Baby’s First Meals
Starting out with baby led weaning is a little overwhelming, as is any milestone with your baby! I’ve covered this topic twice (here and here), but I get asked all the time (on Instagram) about the first meal, or the first week of meals. So I want to focus in and give a long, thorough response to these questions:
- What should I give my baby for his first meal? (What did/would you give?)
- What foods should I give in the first week?
- What foods should I avoid or be careful about?
- How do I cut the food for my baby?
- Help! I’m so scared of choking! How can I get over that fear?
What should I give my baby for his first meal?
That’s entirely up to you. That said, for our first meal, we had avocado. And the second and third meals were avocado and banana. Not very exciting. (At that point, I didn’t know my way around the kitchen at all, so I stuck with foods that needed very little preparation.)
When we have another child at some point, I’ll have to do this first meal over again. And I will not stick to avocado! Assuming that the next child doesn’t have any developmental concerns, we will have our first meal the weekend following his or her half birthday (the weekend so that my husband will be around, and we can experience it together).
I think it’s good to stick to fairly soft foods though not necessarily mushy. I won’t give anything that is dry because that would require the addition of a drink, and that’s too much for one meal. So a moist, soft, room temperature meal. It will be a variation of what we are having for dinner. It will not be a single type of food.
Since I’m asked this question quite a lot, I’ve thought about my answer a lot! “What will I do with the next baby?”
And here are some of the foods I’ve landed on (I won’t serve them all in the first meal, but I’ll pick 2-3 of these):
- sweet potato fries
- avocado with the skin on (I still do love avocado for a first food)
- banana with the peel on
- plain chicken strip (or large piece of a whole chicken, as long as it isn’t dried out)
- sautéd broccoli
I’ve considered what I will do differently. One major thing is vegetables. While Alexander does get a variety of vegetables every day, he doesn’t always eat them. He will, however, always eat fruit. I think that is because of my lack of cooking confidence at the beginning; I offered fruits and grains a lot because they were easy, and I tended to overcook (burn) or undercook vegetables. I didn’t cook vegetables much! My husband did “that sort of cooking”, at night and on the weekends. So with the next baby, I plan to offer more vegetables from day one. (Note: Avocado is sadly not a vegetable.)
What foods should I give in the first week?
Lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as some healthy fats. Of course, don’t expect your baby to actually eat anything in the first week. Some babies will eat right out of the gate, but many will take a while (Alexander took 3 months before eating anything, though we tried at least once per day, usually twice). The key is just keep trying a variety of foods. Don’t be afraid of new fruits and vegetables! Pick up things you’ve not tried or seen before. And find a recipe online to try. Have fun with it!
For the first week, you don’t want to go too crazy. For example, you don’t want to offer all of the potential allergens at once (that’s the next section). I will offer foods that have eggs (like these apple cinnamon muffins) eventually but not in the first week. Once I see that the new baby doesn’t have an issue with the egg in the muffin, I’ll try cooked eggs. That will be later than the first week.
You want the fruits and vegetables to be fairly soft. Some things don’t need to be cooked (bananas, avocados, ripe peaches, berries) while many do. You can find a method you like (steaming, boiling, roasting, sautéing) and use that for your veggies. I love to sauté nearly everything. You want them to be fork-tender since your baby likely doesn’t have teeth.
They may use their cute little gums to “bite” off a chunk of something. That’s a possibility and it’s good to know the difference between gagging and choking, in case it does happen. Check that link I shared at the top or check out the last section of this post.
What foods should I avoid or be careful about?
Let me get straight to the point!
You want to avoid choking hazards. The list below is the current information that I have. If I’m missing one, please let me know and let me know a credible source. I find this information from the AAP, WHO, NIH, and similar organizations found in Europe.
- chunks of raw fruits and vegetables (unless they are naturally soft, like the few I listed above)
- chunks of meat (strips are okay, as far as I’ve seen)
- whole nuts
- whole grapes, cherry tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts (they are okay if cut in half lengthwise)
- hot dogs and sausages (they are okay if cut in half lengthwise)
- chunks of cheese (also string cheese)
- tortilla and other hard chips
- big scoops of super sticky foods, like peanut butter (a small amount is okay, but a big bite can be too sticky!)
NOTE: Corn kernels, raisins, and pomegranate seeds are NOT choking hazards. (Many folks have mentioned it to me, so I’ll mention it here: though raisins aren’t a choking hazard, kids can shove them in their ears and noses! So just watch for that!) And blueberries are fine as they are, though many folks like to cut them in half or squish them first.
For most of those choking hazards, I’ve seen that they carry on to around age 3. So just because your baby has teeth or seems okay handling something, I would not recommend it until he or she is older (you can consult your child’s doctor to be sure, since I’m sure it varies from child to child).
Also, in case you forgot, I’m not a doctor! So if you’re not sure, please please get a second opinion.
