So, it’s time for your baby to start exploring foods for the first time! Exciting times ahead, but deciding on which weaning approach to follow with your baby can be a difficult decision and a daunting prospect for all parents.
In this blog post we explore the pro’s and con’s of Baby-led weaning (BLW) and the more traditional spoon-led approach to help you to decide which method would be best for you and your little one. Whichever route you decide, the most important thing to try to remember is to ensure the weaning journey is as enjoyable, stress-free and fun as possible for you and your family….so try not to stress too much and just follow your own instincts when it comes to feeding your baby!
Spoon-led weaning is when your baby learns to swallow first with purees and chew in later stages.
Advantages of Spoon-led weaning
- Weaning can be started before 6 months if (and only if!) your baby is ready as you can begin to introduce very simple purees
- Easier for parents who worry about gagging and choking
- More suited for feeding on the go as purees can be easily packed and transported
- It may be easier to introduce iron-rich foods such as meat and leafy, green vegetables in puree form as these can be hard for younger babies to chew
- It can be less messy than baby-led weaning (until baby decides to grab the spoon!)
- It is much easier to know how much your baby has eaten
- Preparing separate purees for baby can be time-consuming
- Having to spoon-feed your baby makes it difficult to eat at the same time as them and enjoy family mealtimes together
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is when your baby feeds themselves with finger foods right from the beginning of their weaning journey
Advantages of Baby-led weaning (BLW)
- Baby can be a part of family mealtimes and eat the suitable bits of family meals making it easier for the family to eat together
- Less work for parents without all the preparing, mashing and pureeing of food
- Babies skip the smooth food (purees) phase and get used to chewing from the very beginning of their weaning journey, therefore avoiding the difficult transition from purees to lumpy textures
- There is some evidence to suggest that baby-led weaning can reduce fussy eating and help to develop a more adventurous palette
- Baby discovers new tastes and textures by playing with and exploring their food, known to aid their cognitive development
- It can be very messy so some parents may be reluctant to eat out and may find mealtimes more stressful (our top tip? Invest in a Tidy Tot Bib & Tray Kit of course!)
- It can take a long time for baby to consume a decent amount of food and they must be supervised at all times in case of choking
- You will need to adapt your family meals and recipes to ensure that they are appropriate for your baby (eg no added salt, low sugar, nutritionally balanced)….but this could have health benefits for the whole family!
- It’s hard to know how much your baby has actually eaten and a lot of food can be wasted as food can fall on the floor and into the highchair (well we all know the solution to this……a Tidy Tot Bib & Tray Kit!)
How about a combination of both approaches?
A combination of both methods may work for you and your baby and can be a way of encouraging baby to self-feed using a spoon and explore tastes and textures with finger foods. Being able to use purees can make it easier to give your baby iron-rich foods and can make travelling and eating on the go a little easier when the need arises.
You can start with spoon-feeding and giving your baby finger foods at the same time so that they learn both skills at the same time – you might find that your baby prefers one way of feeding over another and you can adapt your weaning method accordingly to find the best approach for you and your baby.
It’s important to remember that every baby and every parent is different, so choose the approach which is best and easiest for you and your family. Stay calm, follow your instincts and try not to panic – some days your baby will eat lots and others they may be more picky than others. Try not to worry, trust your baby’s appetite and never force your baby to eat something that they are refusing.
Try to relax and let your baby explore tastes and textures in their own way, ensuring your weaning adventure is as fun and relaxed as it can be. The best possible outcome is that your baby associates food and mealtimes with a fun and positive experience to set them on a path to healthy eating for life.