23/05/2024

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Baby-Led Weaning with Carrots – Sarah Remmer, RD

Baby-Led Weaning with Carrots – Sarah Remmer, RD

If you’re wondering how and when to introduce carrots to your baby, you’re in the right spot! Here is everything you need to know about baby-led weaning with carrots, from a pediatric registered dietitian and mom of 3. Whether you’re doing baby-led weaning, spoon-feeding, or a combination of both, this post will walk you through, step-by-step how to introduce carrots to your baby.

close up of a baby practicing baby led weaning with carrots

What are carrots?

The natural sweetness of a carrot makes it a popular vegetable in many sweet and savory dishes around the world. Carrots, a root vegetable, have been cultivated for over 2000 years, and still remain an important crop today. When you think of a carrot you likely picture it to be orange, however, there are white, red, yellow, orange and purple carrots as well! The most popular in North America is the orange carrot, adding flavour and colour to a variety of dishes including soups, stir-fries, pasta, salads, muffins, cakes and smoothies (and much more!). Its versatility and pleasing sweet flavour make carrots an ideal root vegetable to introduce to your baby when they are ready to eat solids!

When can I introduce carrots?

You can serve carrots as soon as your baby is ready to start eating. This usually happens at around 6 months, but some babies are ready a bit earlier, or as late as 7 months. Every baby is individual in their rate of development, so it’s important to watch out for your baby’s readiness cues before feeding them solids.  Read this guide for important information on your baby’s readiness cues for baby-led weaning.

When carrots are cooked or steamed, they transform into a soft, mashable texture. Raw carrots are too hard to serve to babies that are just learning to eat. Hard uncooked carrots require teeth and more mature oral motor skills to safely bite, chew, and swallow. It is important to steam or roast carrots to a soft enough texture for your baby to eat. An easy test is to put a piece of cooked carrot in your own mouth and squish it between your tongue and upper palate. If it squishes easily, it’s a good texture for your baby!

What is baby-led weaning?

There is no one “right way” to introduce solids. Whether you introduce solids through baby-led weaning or traditional spoon feeding (or both) the most important thing is that all feeding is responsive. Baby-led weaning is a feeding approach that involves preparing soft finger foods for baby to self-feed, instead of the caregiver spoon-feeding purees. Your baby is 100% in control of how much and how fast they eat with baby-led weaning. However, feeding babies whole pieces of food can cause anxiety for new parents, particularly around choking risk. Interestingly enough, if foods are prepared with a soft texture and safe shape, the choking risk is no higher than traditional spoon-feeding. Baby will inevitably gag with new foods and textures as a part of learning how to manipulate, chew and swallow food. Gagging is not the same as choking—it is an innate reflex that actually helps prevent choking! Other potential benefits of baby-led weaning include improved dexterity, early oral-motor skill development, better self-regulation, and saving money on store-bought baby purees. Introducing a wide variety of food pieces and textures may also help to reduce picky eating later on.

top down view of mashed and pureed carrots on a baby tray

Why are carrots an ideal baby-led weaning food?

Carrots can be cooked to the perfect mashable texture, making it an ideal baby-led weaning food. It is quick and easy to prepare for your baby and its versatility in how it can be prepared makes it a fun vegetable to experiment with. You can serve soft cooked carrot sticks for your baby to self-feed, cooked shredded carrot piles to pick up, or pureed carrots that your baby can practice using a spoon to eat (at around 10 months).  Steamed mashable carrot sticks (about the length of an adult pointer finger) are the perfect shape for baby to practice their palmer grasp right at the start of learning to eat solids! As your little one progresses through their eating journey, smaller pieces of cooked soft carrot are ideal for practicing their pincer grasp starting at around 9 months.

Carrots are nutritious for baby

Half a cup of cooked mashed carrot provides:

  • 3 g of Fibre– carrots contain both soluble and insoluble fibre which together help to regulate digestion, bowel movements and support healthy bacteria in the gut!
  • Antioxidants- carrots are an excellent source of carotenoids, which are plant compounds with antioxidant activity that help to support immune function.
  • Baby’s daily Vitamin A needs- essential for normal growth and development of the eyes, heart, lungs, and other organs. This vitamin plays a key role in healthy vision, and immune function.
  • Baby’s daily Vitamin K needs– important for normal blood clotting and bone formation. 
  • Over 60% of baby’s daily Vitamin B6 needs– important for protein metabolism, normal brain development, immune function, and formation of healthy red blood cells.
  • 40% of baby’s daily Potassium needs- essential for normal heart and kidney function, muscle contraction and nerve transmission.
close up of a happy baby learning to eat pureed carrots in a high chair

How to start baby-led weaning with carrots

When introducing any new food, it is a good idea to start with a small amount to not overwhelm your little one. For example, 1 scoop of carrot puree on a spoon, or one steamed chopped carrot stick is a great way to gently acquaint your baby with this new food. As your little one becomes more comfortable with carrots or signals that they want more, let them lead the way! Try starting with ¼-1/2 cup of safely prepared carrots (see ways to prepare and serve carrots below), balanced with a familiar starch and protein on their plate. If your little one signals that they want more carrots, follow their lead and add more!

Cooked carrot is an enticing bright orange color and has a sweet flavor that your little one is likely to enjoy. This root vegetable is packed with nutrients (see benefits of carrots below) and can be incorporated into many delicious recipes for your kiddo (and the whole family!). Keep reading to discover more ideas on how to incorporate this nourishing vegetable into your little one’s baby-led weaning journey!  

Ways to prepare and serve carrots to your baby

Steamed or boiled carrots

Place a steam basket or colander into a large pot. Cover the bottom of the pot with water. Wash and quarter carrots into finger-like strips (about 4 inches long and about ½ inch thick) and place into colander. Bring water to boil, reduce to a simmer.  Steam carrots until they are a soft squishable texture. Let them cool completely before serving to baby.

