Baby-Led Weaning Menu

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Enough people have asked me for it, so here it finally is! A detailed sample menu on what I usually feed my son with baby-led weaning. Before I start, I need to make several things very clear. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. I am not a pediatrician. And I am not a doctor.  I am a mom sharing what worked for her child. I based my decisions on the advice of my son’s pediatrician, a nutritionist we saw briefly, the book “Baby-Led Weaning”, the book ” My Child Won’t Eat” , advice various moms shared with me during La Leche League meetings, and my own instincts. Please talk to your doctor, do your own research, and listen to your own heart first.

So, say now you decide baby-led weaning is right for your family and your baby is ready to start (see this post on the signs of readiness). Where do you start? I had no idea! So I just started offering Jack foods that made sense to me and eventually figure out what worked for us. As he got bigger, things changed so I just went with his cues. Overall I never made him eat anything he didn’t want to. Likewise, I let him try almost anything he asked for, within reason.

I have divided things up into two menus, one for no-teeth and one for teeth. When Jack was ready for solids, he had no teeth so he didn’t like things that required a lot of hard chewing (and babies can absolutely chew with no teeth, just takes awhile). Once he got teeth, he was happier to have a bigger variety. And as he got older, he also wanted more options. I tried to keep things simple when he was first starting out so he didn’t get overwhelmed.

Both menus are not vegan, since Jack is not all vegan. But you can easily change the menu to any dietary need. Replace milk yogurt with any non-dairy yogurt. Do scrambled tofu instead of eggs. Do more beans and lentils instead of beef or ham. Vegetable soup instead of chicken soup.

image-0001No-Teeth Menu: I offered Jack three meals a day, but it was hit or miss if he would play with the food or eat it for the longest time. Overtime he started to eat more.

Breakfast:

  • Mango Slices: cut them into big wedges and you can even leave some skin on to make them easier to hold. No, they will not eat the skin. And if they try, tell your baby nicely no no no.
  • Avocado Toast: Cut a strip of toast that baby can easily hold.  You can also do just toast or just avocado as well.
  • Oatmeal and Fruit: I’m not talking that gross runny baby cereal. I mean real, stove top old fashioned oats. Add some mashed or puréed fruit instead of sugar. No need for a spoon or bowl either, just place some on tray in front of baby. They will scoop it up and eat what they want.
  • Plums: Soft, easy to chew and tasty. Just cut into smaller pieces.
  • Strawberries: Cut them up or mash them a little.
  • Bananas: Leave the peel on one side so baby can pick it up easier.
  • Scrambled Eggs: Cook them hard and don’t add salt. This is still Jack’s favorite breakfast.
  • Yogurt and fruit: Go for full fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt if you can. Add some fruit for sweetness. Then just place it front of them, let their little fingers scoop and dip to their delight.

Lunch:

  • Cucumber and hummus: Cut the cucumbers into match sticks and remove the seeds. Put some no-salt added hummus on the tray for them to dip. It may take awhile before your baby gets the dipping motion, but no worries. They will probably just eat them separately for awhile.
  • Roasted Veggies: Roast up some fresh seasonal veggies in a bit olive oil and other spices. Get them soft but firm enough to be picked up. Then let our baby gnaw and suck away.
  • Soba Noodles and Bell Pepper Sticks: Cook up some soba noodles or other whole grain pasta, coat lightly with a little sesame oil or coconut oil. Add bell pepper sticks to gnaw on too. Baby can play and slurp up the noodles and feel the contrast with the crunchy peppers. Check out my recipes here.
  • Bone Broth and Rice/Quinoa/Barley: Make your own homemade bone broth and serve it with a tasty whole grain. Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands. Or place some rice soaked in the broth on the try in front of them to pick up.
  • Smashed Sweet Potatoes: Boil or roast some sweet potatoes until they are tender. Then take a fork and lightly smash them. Not mashed into a puree, leave some chunks to grab. Add some butter, oil, or bone broth for flavor, too.
  • Beans: Cook your favorite kind of beans (we like Pinto and Kidney beans in this house). They are perfect size to pick up and and chew with no teeth

I also use some breakfast options for lunch too.

