Baby-Led Weaning & Pasta: Nutrition, Safety, & Yummy Recipe Idea
Pasta is a common food on many families’ tables, but can you give it to your baby in BLW (baby-led weaning)?
A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition shows that pasta consumption can be associated with better diet quality and improved nutrient intakes than non-pasta consumption in the US. (1)
Children who eat pasta can have an increased intake of dietary fiber, magnesium, dietary folate, vitamin E, and iron than non-pasta eaters. They might also have lower daily intakes of added sugars and saturated fats. (1)
Pasta, prepared the right way, can be a fun addition to your baby’s diet.
However, plenty of pastas contain gluten, a common allergen. Gluten is commonly found in grains, including barley, wheat, and rye.
If your family is following a gluten-free diet or your child has gluten allergies, be sure to check the label for options without this ingredient.
Some pastas also contain eggs, another common allergen.
Your pediatrician can help you decide when to introduce pasta to your baby if they have known food allergies.
Can you give pasta to your five-month-old or six-month-old baby? What’s the best way to prepare pasta as baby food in BLW? What pasta shapes are best for babies?
Check out our answers to these common pasta questions and a baby food recipe from a BLW expert below.
Dr. Gill Rapley explains that baby-led weaning is a self-feeding approach that lets your child eat from the healthy food choices you prepare, share family mealtimes, and are the only ones who put food in their mouths. You can’t “help” them eat like in spoon-feeding. (2)
BLW can encourage independence and confidence, improve your baby’s hand-eye coordination and chewing skills, and might even prevent your baby from becoming a picky eater.
Can Babies Have Pasta in BLW?
Dr. Rapley recommends sharing healthy family foods with your little one, including pasta. (3)
“You can share most healthy family foods with your baby. For example, fruit, cooked vegetables, meat, cheese, well-cooked eggs, bread (or toast), rice, pasta, and most fish are suitable. Start with foods that are easy to cut into sticks or large strips.
Offering your baby a variety of foods will give him the chance to discover different tastes and textures and ensure he gets all the nutrients he needs.”
Top Reasons To Serve Pasta In BLW
Pasta is a rich source of carbohydrates that can provide energy to your growing baby. But, not all pasta is created equal. You’ll want to choose organic or minimally processed brands with clean ingredients.
And because pasta is a refined carbohydrate, pairing it with protein, veggies, and high-quality fats like olive oil will make it a more balanced and well-rounded meal for the entire family.
Legume pasta made from black beans, lentils, and chickpeas can have more iron, protein, and fiber than enriched or whole-grain pasta. However, sweet potato noodles might have the lowest nutrient content.
Aside from legume pasta, you can also choose rice pasta, cassava-flour pasta, or iron-fortified options and whole grains.
1 cup (3.55 oz) contains the following nutrients: (4)
- Calories: 333 kcal
- Protein: 24.56 g
- Iron: 9.47 mg
- Dietary fiber: 14 g
Whole-Grain Wheat Pasta
1 cup (3.55 oz) contains the following nutrients: (5)
- Calories: 357 kcal
- Protein: 12.5 g
- Iron: 3.21 mg
- Dietary fiber: 10.7 g
Sweet Potato Noodles
1 cup (3.55 oz) contains the following nutrients: (6)
- Calories: 82 kcal
- Protein: 1.18 g
- Iron: 0.42 mg
- Dietary fiber: 3.5 g
Other Reasons To Offer Pasta
- Some are large enough to be easy finger foods.
- It can be a favorite meal for the whole family.
- It’s easily customizable and can be served plain or with pasta sauce, iron-rich meats, and/or nutrient-packed veggies.
- You can even add green beans, butternut squash, zucchini, and other veg options to pasta dishes to make them more nutritious.
- It’s readily available in most grocery stores
- Options can include gluten-free or whole grains
- Plenty of pasta flavor options available
Food Safety With Pasta
Is Pasta A Choking Hazard?
No. Pasta isn’t considered a common choking hazard by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (7)
However, any food can potentially become a choking hazard, including purées.
Spaghetti and other thin pasta like ramen and egg noodles can be a choking hazard for babies.
You might want to avoid offering them to your baby until they’re at least one year old or cut them up into manageable lengths.
Some cheeses, such as mozzarella, can be too sticky and a choking hazard for babies.
Is Pasta An Allergen?
Yes. Many pastas can be an allergen because they’re made with wheat and other grains, such as barley, containing gluten. Some also contain eggs.
Until you’ve introduced dairy you can avoid other cheeses, such as parmesan, because these dairy products can be an allergen.
We recommend checking with your doctor before offering pasta to your baby.
Food-Borne Illnesses With Pasta
Like many foods, cooked pasta can contain bacteria that might quickly multiply when left at room temperature. (8)
Symptoms of foodborne illnesses can include:
- Abdominal cramps
As a general safety rule, don’t give your baby pasta left at room temperature for over two hours or stored for more than three days in the fridge. (8)
Does Pasta Make Babies Constipated?
Low-fiber, starchy carbohydrates, such as refined pasta, can increase your baby’s risk of constipation.
You can opt for high-fiber options such as whole-grain or legume pasta instead to avoid this. (9)
When Can Babies Eat Pasta?
