Fertility

Baby Led Weaning With Sweet Potato: When To Start & Recipe Ideas

Updated on 27 June 2022 • 8 minute read

 

Overview

Rich in vitamins, potassium, and dietary fiber, sweet potatoes can be a good choice for your baby’s first food

You can even cook and serve this edible root in many ways, making it a versatile food choice in BLW (baby-led weaning). This feeding approach encourages your baby to self-feed on finger foods cut in sizes appropriate for their age. 

Your baby can dip their fingers in a bowl of sweet potato purée or munch on baked sweet potato wedges. They might also love snacking on sweet potato fries baked or air-fried using healthy oils, of course. 

What other baby food recipes can you try with sweet potatoes? Can you give it to your four-month-old? Do they cause constipation in babies?

You can find out more info about these topics below.

 

When Is My Baby Ready For Baby-Led Weaning?

Babies grow at varied rates, but most experts suggest waiting until your child is at least six months of age before starting them on solid foods.

Because babies self-feed with finger foods in baby-led weaning, BLW pioneer Dr. Gill Rapley also recommends the same age requirement. Still, she also acknowledges that some babies can be ready even at four months. (1)

The following are some signs that your child might be ready for solid foods:

  • They can sit up well
  • They can hold their heads up without support
  • They have lost their tongue reflex (that means they don’t automatically push everything out of their mouth)
  • They show interest in food (they might grab your food or bring objects to their mouth)

 

Talk with your child’s pediatrician about any concerns or questions about BLW, especially if your child is under six months of age but already shows signs of readiness.

Learn more about this feeding approach, tips to get started, and more food options you can try in our BLW guide.

 

Top Reasons To Serve Sweet Potatoes In BLW

Nutrition Facts

Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients your baby needs for growth: (2)(3)(4)

  • Carbohydrates for energy
  • Dietary fiber for a healthier digestive tract
  • Vitamin C to help fight infections and repair body tissues
  • Vitamin E for immunity and protection of cells from damage
  • Vitamin A for healthy eyes and immune system
  • Potassium for a healthy heart and muscles 
  • Vitamin B for better metabolism (conversion of food to energy)
  • Manganese for healthier bones and better digestion
  • Copper for helping create red blood cells
  • Calcium for strong bones

 

Other Benefits

There are lots of other reasons why sweet potatoes can be a good choice in baby-led weaning:

  • They’re soft and aren’t a common choking hazard
  • They can be prepared as a baby puree or finger food
  • You can cook them with meat, veggies, or on their own

 

Food Safety With Sweet Potatoes

Can Babies Choke On Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes aren’t considered a common choking hazard. They aren’t typically eaten raw but usually cooked until soft.

Still, it’s important to remember that any food can be a potential choking hazard if not prepared or eaten properly. 

It’s a good idea to cut sweet potatoes in sizes appropriate for your child’s age to reduce choking risks. You can learn about this topic and prevention tips from our article on baby-led weaning choking.

 

Are Sweet Potatoes An Allergen?

Sweet potatoes aren’t common allergens, but there have been rare cases of people reacting to this food. (5)

 

Food Safety Risk

Sweet potatoes may have a low risk of food-borne illnesses, but it’s still important to check them before cooking.

To reduce the risks of food-borne illness from sweet potatoes, you can avoid the following:

  • Sweet potatoes that have mold
  • Shriveled sweet potatoes with long sprouts
  • Cooked sweet potatoes kept at room temperature for one day or in the fridge for over three days
  • Any cooked sweet potato food that has visible signs of spoilage or smells bad

 

Do Sweet Potatoes Constipate Babies?

Although sweet potatoes contain plenty of dietary fiber typically associated with helping reduce constipation, it’s actually rich in starch which can worsen it.