Dinner:

  • Chicken and Brown Rice: Make your favorite chicken recipe for dinner and cut off some small chunks with no skin or bones for baby. And make a flavorful rice dish on the side, or just serve some plain rice.  Just go easy on the salt and hot spices.  Your baby might not be able to chew the chicken all the way at first, but they can suck the juices out of the meat easily.
  • Ham and Green Beans: Make a nice ham steak and some tasty pan-fried green beans (easy on the salt). Just like the chicken, baby can either chew or suck on the meat. And green beans are already the perfect sized stick for baby to pick up!
  • Lentil Soup: I either make classic lentil soup and veggies in a tomato broth, or Indian dhal. Jack loves both! Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands.
  • Beef Stew: I make my a nice pot of beef stew (seitan stew for me) with carrots, potatoes, celery, and peas. Throw it in the slow-cookers in the morning and it’s ready for dinner. The meat is tender enough for baby to chew or suck on. The veggies are soft enough to eat but still be picked up.

I also use some lunch options for diner.

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Teeth Menu: Once Jack got some teeth, I noticed a big difference in what he wanted to eat. He started to eat close to three meals a day and wanted more complex foods. I could also serve foods on plates and bowls without him flipping them over. He also slowly developed more dexterity and could use a spoon or fork. He still liked some of the simper foods from the no-teeth list, too.

Breakfast

  • Nut Butter Toast: My nutritionist said unless you have a family history of nut allergies, then you are okay to give a younger child nuts. That being said, please ask your pediatrician first. I waited until Jack could communicate better  (a few words and signs) to me before I offered any to him. I tried peanut butter, cashew, and almond. He loved them all. I cut the toast into strips like with the avocado toast.
  • Mango and Strawberries: No need to mash up the berries anymore. And I started to cut bigger wedges of mango since he could actually bite into them now.
  • Pancakes and Bacon: I make whole wheat silver dollar pancakes. Sometimes I use fruit puree or jam as syrup. And he loves sharing bacon with daddy. Already comes in a strip form too! At first he just sucked it, now he can eat a whole piece on his own. I buy organic and nitrate-free.
  • Waffles Dippers: Make normal waffles and cut them into strips. Offer some yogurt, jams, or nut butter to dip.
  • Cereal and Milk:  Buy some no-sugar, whole grain organic cereal and non-dairy milk.  At firs they may just scoop the cereal out with their hands, but eventually they will get how to do the spoon.

Lunch:

  • Mac N Cheese with veggies: Make your favorite mac and cheese (try mine), then add some frozen veggies. We like Amy’s Cheddar and Shells with frozen peas and carrots.
  • Fried Rice: Take left over rice, add some veggies and chicken or tofu. Lightly season with soy sauce. For fun, add some pineapple.
  • Fish Cakes: We were on WIC for awhile and got a crazy amount of canned fish each month. So I made from salmon or tuna cakes with grated carrots, panko, and eggs. I popped them in the freezer for an easy lunch whenever we were busy. I made them small so Jack could pick them up easily and bite them.
  • Sandwich: Turkey and Swiss, Ham and cheddar, grill cheese, avocado and tomato, PB&J… you get the idea. I made little fingers sandwiches so he didn’t get overwhelmed. He still usually deconstructs them though, but gets the general idea.
  • Veggies Pancakes: Similar to Fish cakes. I grated up carrots, radishes, parsnips.  I added cornmeal and eggs to make little pancakes. I froze them and used them when we were too busy to cook.
  • Pasta Salad: I like to use spiral pasta since it’s easy for them to grab. Add some black olive slices, cut up artichoke hearts, grated carrots, haled cherry tomatoes, and dress with some olive oil and spices. Easy to make and tasty for everyone.
  • Chicken Nuggets: I buy organic, all white meat nuggets (sometimes I make my own if I have time). I give him either no-sugar added ketchup or hummus to dip them in. Easy and already bite-sized.
  • Hot Dogs and Celery: I get nitrate-free organic hot dogs and cut them into pieces and cut the pieces in half (so they aren’t circular to choke on). I cut the celery into short sticks for him to munch on (great for teething!).
  • String Cheese, Crackers, and Turkey slices: Easy lunch on the go. String cheese is easy to hold and eat. Get some whole-grain, no salt crackers that are easy for baby to pick up. And cut up some turkey or other meat slices.
  • Quesadillas:  Cheese and whole wheat tortilla, and some mild salsa to dip. Cut into wedges to make it easier to pick up.
  • Chicken Soup: Add some bone broth, veggies, and chicken to a pot. Cook until veggies are tender and season lightly. Make some noodles or rice. Either let baby scoop the soup out by hand or try a spoon. Messy but usually a hit with every baby! This is our fall back when Jack is cranky and refuses other foods.
  • Curry Noodles: Check out my recipe. Easy and a great way to introduce spices to your baby.