There aren’t really any restrictions on how old your baby should be before you can give them pasta. But be sure they’re showing signs of readiness for solid foods, and you have your pediatrician’s go-signal.
However, it might be ideal to choose whole foods as baby first foods (instead of refined, processed options like pasta). You can go for oats instead.
Still, if you want to offer pasta to your baby, you might want to consider whole-grain, gluten-free options, especially if it’s going to be their first time eating this food.
Can My Five-Month-Old Have Pasta?
Yes, if they’re ready. Every baby develops on their own timeline, so your baby might be ready for solid foods at this age.
If cooked until soft, many types of pasta can be safe for your five-month-old baby to eat.
Options to offer can include:
- Lasagna sheets
Be sure to visit your doctor before giving any solid foods to a baby under six months of age.
Can My Six-Month-Old Have Pasta?
Yes, as long as they show signs of readiness for solid foods and you got your pediatrician’s green light.
Options to offer at this age can include:
- Bow tie
You can choose gluten–free pasta options if you’re following a gluten-free diet.
Can A Seven-Month-Old Eat Cooked Pasta?
Yes. Most seven-month-old babies are ready for solid foods and enjoy exploring new flavors and textures. You can try new pasta recipes that include more veggies and meat.
They might have also developed the pincer grasp to pick smaller pieces with their index finger and thumb at this age. But be careful with choking hazards.
You can offer them:
- Bow tie
How To Introduce Pasta To Your Baby
How Do You Feed Pasta For Baby-Led Weaning?
You can put it directly on your baby’s food tray for them to explore and eat with their hands.
Another option is to let them use a baby-safe spoon and fork to dig in their food.
How Do I Introduce Pasta To My Seven-Month-Old?
You can keep pasta meals simple, especially for beginners.
As they grow older, you can introduce pasta dishes with more flavors and ingredients.
Many types of pasta are good as finger foods, but you can also offer cutlery if your child is ready to use them.
Can A Baby Eat Pasta With No Teeth?
Yes. Babies have strong gums that can chew on soft foods like pasta. But be sure to avoid putting large pieces of tough meat with your baby’s meal.
Pasta should be cooked until they’re soft to avoid choking risks.
How Do You Prepare Pasta For Baby Led Weaning?
Choosing The Right Pasta
Try picking whole-grain or nutrient-packed options like legume-based pasta, including lentils and chickpeas.
Avoid gluten-containing pasta like wheat if your baby has gluten allergies or you’re following a gluten-free diet.
Which Pasta Shapes Are Best For Babies?
For 4-6 Months Old
- Bigger pasta shapes are preferable, including penne, rigatoni, bow tie, rotini, and fusilli.
- Flat, wide noodles such as lasagna can also be ideal.
For 7-12 Months Old
- All the pasta shapes above, plus macaroni.
For 12+ Months Old
- All the pasta above, plus spaghetti, spaghettini, ramen, noodle strips, and other pasta shapes
Ways To Serve Pasta In BLW
Here are some examples of pasta dishes:
- Macaroni with sautéed mushroom and tomatoes (recipe below)
- Fettuccine alfredo
Just always make sure to check for potential choking hazards and allergens before giving the dish to your baby.
Cooking Pasta Until Soft
Cook pasta for around 10-15 minutes more than the instructions on the packaging. It can help ensure that the pasta is soft enough for baby gums to chew.
Don’t salt the pasta water or the sauce if you’re making pasta dishes for your baby.
While salt is an important mineral, babies only need less than 1g per day, and they can get that from breast milk or formula. (10)
Can I Purée Pasta For Baby?
Well, you can do that, but we don’t recommend it. Pasta is a starchy food that can become sticky if blended. It can potentially cause a higher risk of choking.
How To Store Pasta
Put cooked pasta dishes in an airtight container and store them in the fridge. They can be safe for only 3-4 days. (8)
But you can freeze them instead. Frozen baby foods, pasta sauce, and pasta dishes can last up to two months in the freezer.
It’s best to store these in single-serving portions.
Macaroni with Sautéed Mushroom and Tomatoes
BLW book author, registered dietitian, and pediatric nutritionist Tok-Hui Yeap created this step-by-step recipe guide. (11)
- 3 cups cooked macaroni (about 1 ½ cups dried macaroni)
- ½ can (10.5oz) cream of mushroom soup
- ⅓ cup pasta water (reserved from the liquid used in cooking the macaroni)
- 1½ to 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups oyster mushrooms, chopped
- Two garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Ground black pepper (optional)
- Cook the macaroni in boiling water.
- To ensure the pasta is soft, extend the cooking time to 10-15 minutes more than the package instructions.
- Drain the cooked macaroni but reserve ⅓ cup liquid. Set aside.
- Sauté garlic in olive oil for 10-15 seconds in a pan.
- Once it turns slightly golden, add in the mushrooms.
- Sauté for 1-2 minutes. You can add some water to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Add the cooked macaroni, water, and mushroom soup.
- Stir until evenly mixed.
- Simmer for a minute.
- Toss in the grape tomatoes. Mix again.
- Add some freshly ground black pepper (optional) before serving.
You can find other BLW foods to prepare in our article on baby-led weaning recipes.