By Spice Kitchen founder Sanjay Aggarwal
Learn more about the feeding approach known as Baby-Led Weaning and how to introduce gentle spices to make starting solids easy and fun
Plus: Why it's absolutely OK to use a blended approach of Baby Led Weaning and Purees
Baby-led weaning is a popular topic amongst parents. It essentially means that you offer your baby only finger foods and encourage them to feed themselves right from the outset (rather than spoon-feeding them puréed or mashed foods).
You can offer a range of small, finger-sized pieces of food such as carrot or broccoli.
Some parents prefer baby-led weaning to spoon-feeding, while others combine a bit of both.
We used both when Laura and I were weaning our daughter Zara. It's such a personal decision and so trust your own choices. You know your family and baby better than anyone else, and the only important thing is that your baby eats variety to get the nutrients they need.
Given that I come from a family where using spice in cooking was a part of everyday life, it was natural for me to want to introduce Zara to a range of flavours from a young age. I was also aiming to let Zara experience a variety of flavours so that she would become less of a fussy eater. Spices are also said to be nutritious and good for us, so it's a bit of a no brainer!
It's also handy to have had her enjoying the same flavours as Laura and me from a young age. Then cooking one meal for the family is much less time-consuming and stressful than making something separate for her.
We are a busy family, so anything that can help us save time in the evenings is a big priority, as I know it will be for many of you reading this.
Baby-Led Weaning Ideas
Because I got Zara tasting gentle spice blends from a young age, she also became curious about cooking in general, which has been amazing. We call the spices her 'special sprinkles', and she has enjoyed smelling them and the sensory experience of adding them to her food from as young as one. The beauty of this is that involving her means she is more likely to eat the food.
I've often said that our Baby Spice Kitchen blends were designed with the idea of reducing food going from fork to floor, probably something every parent reading this article will be well accustomed to. Anything that can prevent waste and encourage babies to eat is a winner!
Zara even has her favourite spice blends now. I did a mini-interview with her before writing this article, and, at the moment, she is most keen on 'the green one' (AKA our Italian Seasoning Blend) and the Gingerbread Blend for muffins and smoothies. But also because that's when we are baking together.
I've noticed that baking has helped her learn patience because she will sit and wait for something to rise in the oven and then wait further for it to cool before eating it.
She has always enjoyed cooking and experimenting with foods involving dough and making flatbreads or naan. She told me once that it reminded her of playdough!
As she has got older, I've got her a chopping board that's most definitely 'hers', as well as a whisk and safety/child-friendly knife. She loves using them and looks forward to this part of her day. Even getting her to chop a couple of mushrooms or stir a pot helps her to feel involved, and it's great for bonding too.
Top tip: Involving your baby in cooking and family mealtimes doesn't have to be stressful. Even if you get your baby to add a teaspoon of ingredients to your cooking pot, they will be more interested in the meal itself and so much more likely to eat it afterwards!
"I don't like it"
Zara used to say she didn't like something every time she tried something new, and then in the same meal eat it up and by the end of it ask for more! Have you experienced this?
I found that it's best just to be patient and not necessarily take their first response as accurate. If you think about it, every time a baby tries a food, it is a totally new experience, and so they are just slowly getting used to very different tastes.
It's all about patience and not taking the food away if they say they don't like it. Give it some time, and you will be surprised at how quickly things turn around!
But don't just take my word for it. Here's what Baby Led Weaning influencer and mum said of her experiences:
"I have always followed the advice that you can start introducing different spices to babies from as early as 6 months old. In fact, one of my sons first meals was a chicken curry. As a lover of spicy food I found this tip very useful.
If you have just started weaning your little one, I found that the Baby Spice range from Spice Kitchen is a great starting point. All spice blends are pre prepared so the work has been done for you, and there are 7 different spice blends to introduce your babies to different world cuisines. Each spice blend has been created using milder spices - perfect for baby led weaning and those first meals.
My two year old son particularly likes the Caribbean spice blend, I often mix this with coconut milk and fresh coriander to make a delicious Caribbean curry sauce to serve with meat or vegetables. He loves to help with cooking as well. When he was going through his fussy eating phase I found this really helped and he was more inclined to try meals he was involved with."
Baby-Led Weaning Recipes
Together with our incredible Baby-Led Weaning partners, we created a recipe guide packed with inspirations to accompany our Baby Spice Collection and Baby Spice Tin.
“We absolutely love love love using the baby spices from Spice Kitchen! They are perfect to introduce new flavours to my little one without worrying about chilli ! They are the perfect balance! As my little one has grown I've loved using the spices to bake with my little one - in particular the gingerbread spice ! We love making gingerbread oat cookies!” @ani_cooks
The guide comes free with every purchase; however, we've also uploaded all of the recipes into a dedicated recipe section on our website to make things easy for newer parents. You can check it out here.
We've got recipes appropriate for babies six months plus, from soups to pasta to snacks and desserts. Because all of our recipes on the website have been developed using us Baby Spice Kitchen spice blends.
They are super tasty but flexible depending on your family's tastes and preferences.
I found that no matter what we served up, the key was that Zara was included in the family mealtime and eating similar foods to us. She watched me and Laura enjoy eating and enjoyed the family time as it was fun and inclusive.
After all, isn't that what babies want?
If you want to know more about Baby Led Weaning, click here for some great advice on the NHS website.
Share your stories with us!
Will you be trying some of these ideas with your little one? I’d love to hear how you get on. Tag us and any photos you take on social media @spicekitchenuk