Dinner:

  • Rice Pilaf, Veggies, and Chicken: A step-up from plain chicken and rice. Make your favorite pilaf recipe, chicken recipe, and roasted veggies. Just go easy on the salt. Cut the chicken into reasonable-sized pieces. If they are going to use a fork, make them smaller. Pick them up, a little bigger.
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs: Get your favorite space pasta, sauce, and meatball recipe. Cut the meatballs into half or quarters. You may want to noodles in half if they long, but usually they figure out how to slurp it up anyways. No fork needed, let them have fun!
  • Tacos: Meat, beans, tortilla, cheese and some mild salsa. At first I made deconstructed ones, now he gets built ones (that he deconstructs on his own). Who doesn’t love tacos?
  • Pizza: We usually have pizza every Friday, so check out one of my recipes here. Mostly homemade, sometimes who buy it. At first I took the toppings off,  pulled the cheese into pieces, and  cut the crust into pieces. Then let Jack pick what he wanted. Now he likes his own small slice to pick up. He likes Hawaiian pizza, but try whatever pizza you like.
  • Lentil Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries: Check out my recipe here. I usually just offer him a mini patty, sugar-free ketchup, and a few fries. Easy to pick up and packed with nutrients.
  • Enchiladas: Make a low-salt version of your favorite recipe. I like either white enchiladas with white beans or smokey red sauce with sweet potatoes. Again messy, but a usually a big hit.
  • Stir Fry with Brown Rice: Clear out all the veggies in your fridge and freezer. Add some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Throw some tofu or chicken in, too. Make some brown rice and enjoy an easy dinner. Just make sure everything is bite-sized and no round so baby can choke.
  • Ravioli: Make your favorite frozen ravioli (or make your own if you can) and your favorite sauce. You may want to cut the noodles in half if they are big, but another easy but big hit dinner.
  • Barley Vegetable Soup: Check out my recipes here. Like I said, soup is usually a big hit and easy to make.
  • Lasagna: Easy to make and very versatile. Meat or all veggies. Cheese or no cheese. Red or white sauce. And fun for baby to take apart and eat.
  • Chili and Corn Bread: Throw beans, spices, tomato paste and water into a slow-cooker in the morning. Make some corn bread in the afternoon. Easy and fun to eat.
  • Tamales: I suck at making tamales (see here), I opt to buy them fresh if I can. But they are small enough to pick up, but big enough to bite into easily. And a variety of filings for a fun surprise for baby.

I hope this helps you and your baby on your own baby-led weaning journey! Feel free to comment with your own suggestions as well, I’m always looking for new toddler food ideas!

Here are a few more suggestions as well:

Baby-Led Weaning Essentials

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Jack has been eating solids now for 6 months (and still nursing like crazy too). He is a very adventurous eater, willing to try almost anything. He has clear favorites (cheese, chicken nuggets, blackberries and noodles soup). And clear dislikes (tofu, peaches, oatmeal, and bananas). Well atleast for this week, it changes all the time. For a good month he LOVES oatmeal. Now he gets mad if I even suggest it.

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He wasn’t too into food this day.

Some days he eats me out of house and home. Seriously, one day I had run to the store to by him snacks because he signing “eat” and I had nothing to give him! Some days he only wants breast milk and refuses anything I give him. But, most days he likes one big meal (usually lunch) and just snacks the rest of the day.

Here is a list of items I found crucial for our baby-led weaning success. Nothing too complicated, but the right stuff makes it easier on you and your baby.

