Muffins can be a fantastic baby-led weaning food for your little one! Here is everything you need to know about baby-led weaning with muffins, from a mom of 3 and pediatric registered dietitian. Whether you’re exclusively practicing baby-led weaning (finger foods), or doing a combination of spoon-feeding and finger foods, this post will walk you through, step-by-step, how to introduce muffins to your baby.
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is different from traditional spoon-feeding in that larger pieces of soft-cooked whole foods are offered to baby, as opposed to spoon-feeding purees. At around 6 months of age, baby can be offered soft, safely-prepared finger foods to feed themselves. This allows your little one to explore new tastes and textures at their own pace, possibly lowering the risk of picky eating behaviours later on. Baby-led weaning allows your baby to be in charge how much and at what pace they eat, empowering them to self-regulate their own appetite. But this doesn’t mean that spoon-feeding can’t do the same. As long as the parent/caregiver feeds with responsivity! Read this to learn more about what responsive feeding is and its importance in any method of feeding you choose. And read this post if you’re curious about my opinion on baby-led weaning vs. spoon-feeding.
Why are muffins a great baby-led weaning food?
Muffins are great for baby-led weaning because they are the ideal soft, safe, moist texture that is easy for babies to pick up on their own, chew and swallow! Muffins are often neutral in flavour (not super sweet or spicy) and have a soft, pleasing texture making them well-accepted and loved by (most) babies!
Homemade muffins are ideal for introducing to your new eater because you have total control over the ingredients added to the batter. Since babies have tiny tummies, the goal is to maximize the nutrients packed into each homemade muffin. Many store-bought varieties–although delicious–can be higher in sugar and salt, as well as additives and preservatives, and be lacking essential nutrients like iron, fat, protein, and fibre that your baby needs. Although I don’t like to shame any ingredient, or call ingredients or foods “good” or “bad”, I do recommend making muffins at home (if you are able to!) for your baby, as babies shouldn’t be consuming added sugar or salt. Continue reading for many easy and nutritious baby-led weaning muffin ideas and recipes!
When can I introduce muffins to baby?
You can introduce muffins to your baby as soon as they start showing signs of readiness to start eating, which usually happens right around 6 months. Read this post on when to start solids, if you’re not sure when to introduce solids. Some babies may show readiness signs as early as 4 or 5 months, and others may be closer to 6 or 6.5 months old before they are ready. If you are going the baby-led weaning route, I definitely recommend waiting until 6 months to start. All babies develop at their own pace, and that is ok! If you would like help navigating the process of starting solids with your baby, please do not hesitate to book an appointment with a pediatric dietitian who specializes in this area.
Benefits of muffins
The wonderful thing about homemade muffins is that you have the option of mixing in a wide array of wholesome and delicious ingredients! Here are some of the top nutrients that homemade muffins contain:
- Dietary Fibre: Whole grain oats, flour, fruit, nut butters, and seeds added into muffins are all good sources of dietary fibre. Fibre is essential for your baby’s gut health and also regulates their bowel movements as they start eating solid foods.
- Protein: Eggs, nut butters, yogurt, hemp hearts, and seeds that are often added into muffins are all great sources of protein. Protein provides your baby essential building blocks for their hair, skin, organs, and developing immune system.
- Dietary fat: Vegetable oils, nut butters, seeds, and butter that are added into muffin recipes are all good sources of fat. Fat is an essential macronutrient that your baby requires for energy, to produce hormones, absorb fat soluble vitamins, insulate their organs and protect/develop their nervous system!
- Iron: Eggs, nuts/seeds, leafy greens, whole grain oats and iron fortified infant oatmeal added to muffins are all good sources of iron. Iron is a key nutrient of focus when introducing solids to your little one to help them rebuild their used iron stores that they were born with. Iron is important for proper oxygen delivery to your baby’s cells and organs, physical growth, and brain development.
- B-Vitamins: Whole grains, rolled oats, eggs, and milk often added to muffins are all good sources of B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for your baby to convert food into energy, create healthy red blood cells, and grow/maintain healthy skin and brain cells!
Baby-led weaning muffin ideas
Peanut Butter Banana Baked Oatmeal Muffins (gf)
Makes 12 muffins
- 4 large ripe bananas
- ½ cup natural peanut butter
- 1 tbsp. avocado oil
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup of whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 ¾ cup of gluten free rolled oats
- 1/3 cup of almond flour
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Blend first 6 ingredients together in a high-powered blender. Mix baking powder, oats, and almond flour in a large bowl. Pour blended ingredients into dry ingredients bowl and mix well. Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Apple & Date Blender Muffins (v, gf)
Makes 12 muffins
- 7 pitted dried medjool dates, chopped
- ½ cup of boiling water
- 1 ½ cups of chopped apple (1 large apple)
- 2 tbsp. chia seeds + 6 tbsp. water (2 chia eggs)
- ¾ cup of full fat canned coconut milk
- 1 tbsp. canola or avocado oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 2 ½ cups of gluten free rolled oats
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Pour chopped dates and boiling water into blender and let them sit for a few minutes. Add in apple, chia eggs, coconut milk, oil, and vanilla extract and blend well. Add in dry ingredients and blend until oats are well ground. Pour into greased muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes.
