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The Best Lunch Ideas for Baby Led Weaning at Daycare

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Our youngest baby is about to start solid foods at daycare, so a post on the best lunch ideas for baby led weaning at daycare couldn’t be more timely!

Baby-led weaning can be an overwhelming idea for both parents and daycare providers, however, if you’ve decided to do baby led weaning at daycare, you’ve probably already come to terms with the risks and benefits of starting baby on solids right away.

Before starting baby led weaning at your daycare center, it’s a good idea to touch base with your pediatrician and daycare provider and see how they feel about the idea of BLW.

Some providers are very receptive of this idea, while others are more hesitant since they’re used to only feeding baby purees or traditional baby food.

happy baby led weaning baby at daycare eating his lunch

Benefits of Baby Led Weaning

Some of the greatest benefits of baby led weaning include:

  • Fine motor skills – enhanced pincer grasp
  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Give real, healthy foods
  • Social time
  • Baby controls what and how much they eat

Is My Baby Ready for Baby Led Weaning at Daycare

You also need to make sure your baby is ready for baby led weaning.

Here’s a few key points to know if you’re ready to start baby led weaning at daycare:

  • Baby is at least 6 months of age
  • Baby can grasp food
  • Baby has an interest in food
  • Baby can sit up without support
  • I highly recommend that all new foods be tried at home first*

Sending Baby Led Weaning Meals To Daycare

Some daycares may prep and provide breakfast and lunch to your baby, but others may request that if you’re doing baby led weaning, that YOU prep all meals and send them along with your baby.

Here’s a few of the best tips for preparing baby’s first foods to send to daycare:

  • Pack your baby’s food like a lunch (this means you’ll need a lunch box and ice pack – a bento box with a built in ice pack works great)
  • You don’t need to send a variety of foods when you start – remember before becoming 1 year olds babies MAIN source of food is breast milk or formula.
  • Look at what you’re sending. Is it room temperature? Are there cold items? Don’t forget an ice pack if needed.
  • Do you want the leftovers returned to you? Let your provider know your preferences.
  • Don’t forget your goal: finger foods are a must for baby led weaning, so don’t get too excited about sending a packed lunch that you forget the goal – for baby to feed herself
  • You’re feeding a baby who’s just learning to experiment with foods – small portions are a great place to start with your child’s food
  • Plan each daycare lunch idea at the start of the week. You may be able to prep the main dish ahead of time
  • Start slow and try not to stress. Try to start with one meal a day and work your way up to sending a delicious breakfast and food for snack time. It also doesn’t always have to be “perfect foods”. Baby’s crucial nutrients are still coming from formula and breast milk.

What About Choking?

When your child first starts eating solid foods, it’s natural for parents to worry about baby choking.

After all, your baby’s safety is one of the most important things.

Surprisingly enough, a study was completed that shows that “baby’s following a baby-led approach to feeding do not appear more likely to choke than infants following more traditional feeding practices”.

However, one caveat to this is that parents need to be sure they’re not providing their baby with foods that pose a choking risk.

American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the focus be on “adult supervision and what foods are inappropriate for infants.”

So what’s all this mean for you?

Make sure you know and understand baby led weaning, which foods are safe to serve your baby and how to cut and prepare them, especially before you start sending these foods to daycare.

baby hands grabbing scrambled eggs on a white high chair tray, while self feeding and eating through baby led weaning

Best Baby Led Weaning Daycare Lunch Ideas

Now that you know how pack and send your baby’s food for lunch time, it’s time to look at what to actually pack with these meal ideas.

Ideally, try to incorporate different food groups to give your baby the opportunity to try new things, avoid added sugar, and search for great nutritious foods.

You’ll soon learn your baby’s food preferences, and that they won’t love everything.

Even so, don’t be afraid to try the same food items a few times to continue exposing your child to new foods, tastes, and textures.

Avocados

We love to serve avocados as one of baby’s first foods. It provides great healthy fats for baby and can be cut in strips that are easy for baby to hold.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit is healthy and delicious.

Remember to cut round fruit like grapes (or grape tomatoes) into small pieces so baby does not choke. In this case, bite-sized pieces means quarters rather than just halves.

Using a grape cutter is super helpful and makes prepping baby’s daycare lunch even faster, however, depending on the size of your grapes, you may need to send them through the grape cutter more than once.

Bananas are another great option.

You can start by keeping some of the peel present, to give your baby something to hold onto; OR split it into thirds easily by pressing your finger down the middle of one end (one of my favorite tricks!).

Vegetables

Raw veggies are a no-no when it comes to baby led weaning.

However, a great way to serve fresh veggies is by making steamed veggies like broccoli or cauliflower. These are softer and easier to be gummed and eaten by young babies.

Sweet Potatoes

We love giving sweet potatoes as one of baby’s first foods for baby led weaning.

I find that the best way to serve them is as sweet potato fries. Simply cut them into a fry shape and cook them so they’re soft and easy to hold.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Eggs are fantastic for baby’s nutrition, so adding them into baby’s lunch is a great idea.

The great news is that you can serve eggs in a variety of ways, such as hard boiled egg wedges, an omelet strip, or scrambled.

Cheese

It seems tempting to send cheese sticks as they’re the perfect size to hold, but they pose a high risk for choking.

Instead you can choose to melt cheese over veggies to add flavor and begin to introduce it.

Whole Wheat Tortilla & Peanut Butter

Cut a whole wheat tortilla in strips and consider adding peanut butter or a little hummus to it to try out new flavors and begin to introduce allergens early.

While peanut butter is a great healthy fat to add to your child’s diet, be sure to try this one at home first so you know if your baby has any allergic reactions to the peanut butter.

Whole Grain Crackers

Sending a few whole grain crackers in baby’s lunch is an incredibly easy lunch idea.

Just take a peak to ensure they’re not too high in sodium.

French Toast

Looking for a breakfast idea?

Check out this baby french toast recipe as another great idea for a baby led weaning meal at daycare.

Remember that honey for babies is off limits until age 1, and sugar should be kept to a minimum.

Plain Yogurt

Yogurt can seem tricky for baby led weaning, but just be prepared that baby will get MESSY.

Using a full body bib can help keep baby clean.

Tomato Slices

Tomatoes were my oldest favorite food, and he still loves them.

They’re soft veggies (or are they fruits? 🙃), are easy for baby self-feed, and are juicy – making them a fun twist on traditional veggies.

Pasta

Pasta can be a fun, easy to grab food item for babies. Consider serving pasta with a little bit of olive oil or sauce to make it easier for baby to swallow.

baby led weaning baby or toddler grabbing spaghetti to eat

Healthy Baby Led Weaning Lunch Ideas

Your goal with baby led weaning is to let your baby lead the way.

Ideally this continues wherever you go, including your baby’s childcare center.

Preparing baby led weaning friendly lunches for your child can help ease the childcare providers worry and may help you feel more confident that your baby is getting safely cut and prepared foods.

This list of BLW lunch ideas at daycare is a great starting place for new moms and providers of baby’s on the baby led weaning path.

Has your baby already turned 1? Check out this list of Easy Breakfast Ideas for Toddlers.

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