Essential Baby-Led  Weaning Products:

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  • Simple High Chair—I can’t stress the simple part enough. You want a very basic high chair that comes apart easily to clean. Your baby is going to make a big mess for awhile and it is a pain to clean one of those big fancy high chairs. We had a second-hand one that was very nice, but it was so hard to keep clean. I felt like I was washing the entire thing 3 times a day and Michael still had to go hose it off outside once a week. Even with it being free, it was not worth the effort. We bought a Summer Infant Deluxe Comfort Booster for Thanksgiving at a relative’s house and instantly saw how much easier it was to use. No crevasses for food to hide and no fabric to get dirty. Just wash the tray in the sink and give the rest a quick wipe down after each meal. And I stick it in the shower once a week for a deeper clean. Plus it’s portable, and can sit on the floor if you want to have a living room picnic. Don’t waste your money (or effort) on a big high chair.

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  • Silicon Mat—Most restaurants have a high chair you can use (note it’s a simple one, they know cleaning a big one is not worth it!), but your baby needs something to eat on. A plate is too distracting for most babies for quite awhile. Jack is 11-months and still gets overwhelmed with a plate and plays with it instead of eating. And who knows how clean that table actually is or if your baby are going to make a giant mess. Get a reusable, washable silicon mat they can eat off of safely and safe you the hassle of clean-up.  I got a Kiddopotamus Tinydiner Placemat and it works great. I leave it in the diaper bag rolled up, stick it to the table when we go out. Jack can focus on his food and I don’t have to clean up a giant table mess afterwards. I just wipe it off at the restaurant, and wash it when I get home.

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  • Good Spoons—I bought this little dinky colorful spoon thinking Jack will only take little bites and smaller will help him until he gets more dexterity. Wrong. They are too small for him to scoop up anything, and not long enough for him to turn around to get into his mouth. It didn’t take too long for me to realize he hated them. He would try,  then struggle too much, and throw it. Then reach for my spoon or fork. When I did give him mine, he did pretty well with it. Then we bought him these bigger and wider Borja spoons from Ikea and it was a whole new ball game. He can actually use utensils now and even asks for them. He’s bad at it still, but it’s a big improvement. Bigger is better in this case, for sure.

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  • Reusable Pouches-— The few times I tried to feed Jack purees, he was not having it. He is totally cool with me handing him pre-loaded spoons of soup, stew, oatmeal, rice & etc. But once and awhile I want him to have a few more fruits and veggies, so I tried purees. He would smack the spoon away from me. I don’t know if it the texture or what, but he refuses. I’ve tried a several flavor combinations, no-go each time. But one day when I was in line at Starbucks, he pointed a squeeze pouch and signed “give me”. So I bought him it, beet and berry flavor. He INHALED it. Light bulb! So I ordered some Squooshi pouches off Amazon because they had good reviews. They are a HUGE hit. He will inhale anything I put in them. He especially loves greek yogurt and pineapple puree. They are easy to fill, easy to wash (right in the dishwasher) and a great price. Right now Jack is sick with a sore throat and only wants soft food, so he’s loving his Squooshis. When he wants one he points at the drawer where I keep them!
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“All done already?”

Otherwise all you need is good food, some patience,and camera to capture all those cute messy faces! I hope these suggestions help your baby on their weaning journey. Comment with your own too!

Dealing With Sleep Regression (AGAIN!)

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I knew it was probably coming. I knew it would be worse. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. But I just refused to believe it was happening—-again! We were hit with the 9 month sleep regression and hit hard.

The 4-month sleep regression felt like nothing but a distant painful memory. Jack went back to starting the night sleeping on his own and joining us to co-sleep later on. He would sleep 4 hours or so, then a bit of milk and go back down easily for 3 hours. Then more milk and 3 to 4 more hours. He would wake up in my arms all happy and ready to start the day! Not sleeping through the night, but there were no battles. He napped just fine during the day, even alone in his crib sometimes (but mostly on the couch with me. Totally doable. Two glorious months of reasonable sleep. Six to eight months seemed so easy.

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He fought his nap SO hard, you’d thought I was torturing him!

Then around 9 months it began to unravel, again. Just like with the first regression naps went first.  He began to fight them and only sleep for 45 minutes at a time. I knew this was the first sign of a regression, but tried to ignore it. He cut his first tooth about this time so I just blamed it on teething.

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I instagramed this one night, so frustrated. This was the only way he would stay sleep!

