Today I’m talking about one of my favorite topics: feeding my babies! While I love to cook for adults, there’s something truly special about being part of your little ones’ first bites and food experiences. In partnership with Simply Organic, I’m sharing more about Baby Led Weaning and how to use spices and seasonings to offer your whole family great tasting food.
Baby Led Weaning Basics and Cooking Tips
In just two short months, I will be beginning the journey of solid food introduction with Roma, my 4 month old baby girl. Since I did baby led weaning (BLW) with Luca, my 2 year old son, I will be doing the same with Roma. I couldn’t be more excited – not only to see how Roma reacts to those first nibbles, but to experience BLW now that I’ve been through it once before and have more tools in my toolkit.
In the spirit of the back-to-school season, I’m sharing my top tips for baby led weaning, my favorite meals, and, in partnership with Simply Organic, I’ll be sharing my favorite ways to infuse approachable flavors into foods to please both adults’ and babies’ palates while neither overwhelming baby or underwhelming the adults.
Baby Led Weaning Basics
But first, let’s talk about baby led weaning basics. What is it? Baby led weaning (BLW) is a way to introduce foods by skipping purees and instead, offering solid foods that are cut and cooked appropriately for baby. Most importantly, BLW encourages self feeding, so you’ll never put food into the baby’s mouth, the baby will choose what he/she wants to eat and how much of it. There is NO spoon feeding in baby led weaning. You simply present the food in developmentally appropriate ways for baby to self feed. For example, you’d give oatmeal on a preloaded spoon or a kidney bean on a preloaded fork. You’d cut pancakes into long strips so that baby could grasp with their whole hand.
BLW was single-handedly the best parenting decision I’ve made to date, because it not only has made our solid feeding journey more fun, it’s made it less stressful. The other foundational idea is this: what Mom or Dad eats, baby eats. Thus, no short order cooking at dinnertimes (which can be time-consuming and stressful!) Again, meals will have to be presented differently to babies, in order for them to developmentally self-feed. That may mean that you’re having enchiladas for dinner, so you’ll have to separate the enchilada stuffing from the tortilla and serve the guacamole topping on a preloaded spoon. It may take an extra 30 seconds of preparation at dinnertime, but that’s better than preparing an entirely separate meal. No baby cereals or hours of bulk-pureeing vegetables.
There is so much more to learn and understand about Baby Led Weaning (especially proper safety precautions and food preparations), and I highly suggest taking the Feeding Littles online course for Infants and reading more about the philosophy behind this feeding method in the book Born to Eat. Other than that, make dinner and enjoy it alongside your baby, starting at 6 months of age!
Why baby led weaning (for me)
The way you choose to feed your baby is exactly that: YOUR way. Whatever works best for you and your family, is best for your baby. Simple as that.
As for me, here are some of the reasons why I went with BLW:
- Research shows BLW-eaters end up having better table manners – they sit and eat with you, instead of you having to feed them separately and then expect them to wait for you to finish eating.
- Research shows that BLW-eaters are less picky eaters. Now, while Luca loves his grilled cheeses like any other toddler, he also enjoys seasonal squashes like kabocha, veggie-packed muffins, and curry.
- BLW helps develop baby’s motor skills early on.
- BLW is easier for the family – you don’t have to prepare anything “special” (like a puree) for baby – I love to cook, so this was a huge deciding factor for me!
- BLW is restaurant friendly – you can simply offer the baby the food you’re having and they can eat alongside you, instead of having to bring pre-made baby food everywhere you go.
- BLW lets the baby practice intuitive eating – they eat until they’re full (like with breastfeeding – they’ll never overeat.) With spoon feeding, you may want to get that “last spoonful” in or finish a jar of puree, when in reality, your baby is full, they just can’t tell you. Studies even show due to this intuitive eating, babies who are BLW-ed are less likely to be obese!
What really put me over the edge, was the research showing that baby led weaning starts building a healthy relationship between the baby and food at an early age. Instead of “having” to eat a certain food, baby gets to choose what baby likes and eat until they’re full. There’s no games (like a spoon airplane-ing into your mouth) to get you to eat, it’s this: here’s the food, eat what you’d like until you’re full. I LOVED that principle, and it was what finally brought me to the decision to start baby led weaning with Luca and now, continue with my next child, Roma!
Favorite Foods and Flavors
After having been through baby led weaning with Luca, I have a yummy list of his favorite foods and tips for infusing flavor into meals without having to use fancy or expensive ingredients. When I started BLW with Luca, I simply started with 1-2 meals a day and gave him a new food to try. For Luca’s first week of baby led weaning and the foods we started off with, you can read this post.