In addition to choking hazards, there are the potential allergens:
- eggs (generally it’s the white that is the bad guy)
- tree nuts
It’s possible to be allergic to anything! It’s possible your baby is allergic to kiwi, or asparagus, or really anything. But the ones above are some of the most common ones.
“A family history” of a particular allergy means the child’s parents or siblings have the allergy. (Some of them are more serious, and there are other reasons to be cautious, like eczema and hives. See my other posts for more details!) It’s possible for a child to develop an allergy even with no family history. Having a family history of the allergy just means that the child is more likely to have the same allergy. It’s also possible for a child to have no allergies even with a family history. It goes both ways here.
The list of allergens is something to keep in your pocket, if you know what I mean. If you’re just starting out with solids, you don’t want to offer a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich with eggs on the side! You don’t have to avoid them completely. In fact, it’s been concluded that offering allergens earlier is better than waiting. You just don’t want to give too many of them at once.
My suggestion is to give an allergen with a few things that your baby has already handled well. For example, give avocado, toast, and eggs (if baby has been fine with avocado and toast). And hold off on the eggs for 2-3 days to see if there’s any reaction. In the meantime, you don’t have to stick to bland foods. Just don’t offer any other allergens, in case there is a reaction to one of them.
This is not the same as the “wait 3 days rule” << that one is pretty outdated. It says that you should offer just one food at a time for 3 days before trying any other foods. If you choose to go that route, that’s perfectly fine. But it’s not necessary.
How do I cut the food for my baby?
Though it’s counterintuitive, the bigger the better. At 6 months, your baby can only grab foods with a full fist. So if a food is cut too small, the food will disappear in his fist. So you want to cut the food with that in mind: picture your little one’s hand. And make sure the food is longer than his hand is across. Does that make sense?
That’s why we suggest cutting food into fry shapes (or larger). A banana is great because it’s got a natural handle. But let’s say you want to give corn. Corn on its own is just too small for a 6 month old. She wouldn’t be able to pick it up and would get very frustrated. But corn on the cob is great. She can hold the cob with both hands and just suck and gnaw on the corn kernels.
Say you’re having something like lasagna. Personally, I would plop a slice of it onto my baby’s tray and let him just dig in. The same goes for a hamburger patty, or a pork chop, or spaghetti and meatballs. Most of the time, you won’t need to cut much at all; the pieces will be large enough for your baby to pick up and manage. (If you’re not sure, feel free to email me ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Help! I’m so scared of choking! How can I get over that fear?
We have all been there! I’ve been through the early stages once, and I suspect I’ll be nervous again when a second baby arrives and starts the solids process. But it’s important to remember that choking and gagging can happen no matter how old the baby/person and no matter how you wean.
The important thing is to be prepared. If you haven’t yet, you should look into an infant CPR course in town. You may be able to find helpful videos online, but a hands-on experience is always going to be better. Avoid the choking hazards completely. As long as you are armed with the knowledge of how to intervene when necessary, your mind should slowly start to calm down.
The biggest thing to know, regarding gagging and choking: gagging has sound and choking is silent. When your baby gags (and it’s likely to happen), there will be suction sounds and a little coughing. And though it seems to last forever, it is a few seconds, and your baby will generally cough up the piece of food causing the trouble. It’s important that you don’t intervene! Many times, intervention can make it worse! Most babies (from my experience and the many many many testimonials I’ve received!) are perfectly fine afterwards. Of course, if your baby is distressed, there’s no need to continue the meal. He’ll forget about it by the next meal, and you can just offer food again then.
Choking is silent. Choking means that there’s something blocking the airway. And your baby will likely need some intervention. There are a few ways to do that, and I don’t want this to be a substitute for infant CPR training. But you’ll lean baby forward and smack his back. And you may scoop your finger into his mouth to retrieve the food. If you don’t see the food, do not stick your finger in your baby’s mouth. It’s only if the food is visible, and you can get a hooked finger behind it.
Pleeease please don’t take this as your only “training”. It’s most certainly a LITE version, and there is a ton of information that’s good for you to know. Find a course! Find a video online! Find someone who knows about it. And prepare yourself. That’s the best way to get past the fear of choking.
The other way to get past the fear of choking is time. Eventually, you will see that your baby is doing great with the food, and choking starts to be only in the back of your mind, a tiny little whisper. Now, my son is nearly 2 years old. He gags once a month or so, and I don’t get knots in my stomach anymore. I don’t panic. My heart doesn’t stop. I can trust that he knows what he is doing. I can also trust myself that, if it takes a turn and he starts choking, I’ll know just how to help.
Good luck, mamas!
If you’ve got questions, feel free to reach out.
Also, if I’ve left out something important (choking hazards, allergens, gagging vs. choking), of course fill me in so that I can make this post better.
Thanks for reading! Happy weaning,