Here we are, my baby boy is only 3 months old and I am already starting the think about weaning but the truth is that I have to because there are so many conflicting bits of advice out there. Luckily I’ve already researched once before for my daughter.
When I had my first child I was fascinated by the style of weaning that most of my friends were following, ‘baby led’. At first this freaked me out and I was very nervous about my child choking but after intensive research I realised that this wasn’t some fad and actually many mothers had already been following this method without even realising.
There was incredible pressure around me to start feeding my daughter at 4 months old, especially as she wasn’t sleeping well and people kept telling me that it would help her sleep. I decided not to though as it didn’t feel right to me, that doesn’t mean that it is wrong, I know people who did it and their children are fine. I was just nervous about the whole thing and realised that as a first time mother I knew nothing. So I hit the books and the Internet once more and researched three styles of weaning. Baby Led, Spoon fed and Spoon Led.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning is simply allowing your child to feed themselves. They start at around 6 months old once they can sit up unaided.
Your child sits at the dinner table with you and your family and joins in. They eat what you eat (as long as it has no added salt, sugar and is unprocessed). When your child is ready, you simply start handing them suitable sized pieces of food and off they go.
What surprises most people is that BLW has actually been around for years and is not a brand new concept, most parents follow it without even realising. This mostly happens with a second or third child as their baby grabs food from other sibling’s plates and enjoys copying everyone sat around the table.
What is Spoon-FED Weaning?
Spoon-fed weaning is where the baby begins by eating pureed food that the parent feeds them with a spoon. They then gradually eat mashed/chopped up and lumpy food and finally progress to finger foods around 7-8 months.
Babies who start weaning on puree can begin as early as 4 months. But the NHS advise to wait til 6 months when your babies digestive system is more developed.
What is Spoon-LED Weaning?
This is a new term that some parents are using to describe the method where they use a mix of both BLW and Spoon fed.
They introduce purees around 6 months but also offer finger foods and allow their child to use their spoon once the parent has pre-loaded it with food.
So which is for you?
STILL UNSURE OF WHICH METHOD IS FOR YOU THEN CHECK OUT THESE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES:
For your baby:
It’s fun and stress free as playing with the food is part of the process to improve and develop your child’s motor skills. As a parent you are also not worrying about making a different meal for your baby as they eat what you eat.
Baby is less likely to be a fussy eater as they are able to learn about the smell, texture and taste of individual foods rather than a spoonful of mush. Your child recognises food and in turn picks out their favourite tastes rather than refusing to eat a whole bowl of blended food.
Improves their motor skills as they are figuring out how to grasp, squash or even throw different shapes and textures.
Encourages good table manners as they sit with you at meal times and experience dinner conversation, sharing and family relationships.
They learn the enjoyment of food as they are being involved in the meal process. It will make them more adventurous with their food choices and not fear mealtimes.
Encourages good long term health as their milk feedings are reduced gradually over a year rather than ending abruptly at 6 months.
Learns to chew safely as each time they bite off a piece of food they play with it in their mouths and subsequently soon learn whether the food is the right size. Many parent’s are worried about their children choking and you can read the research I discovered by clicking here.
Makes meal times less complicated as you are not spending hours pureeing food. Also your dinner is not getting cold while you are spending time spoon feeding your baby.
No mealtime battles as there is no pressure for your baby to eat if they are not hungry as you know they are still getting the required nutrients from their milk feedings.
Eating out is less stressful as you do not need to take any pre-prepared meals with you. They simply eat from your plate.
It saves you money as they are sharing your food rather than you going out and buying them specially prepared food.
For your baby:
Frustration. There can be times when your child will struggle to manipulate the food and will get frustrated, especially if they are hungry.
The Mess! There will be food everywhere; up the walls, all over babies face and clothes, all over the table and high chair and you will find bits of food all over yourself. This may be embarrassing for parents if you are eating out or at a friend’s house.
Waste. Because there is a lot of playing with the food that means a lot of it ends up on the floor rather than in your child.
You can’t tell how much they have eaten.
There is a worry of choking. For more information on this see below.
What other people think. It may bother you what your family, friends and other relatives think and everyone seems to have an opinion on Baby Led Weaning, whether it be positive or negative. People may have strong opinions on how you should wean your baby.
For your baby:
Has an iron rich diet. Because the food can be pureed they can eat red meat and green leaves that would normally be difficult to chew at the start of weaning.
Can start eating early. If your child needs to start weaning before 6 months (you should only do this if advised by a professional for health reasons) then you can with purees. You should never start BLW early.
There are no worries about gagging or choking as your child progresses slowly from pureed to lumpy food, they are less likely to choke.
Less messy as you do most of the feeding.
You can tell how much they have eaten.
For your baby:
They learn to swallow before they chew. This means that when they do begin on proper foods they could gag or choke.
Some babies are very independent and hate being fed.
Hours spent blending food. It will take time to make the food, blend it and freeze it into ice cube trays.
You rarely eat all together. It is difficult to feed your baby if you are also trying to eat.
A mother’s instinct
Whether you choose to follow Baby Led Weaning completely, or whether you choose to mix pureeing and BLW, or even if your instinct is telling you that you should exclusively spoon feed and then give finger foods when your child is older, you need to follow what feels right for you and your baby. Remember that weaning should be fun, if you’re feeling stressed then try something different.
Check out some of my other pages that may help you:
1. Getting Started
2. Is BLW messy?
3. What if my child chokes?