Then it began to cascade out of control. He would wake up after 30 minutes of being set down in the crib. Then take hours to get back down. Then wake up every 2-hours on the dot screaming for milk.  Then he wanted nothing to do with the crib. He would popped right up—even from a dead sleep— and scream the minute we set him down. I accepted it was another regression and did what we did last time—just push through and change nothing. We put up with this for 2 weeks. That’s 14 days of no one in the house sleeping well. Everyone was cranky and tired all the time. I felt like a bad mom because I was too exhausted to do much. Some days all we did was lay around in our PJs. I realized ignoring it was not working and looked for another method.

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I read it while he slept on me napping for the next two days.

I researched and asked around. I found the standard answers of cry-it-out and he needs to be night weaned. I knew both were not for us at all. Also several books to read, but none of them were anything new to me. Then during a La Leche League meeting, someone suggested The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I had never heard of it, but everyone who tried it said to helped them a lot. I borrowed the book from the lending library and started reading right away. I finished the book in two days and it instantly clicked.

This method takes time, understanding, and a lot of patience. First you need to understand why this is happening. Jack went through a big physical growth spurt and mental leap during this time. He got teeth (which hurts on its own) so he can eat all this new yummy foods. He learned to crawl, cruise and stand back to back. He said his first words and understands basic commands now. He’s more observant and is learning new things every day. That’s a lot for a tiny, no wonder he’s having a hard time shutting of his brain to sleep!

Jack's sleep log.
Jack’s sleep log.

So, The No-Cry Sleep Solution consists of logging your baby’s sleep patterns for 10 days, analyze them, and making some suggested changes to the sleep routine. Then you start over for another 10 days. And repeat until you get a routine that works for your baby. When I first saw that you need to log for 10 day I want to cry. It would take forever to get some sleep! But I figured what do I have to lose? So I started it.

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The minute I sat down on the couch to relax….

The first 10-day log confirmed everything I knew already. Jack was waking up shortly after being set down, his longest stretch was two hours and he was taking a long time to fall asleep. I did some suggestions from the book and did another 10-day log. We moved bedtime up to 8 PM, which means we started our routine between 7:00 to 7:30. We kept everything calm and stress-free. If he was too cranky, we skipped steps and got him to bed quickly. I added a lotion massage before pajamas. And we tried storytime and nursing to sleep in his room, so he didn’t get distract by the TV.

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But moma, your arms are so much more comfy. I don’t care that it’ 11 and you’re tired!

After another 10-days, things got a little better. It was taking less time for him to fall asleep and he was sleeping for longer stretches. But he was still waking up as soon as we set him down. Then it would takes over an hour to get him to stay down in the crib. And usually we gave up and brought him to the bed (because it took so long it was our bedtime). It was frustrating because we had no time to just relax at night.  We changed a few more things and tried again. We added lullaby music to act as white noise and turned the space heater on in his room to keep it warm enough.

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So peaceful.

Five days later and I noticed a clear pattern that was making his naps better. He stayed asleep and slept better when if he napped in our bed (like I when I was exhausted and took a nap too). And he napped better when the white noise I had on was a TV or Netflix. It became clear to me what Jack needed to fall asleep. He didn’t want to be alone! He wanted to feel, hear, and smell that mommy and daddy were nearby. Its a survival instinct, safety in numbers. Not a bad habit or something I need to let him cry to get over. Just normal human behavior.

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Finally can snuggle with my husband on the couch at night!

I talked to Michael about letting him co-sleep all the time. Michael agreed if it meant we all got more sleep. So, for the rest of the 5 days in the log we put him down in our bed and skipped the crib. Big improvement right away. I also started leaving the tablet playing Netflix on in the background when I wasn’t in the room so it didn’t sound like he was alone. Now I can actually spend a little time with my husband at night and baby gets sleep.

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“I’m ready for bed mom!”

While we finally found a new routine that works for  Jack’s new active brain, it’s not still not perfect. And I don’t expect it to be at this age. He still wakes about 2 times a night to nurse. But he goes back down easily and is sleeping longer. And yes, we still have bad nights. Like growth spurts and teething. He will wake up every hour crying and demanding milk. But it’s not every night anymore and I can handle it better now. The past three nights he’s been cutting a tooth (I swear he is the slowest teether ever) and it’s been rough. I’m very tired, but I know it will pass. Last week he actually slept through the night a few times. I wish I had read this book when he was born, I would have done this gentle and helpful method from the start. I really suggest this book if you are struggling with your baby sleeping too.