If your child becomes constipated, you can simply avoid giving them sweet potatoes. Offer them fruits like prunes, plums, pears, or peaches to help soften their stool. (6)

 

Sweet Potatoes And Heavy Metals

Sweet potatoes are among the group of nutritious foods recommended for regular consumption by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (7)

However, in a baby food report released by the HBBF (Healthy Babies Bright Futures), sweet potatoes were among the common food ingredients with high levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic. (8)

These toxic heavy metals can lead to attention deficits, IQ loss, and other learning or behavioral impacts. (8)(9)

Still, the HBBF doesn’t recommend avoiding sweet potatoes because these are also important nutrition sources for babies. Instead, they suggest serving them in moderation.

Carrots and sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A and other nutrients your baby needs. 

But they also contain higher levels of lead and cadmium than other fruits and vegetables, on average. Yet they are an important part of a child’s diet, and a common baby food ingredient. 

Variety is the solution: parents can serve these vegetables along with other fruits and vegetables during the week, for benefits without the excess risk.” (8)

 

Can You Give It To Your Child Every Day?

No. Although sweet potatoes are full of nutrients, their heavy metal content can be high. (8)(9)

While you can still offer this food every week along with other veggies, try not to do it every day. 

Also, stop offering sweet potatoes if it causes constipation in your baby.

 

Sweet Potatoes & BLW FAQs

Can Babies Eat Sweet Potatoes First?

Yes, they’re a popular first food for babies.

They’re versatile and can be ideal for both spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning.

 

Can I Give My Four-Month-Old Sweet Potatoes?

Yes, as long as they’re ready for solid foods

You can also find other popular food options in our article on BLW foods by age.

 

Can My Six-Month-Old Eat Sweet Potatoes?

Yes, they can be a good option as your baby’s first food because they’re packed with many nutrients for your baby’s growth needs.

The HBBF recommends offering sweet potatoes with other veggies and fruits to minimize exposure to heavy metals. (8)

 

Ways to Serve

Some sweet potato baby foods you can offer your baby:

  • Smooth purée 
  • Mashed
  • Baked wedges
  • Cubes and spears
  • Veg patties
  • Healthy meatballs
  • Veggie fritters
  • Egg-free sweet potato pancakes
  • Sweet potato oats
  • Sweet potato muffins

 

What Spices Can I Add To Sweet Potatoes For My Baby?

You can opt to add spices to your sweet potatoes, but you might want to hold the salt. Babies need less than 1g of salt in their bodies, and they can get that in breastmilk or formula. (10)

Babies’ kidneys might not be equipped to handle too much salt before they turn one year old. You can try these herbs and spices instead:

  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon

 

Still, it might be better to sprinkle these on your baby’s food sparingly because they could mask the sweet potato’s flavor.

 

How Much Of Baked Sweet Potato To Serve

In BLW, your child controls how much they eat. However, they might enjoy eating a quarter or half of a small sweet potato in one meal at around six months of age.

They might also eat just a few bites, especially if they’re new to this food. 

You don’t have to think that they hate the food just because they aren’t eating a lot. Sometimes it takes several tries before a baby can get accustomed to a new taste.

Just keep offering them some sweet potatoes and other new foods to try, mama. You’re doing great.

 

How Do You Prepare Sweet Potatoes For Baby Led Weaning?

The prep time will depend on the sweet potato recipe you’re planning to make. 

You might need to steam or cook the sweet potatoes before adding them to the recipe. But you can directly peel and cut them in some recipes.

 

How Long Do I Need To Steam Sweet Potatoes For Baby Food?

Typically, you’ll need around 25 to 30 minutes of cook time for your steamed potatoes to become tender. However, it’s best to test them using a fork. 

Fully cooked sweet potatoes will be soft enough to break apart with a fork easily. You can opt to peel them after they’re already cooked.

Afterward, you can cut them into age-appropriate sizes or put them in a food processor for blending.

 

How to Cut Sweet Potatoes According To Your Baby’s Age

Here’s a rule of thumb in preparing sweet potatoes: the younger the baby, the bigger the piece. Also, be sure to cook them until tender.