Serve carrot strips or “fingers” right at 6 months as they are in the ideal shape for baby to pick up with their palmer grasp

Serve smaller pea like sized pieces of soft cooked carrots at around 9-10 months of age so your baby can start to practice using their pincer grasp to pick up foods.

Roasted carrots

Preheat oven to 375-400°F. Wash and cut carrots into strips like outlines above. Toss in olive oil and spread out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet in tin foil (helps keep the moisture in) to prevent the carrots from getting to browned or crispy. Roast in oven for about 30-35 mins until they are fully cooked. Be sure to remove any crispy bits before serving to your baby as these parts can be hard for your little one to chew.

Carrot puree

Take boiled or steamed carrots and blend in food processor or high-powered blender. Add in small amounts of breastmilk, formula or water until the desired texture of your carrot puree is achieved. Experiment with a offering a thinner puree, thickening up to a mashed almost chunky texture as your baby progresses in their eating journey. Preload a spoon for baby to pick up and bring to their mouth. Your baby can start to practice using a spoon on their own at around 10 months (or earlier, every baby develops at a different rate!)

Cooked shredded carrots

Steam or boil whole carrots to a soft texture. Let them cool, then grate them with a box grater to make tiny carrot shreds. Serve shredded carrots in small piles so it is easier for baby to pick up. Shredded carrots are a good way to offer to babies 9+ months old when they are starting to pick things up with their thumb and index finger (called the pincer grasp).

A note on storing carrots safely:

Raw carrots

Keep carrots separate from apples, pears and other fruits as they release ethylene gas which will make the carrot spoil faster. Be sure to remove the green tops of carrots before putting them away in the fridge as the leaves will continue to draw moisture out of the carrot. For extended storage, place carrots in a large container covered in fresh water (changed daily) to keep carrots fresh and crisp for up to 1 month!

Cooked carrots/carrot puree

You can safely store home prepared foods containing carrots in the fridge for up to two days, and in the freezer for 1-2 months. Plain carrot puree without other foods added can be stored in the freezer for between 6-8 months.

Balanced meal ideas using carrots

Breakfast Lunch/Dinner
Carrot puree mixed into infant oatmeal made with breast milk or infant formula. Mix in some nut/seed butter for additional protein and fat Cooked shredded carrots mixed with cooked short cut noodles. Add olive oil or melted butter with noodles some satisfying fat. Shredded moist cooked chicken on the side or mixed into the pasta.
Carrot pancakes with scrambled eggs on the side Steamed or boiled carrot sticks, served with ripe avocado “fingers”, cooked quinoa and soft flaked salmon.
Carrot muffins with plain whole yogurt on the side. Option to mix in some fruit puree into the yogurt as well. Carrot soup served with shredded cheese and buttered toast, cut into strips (or fingers). Cut off hard crusts so its easier for your baby to chew.

FAQ

Are carrots a choking hazard for baby?

Yes, raw carrots are considered a choking hazard for babies. Do not serve raw carrots until your baby is between 18 months-2 years old when they have strengthened their mature chewing and oral motor skills. If carrots are steamed or cooked to a smashable, soft texture, it is not considered a choking hazard for your little one. Be sure to cut whole cooked carrots lengthwise into strips before serving. Cutting carrots into small round coin-shaped pieces poses a choking hazard as this is an ideal shape to block the airway.

Are carrots a common food allergy? 

No, carrots are not a common food allergy (Common food allergens – Canada.ca). However, individuals will pollen related oral allergy syndrome may have a mild allergic reaction (such as itchy mouth/throat) to raw carrots, however this reaction is rare when the carrots are cooked.

How do I pick the best carrots at the grocery store?

It is best to choose bulk carrots versus carrots stored in plastic as this way you can choose the freshest, and firmest carrots that will last the longest (and also reduce packaging waste!). When sifting through carrots, be sure to choose carrots that are firm, and have not become bendy or floppy. If you are choosing carrots with green tops, choose the ones that have bright perky leaves, that are not discolored or wilted.

If you can find yellow, purple or red carrots, give them a try! Each variety contains different antioxidants, with slight variations in flavor. Introduce them all to your baby. A variety in color is exciting on the plate, not only for eating newbies, but the entire family!

What is carotenemia? Is it dangerous?

Diet induced carotenemia is when the skin turns a yellowish-orange color as a result of consuming too much daily carotenoids for at least a few weeks or longer. This type of carotenemia is more common in babies and young children as commercial baby purees often contain high levels of beta carotene from foods like carrots, sweet potato, mangos, apricots, pumpkin, and squash. However other foods (that are not orange) such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans also contain high levels of carotenoids.

Not to worry, diet induced carotenemia is not dangerous! It is also relatively rare, but good to be aware of if your baby’s skin starts turning orange. Skin pigmentation will go back to baseline after a few weeks of balancing out your babies food options to dilute the daily carotenoids they were eating. Always be sure to take your baby to their pediatrician if you notice skin color changes. There are other medical causes of yellow/orange skin discoloration including liver disease, kidney and thyroid issues that need to be ruled out.

More delicious baby-led weaning carrot recipes: 

References:

  1. (PDF) Carrot: History and iconography (researchgate.net)
  2. Nutrient profile (canada.ca)
  3.  Infant Nutrition – Complementary Feeding – Key Practice Points (pennutrition.com)
  4. Allergic Disease – Oral Allergy Syndrome: Pollen-food syndrome Summary of Recommendations and Evidence (pennutrition.com)
  5. Carotenemia – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
If you’re wondering how and when to introduce carrots to your baby, you’re in the right spot! Here is everything you need to know about baby-led weaning with carrots.