Sunday, November 3, 2013

Baby-Led-Weaning with Allergies: Ideas for ages 6-8 months

My first baby loved baby food.  It never occurred to me to give him "real" food until he was around a year old and refused to swallow another mouthful of puree.

My second child barely tolerated any mush; she just wanted what was on my plate.  But I was reluctant to just let her dive in because I was afraid that if I did not follow the rule of introducing one new food at a time with a five day wait rule, I would somehow make her allergies worse, or not be able to tell which ingredient she was having an allergic reaction to.  Her whole weaning process was a battle, since she wanted to explore foods way faster than I was willing to let her.

When my third baby reached that magical time around six months of age when she started grabbing for our food and clearly wanted to take part in meal time, I was filled with dread.  Already having two children with established food allergies, I have not had much hope of number three escaping that same fate.  I found myself agonizing, "Is there some way to go about introducing new foods that will help her to have less food allergies?" Some doctors have told me to introduce highly-allergenic foods early on in order to avoid allergies; others say to wait as long as possible. After letting Emie lick a spoonful of seemingly allergen-safe pancake batter and get a rash, I threw my hands up in the air and decided that she will probably have allergies no matter what I do.

I knew I didn't want to make freezer-fulls of baby food this time around or battle with my baby who wants to grab food off my plate. Could I do baby-led weaning with a child with such high food allergy potential?  I decided to go for it: avoid the top allergens--dairy, eggs, wheat, corn, nuts, peanuts, soy--but basically let her eat whatever we are eating rather than feed her mashed banana for a week, then avocado, etc.

We are about six weeks in to our allergy-friendly baby-led weaning adventure, and I wanted to share some things that I have found to be working so far, for other moms who may be facing this same challenge. Of course, I am not an authority on baby nutrition, so my approach is by no means a plan for all to follow, but I hope it will be helpful to those searching for ideas.

Fruits: Emelise has enjoyed sucking on the inside of banana peels, mango skins, and sucking the rest of the avocado off the skin. She has not had much luck holding the actual fruit--they're all too slippery. But at least she is getting a taste for them. She has had some success with holding large pear and apple slices and gnawing them. She loves kiwi and has managed to hold and devour them all on her own.

Yogurt: She has been loving her first tastes of homemade coconut-oat milk yogurt this week. I scoop it for her and then hand her the spoon for self-feeding.

Vegetables: She loves to suck on cooked broccoli trees and sweet potato. Green beans and carrots get sucked on for a few moments and then get thrown on the ground.

Smoothies: I have been making allergy-safe smoothies that Emie likes so much she will let me help her hold the cup:

Pumpkin-Pear Smoothie: Blend about 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, with 1/2 ripe pear, and enough rice, oat, or coconut milk to get it smoothed out.

Baby Green Smoothie: Blend a couple cubes of frozen mango, 1/2 small banana, a handful of fresh spinach, and a generous slice of avocado, along with enough coconut, rice, or oat milk to get it smooth.

Grains: Crunchy rice rolls are a big hit. Much easier to hold and gnaw on than those baby rice cakes sold for $3-$4 a bag. Trader Joe's just discontinued their vegan rice rolls, but I have found some on Amazon.

Baby Biscotti: I adapted this recipe for Banana Coconut Slices, subbing coconut oil and maple syrup, grinding the oats and coconut, and using a rice flour gluten-free blend I found at Costco.  I then sliced some of the bars into biscotti-sized chunks and baked them for 12 minutes on each side in a preheated 375 degree oven. They made great teething biscuits!

Buckwheat-oat pancakes:  Take your favorite vegan pancake recipe and sub the regular flour with 1/2 buckwheat flour and 1/2 oat flour. Crumble into small bits for baby to pick up.

Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Cookies: I saw a recipe for something like this and liked the idea, although the egg whites, flax seed, and white flour were a no-no, so here is my version:

2 1/2 c. cooked quinoa
1/3 c. homemade coconut milk yogurt (You could sub banana, applesauce, or more pumpkin.)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
dash of salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, or plain old cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and form into about 12 little cakes. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15-20 mins. Check them frequently, as you don't want them to get too crispy for baby.

These cookies are crumbly, which Emie liked because she could squish them and pick up tiny pieces to gum on.  If you want them firmer, then experiment around with adding some baby cereal or gluten-free flour. Admittedly, I ate most of these cookies, with Emie just doing small bites. At this stage, it seems that she only needs a few tablespoons of food over the course of the day to supplement her breastmilk feedings.

Oatmeal made from oat-milk pulp: When you make home-made oat milk (I describe the process simply in my yogurt post), the pulp is already processed finely for baby--just be sure to blend it long enough!  I thin it out a bit and add some applesauce, pumpkin, or smooshed banana. I find this to be the best way to make baby oatmeal: it's much cheaper than buying packaged baby food and is just as lump-free.

Protein: Just breastmilk at this stage! We are not doing nuts or soy, of course, and at this point I am still avoiding beans and seeds until between 10 and 12 months, as my other daughter had a reaction to lentils when I gave them to her early on.

I would love to hear your ideas and recipes you have found to work for your baby!

This post is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday.


  1. I need to send you flowers. Do you know how much your blog and recipes have helped us??? :) My older son is allergic to corn, eggs, milk, and soy, and my husband and I were vegan before he came along, and now my six month old is starting to eat. Perfect timing for this post :)

    1. Thank you--it is nice to know that someone is even reading my blog :) I am so glad to be of some help to other families with similar allergies! Please let me know if you find any good ideas for feeding your little one!