First off, there are certain spices the basic cook should always have in their pantry, for making basic meals tasty. I love using Simply Organic spices, because they’re packaged minimally for easy identification in my spice drawer and I know their herbs are organic and of premium quality, which always makes me feel better as a mother. I know the Simply Organic brand commits to producing their spices in the best possible way, sustainably and ethically speaking. If you can, spending a little extra on basic pantry items like spices can go a long way. For instance, Simply Organic commits to helping the food insecure through their Simply Organic Giving Fund (which you can read more about here.) Thus, by supporting these brands that have strong values, you’re inherently making a better decision for your family and the world you live in. Here are my go-tos:
- Garlic powder: I use this all the time, but especially when roasting vegetables with olive oil and some salt and pepper. My favorite vegetables to prepare for my family with this seasoning are Brussels Sprouts (with some balsamic vinegar), green beans, white potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, and squash.
- Oregano: I use this when making fresh batches of veggie-packed marinara sauce, add tablespoonfuls to vegetarian or meat chilis, and use it to season roasted vegetables like zucchini.
- Cinnamon: there’s something nostalgically sweet about cinnamon, and every time I roast a vegetable with it, Luca is more likely to try it – the smell alone is inviting! I roast it with carrots and beets in coconut oil, and also with sweet potatoes in olive oil. For any baked goods, like my go-to Spinach Donuts, I love adding a teaspoon in for that extra cozy flavor.
- Red pepper flakes: I’ve been using this (sparingly at first) with Luca since he was 6 months old and now, he doesn’t shy away from spicy flavors. What’s great about red pepper flakes is that you can add more at the end of a meal for the same great kick of heat, for the adults wanting more spice.
- Curry powder: aside from making curries, curry powder is one of my favorite spices to use when roasting vegetables, especially cauliflower and delicata squash.
- Cumin: this spice goes with everything – sprinkle a little into a cheese quesadilla, use in a curry, and season a vegetable for roasting, it’s very versatile.
- Chili powder: this seasoning is necessary for so many dishes, from enchiladas to chili. It’s an easy way to add a hint of spice.
- Paprika: this is my favorite for when I am making at-home fries from sliced sweet potatoes or just want to add a little flavor to a roasted vegetable without overdoing it.
There are many other Simply Organic spices I have in my spice drawer, but if you are looking for a “starter list,” the ones above are my must-haves.
Go-To Meals & Foods
After he was introduced to all these basic foods, we started giving him parts of our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner.) He ate everything we ate! Now that he’s a toddler, he’s a bit pickier, but when he was under 12 months of age, he ate everything and these were his favorites:
- Ground meat with quinoa, broccoli and marinara sauce – this is an easy one to make that’s great as a packable lunch for older kids and adults. With this, the seasonings come through when flavoring the ground meat and making the marinara sauce. Cook ground meat (turkey, chicken, or beef) in olive oil, add finely chopped broccoli, peas or other vegetable, stir in cooked quinoa, fold in marinara sauce and stir well until combined.
- Garlic and spinach quesadilla – Luca loves chicken quesadillas on the weekends, so I try to switch things up by making these spinach-packed quesadillas during the week. Wilt spinach and chop it finely. Season lightly with garlic powder. Place a tortilla in a skillet, top with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle on chopped spinach, top with more cheese, and cover with another tortilla. Cook, flip, cook, and enjoy.
- Blender Muffins – these are potentially my most popular recipe on my entire website! They use ground cinnamon, oats, eggs, flaxseed, and a vegetable (beets, spinach, butternut squash, carrot, etc) to form perfectly fluffy and flavorful muffins that are portable.
- Chicken sausage and broccoli pasta – one of our household favorites, this easy pasta dish is packed with flavor, thanks to red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic powder. You can grab the exact recipe here.
- Cheesy taco pasta – turn tacos into pasta with this dish, making a spice blend from scratch, using cayenne, chili powder, paprika, oregano, onion powder, and garlic powder. What I love about this dish is that you can double the spice blend and have it on hand for other taco-themed dishes. Find the exact recipe here.
I hope you found this post helpful and that it helps you with your baby led weaning journey! Spices and herbs are an integral part of making whole ingredients taste exciting and delicious, and is an easy way to open up your baby’s palate to new flavors like curry, whether it’s a full-blown curry dish or a curry-roasted carrot. No matter what route you choose for your baby’s introduction to solid foods, have fun!
Note: This post was sponsored by Simply Organic, although all opinions are my own, always.