Infant Oatmeal Banana Mini Muffins
Makes 24 mini muffins
- 4 large ripe bananas
- 2 eggs ½ cup of melted butter
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup of iron fortified infant oatmeal
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Blend all wet ingredients in a blender (first 5 ingredients). Combine dry ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl (last 4 ingredients).
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold with a spatula to combine.
Scoop batter with a small ice-cream scoop into a greased mini muffin tin and bake for 15 minutes.
Serving muffins as a balanced snack
Homemade muffins are a good source of energy, vitamins and minerals! In fact, offering a homemade muffin rich in a protein and fat source can be a balanced snack on their own. However, muffins do tend to need a little extra added to them to be a part of a complete snack with staying power. Here are some balanced snack ideas using muffins, that your little one (and the whole family!) will love:
|Muffin Option||Add in a Protein and/or Fat source|
|Apple & Date Blender Muffins (see above recipe)||Serve with fresh avocado, ripe pieces or mashed|
|Apple Date Blender muffins (see above recipe)||Thin layer of peanut butter on top|
|Infant Oatmeal Banana Mini Muffins (see above recipe)||Whole plain yogurt + cinnamon, on top or on the side|
|Homemade blueberry muffin||Shredded cheese on the side|
|Homemade Bran muffin||Slice in half and add butter (make sure it melts in to add moisture to the muffin), serve soft fruit like squished blueberries or banana “fingers” on the side|
How to serve muffins to baby
At the beginning of their eating journey your baby will mainly use their “palmer grasp” to pick up foods, using a raking motion to grasp the item with the palm of their hand. At this age it is best to serve muffins in larger chunks or bake mini muffins so that they can easily grab the muffin in their fist!
At around 9-10 months your little one will be practicing their “pincer grasp” where they can pick up food using their thumb and index finger. At this stage you can serve muffins broken into smaller pieces to encourage them to practice this new fine motor skill!
How to store muffins
Always cool muffins completely before storing them to prevent condensation forming on the container or bag. Homemade muffins can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days before serving to your baby. You can freeze muffins for up to 8 months in airtight freezer bag or container. Defrost the muffins in the fridge or warm them gently in the microwave before serving to your little one.
FAQ about baby-led weaning with muffins
The great thing about making muffins at home is that you can control the ingredients you add to the batter! The delicious recipes listed above use naturally sweet fruit like bananas, dates and apples to sweeten the muffin batter. There are delicious recipes (listed below) that also have a bit of maple syrup added as well! Not to worry, a little maple syrup mixed into the muffin batter is fine. However, be sure not to offer muffins that contain honey before they are at least 1 year old. There is a possibility that honey contains spores that can cause botulism in babies as their intestinal system is more vulnerable to this type of infection.
Muffins are not considered a common choking hazard. However, it is possible for your little one to choke on a piece of muffin, just like any other food. Try the muffin first so that you can check its texture before offering to your baby. If its texture is hard or dry, it will be more difficult for you baby to chew and swallow it safely. If this is the case, try crumbling the muffin into some yogurt to add moisture. You can also slice the muffin up and add some melted butter to make it softer and easier to chew! Be sure to avoid adding pieces of chopped nuts or dried fruit to muffins that you plan to serve your little one; these foods are common choking hazards for young children. Read this post for information on how to reduce choking risk when feeding your little one.
Yes, they can. Muffins often contain common allergens such as eggs, nut butter, milk and wheat. If your baby has not yet been introduced to these common allergens, I recommend you introduce them separately to see if there is a reaction to any individual ingredient. If your little one has been introduced to common allergens found in the muffins you are serving, you can confidently offer it without the worry of causing a reaction and not knowing what ingredient triggered it!
Yes! Pure vanilla extract does contain alcohol; however, the small amount of alcohol present will evaporate when the muffins are baked in the oven. Vanilla extract adds delicious flavor to your muffin batter, without any added risk to your growing baby!
More delicious baby-led weaning muffin recipes:
- Iron-Rich Mini Banana Muffins for Baby Led Weaning
- Easy Egg and Banana Mini Muffins
- Easy Gluten-Free Blueberry Lemon Muffins
- Flourless Oatmeal Apple Muffins
- The Easiest Oatmeal Muffins You’ll Ever Make
- Canadian Nutrient File (CNF) – Search by food (canada.ca)
- Infant nutrition – Canada.ca
- Infant Nutrition – Complementary Feeding Summary of Recommendations and Evidence (pennutrition.com)