showing signs that she wants to join in family mealtimes
Be careful not to rush your baby or encourage her to eat a set amount or specific food. Baby-led weaning is all about her choosing what, how much, and how quickly to eat.
Annabel Karmel’s new Baby- Led Weaning Recipe Book (out now) gives you the tools and inspiration to incorporate baby-led weaning into your baby’s routine. It can be used on its own for exclusive baby-led weaning or as a companion cookbook to Annabel’s original feeding guide, the New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner, which is filled with her popular puree recipes.