For 4-6 Months Old

Babies typically use their entire palms to grasp their food at this age range. Slice them as long and thick as your fingers.

Slices like this can let them hold the food and still have some left at the top to nibble on.

Another option is to give them puréed sweet potatoes as a dip for other finger foods or self-feed using their fingers.

For 7-12 months old

Babies might already be trying to learn the pincer grasp at this age range. They’ll begin using their thumb and index finger to pick up their food.

You can start by offering them shorter spears, then eventually try smaller, bite-sized cubes or pieces.

For 12+ months old

Babies this age are likely to be curious about using dining utensils. You can continue giving them bite-sized pieces or smaller cuts they can pick up with their spoon and fork.

 

How to Store Baby Finger Foods

You can cook sweet potato dishes in several batches to freeze in an air-tight container for future use.

It’s a good idea to put one serving per freezer bag or container. When ready to use, you can heat that in a microwave and cool it before giving it to your baby.

Frozen baby foods can last up to three months in the freezer, but still, check for signs of spoilage before reheating and giving to your baby.

These can also be great ideas for packing ready-to-go meals.

 

3 Baby-Led Weaning Recipes With Sweet Potatoes

Below are some recipes on how to make sweet potato dishes for BLW for your little one.

 

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

Ingredients

  • Two large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free flour
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese (or almond ricotta for a dairy-free alternative)

 

Preparation Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit.
  2. Roll the cut sweet potato wedges on gluten-free flour and oil.
  3. Arrange on a baking tray or sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until fully cooked.
  5. Add the cheese or almond ricotta and other spices (optional). 
  6. Return to the oven. 
  7. Bake for another 5-10 minutes.
  8. Cool before serving.

 

The total time to prepare can be around 30-40 minutes.

 

Yummy Veggie Burger Patties

Ingredients

  • Two pieces of sweet potatoes, peeled
  • One small carrot, grated
  • One leek, chopped into fine pieces
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ cup brown mushrooms, chopped
  • ¼ cup red pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup cheese (or almond ricotta for a dairy-free alternative)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Flour for coating

 

Preparation Instructions

  1. Soak the chia for five minutes in water.
  2. Steam the sweet potatoes until tender. Cool.
  3. Sauté leek until soft. Cool.
  4. Put everything in your food processor
  5. Blend well.
  6. Shape into small burger patties.
  7. Coat patties in breadcrumbs.
  8. Fry for around 2-3 minutes or until both sides are golden brown.
  9. Drain.
  10. Cool before serving.

 

Meat & Vegetable Purée

Ingredients

  • 1 lb meat like beef or chicken, preferably organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised  
  • 1 cup sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1-2 cups bone broth, depending on your desired consistency
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (not cooked)

 

Preparation Instructions

  1. Put the meat on a baking sheet and cook at 350 Fahrenheit or boil until thoroughly cooked.
  2. Steam the vegetables until tender.
  3. Mix the broth.
  4. Let cool.
  5. Mix all the ingredients, but excluding the olive oil.
  6. Purée until desired consistency in a food processor.
  7. You can opt to drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  8. Blend for another 30 seconds.

 

Helpful Baby Led Weaning Utensils and Tools

 

REFERENCES

(1) http://www.rapleyweaning.com/assets/How_early_is_too_early.pdf

(2) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/sweet-potatoes/

(3) https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/vitamin.html

(4) https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168482/nutrients

(5) https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(04)00336-7/fulltext

(6) https://www.childrenshospital.org/alliance/practices/longwood-pediatrics/patient-education/nutrition/starting-baby-on-solid-food

(7) https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

(8) https://www.healthybabyfood.org/sites/healthybabyfoods.org/files/2020-04/BabyFoodReport_ENGLISH_R6.pdf

(9) https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/heavy-metals.html

(10) https://www.childrensnutrition.co.uk/full-blog/salt-and-weaning

 

 

 

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