Baby-led weaning: Do babies need special food?

Tired of cooking separate meals for each member of your family? Baby-led weaning could help you cater for the whole family, including your baby, in one meal. 

If you’re frantically stacking your freezer with tubs of homemade vegie puree or spending a fortune on pouches of baby food, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s another way. 

Baby-led weaning

In fact, it can be lot easier than you think to prepare a single meal that the whole family can enjoy. From the age of around six months, babies and toddlers can eat healthy wholefoods like fruit, vegies, chicken, fish, meat, rice and pasta with the rest of the family.
 
You can dish up mashed or pureed foods for the youngest members of your family, or you can try giving your baby finger foods. 

This feeding method, which we now call baby-led weaning, involves skipping spoon-feeding and offering your baby whole pieces of cooked food to eat with their hands. This can encourage infants to become comfortable with a range of food textures, and it may help discourage fussy eating as well. 

Your baby might enjoy chewing a broccoli floret or a small piece of sweet potato or pumpkin, or even sucking on a piece of meat. Remember that you must always supervise your baby when they’re eating. 

Foods to introduce with care

There are a few foods you need to introduce to your baby’s diet or prepare with care:
 
  • whole nuts, seeds, and other hard foods e.g. raw carrot 
  • eggs
  • shellfish
  • citrus fruits
  • milk.
 
It’s important to read up on these foods before introducing them as some are not suitable for babies under 12 months of age. If you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s specific needs, talk to your maternal and child health nurse, a dietitian or your doctor.
 
Avoid salt and sugar whenever possible and babies younger than 12 months should not eat honey because it can contain a bacterium that their gut isn’t ready to fight off. 
 
Nutritionist Rosalyn D’Angelo shares a simple, healthy pasta recipe that your baby will love as much as you do. 
 

Rosalyn’s Roast Cherry Tomato Pasta

Serves 4
 
INGREDIENTS: 

2 skinless chicken breasts
2 bay leaves
1 small head broccoli, chopped into florets
Large handful of green beans, sliced
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 punnet cherry tomatoes (any colour)
10 button mushrooms, quartered
1 yellow capsicum, thinly sliced
1 packet dried pasta
Grated parmesan cheese, to serve (only for infants 8 months and over)
 
METHOD: 
 
1.  Poach chicken breasts: Put chicken and bay leaves in a saucepan; cover with cold water. (You need about 500ml water per chicken breast.) Bring water to the boil, put lid on saucepan and remove from heat. Leave chicken to rest and cool in water for 45 minutes. Shred chicken.
 
2.  Steam broccoli and green beans for 2–3 minutes. 
 
3.  Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and garlic; sauté until brown. Add steamed broccoli and beans to pan with tomatoes, mushrooms and capsicum; heat through.
 
4.  Cook pasta as per packet instructions; drain and return to saucepan. Add vegies and shredded chicken to pan; toss to coat pasta with sauce. Scatter pasta with parmesan (if using) and serve.
 
Feeding babies and toddlers doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Simple, healthy eating is essential for the whole family, and expanding your idea of baby food beyond colourful mush can mean less stress and more time – both of which most parents want and need!
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