Baby led weaning (BLW) although it has been around for years, seems to be all the rage at the moment. I feel like many mums are under the impression they need to decide to do either baby spoon-feeding with purees OR baby led weaning. My question is why not incorporate a bit of both?
What is Baby Led Weaning?
The main principle with baby led weaning is that you offer your baby food by either allowing them to take it from your hand or you simply place food such as soft fruits, cooked vegetables and meat on their highchair and allow them to feed themselves. There are no purees and no spoon-feeding by the parent, this is how it gets the name baby lead weaning because the baby leads the process.
What about Purees?
Puree style weaning means that you introduce the foods to your baby in the form of smooth puree and they eat off the spoon to start with. You can prepare big batches of food and freeze them, which can be really handy in the early days; I find they tend to get a lot more in their mouth (and less on the floor) than BLW for the first month or so.
Pros of Baby Led Weaning
Advocates of BLW claim the advantages of this style of baby feeding include
- Babies get to explore taste, texture and smell of foods freely
- It encourages independent eating
- Helps develop hand-eye coordination
- Makes fussy eating less likely because the parent won’t get stressed trying to ensure the child eats a certain amount
- Ability to deal with lumps
- The baby won’t overeat
I wholeheartedly agree these are all REALLY IMPORTANT skills, habits and behaviours that help children establish a positive relationship around food from a young age, however when a pureed style approach is used in a respectful and appropriate way, children will also achieve the same benefits as children who have done BLW.
Some examples of how you can achieve this through starting with purees
Encouraging them to learn to hold and use cutlery as soon as possible, never forcing a child to eat by pushing the spoon into their mouth, follow their body language and stop when they turn their head away, offer a variety of tastes, textures and colours, encourage finger foods from early on, increase the texture slowly to avoid them refusing the lumps later on and always offer positive feedback and body language to your bub (they love that!)
Ideas for first finger foods for your baby that you can incorporate with purees
- Roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin
- Soft cooked apples and pears
- Soft cooked carrots
- Meat or poultry
- Brown rice cereal.
I feel like mums are under so much pressure these days with umpteen parenting approaches and everyone having an opinion on what is best. If you want to strictly do baby led weaning then great, do it!
However; if you just want to ensure your baby gets the right foods and has the opportunity to learn and discover then you can most certainly do a combination of spoon feeding and letting your baby feed themselves with finger foods. There are good things about both approaches, so why not combine them?
Give your baby a lamb chop to chew on, but take some of the meat and process it with some veggies and offer via the spoon. Please don’t unnecessarily stress yourself out about following one particular approach. I have spent many years introducing solids to hundreds of baby’s and have seen the benefits of both approaches work just as well as each other.