Whether you’re at the start of weaning or a few months in, there are different approaches available for feeding your little one. Traditionally, weaning has involved pureed food given by spoon, with textures progressed gradually over time, which matched babies’ development beautifully. However, from 6 months babies are capable of picking up foods and bringing them to their mouths to explore, hence the popularity of baby led weaning'
Traditional weaning takes a gentle approach starting with purees that are slightly thicker than milk, before progressing to thicker and lumpier foods over time. This means that babies learn to use the muscles in their mouths to eat more gradually.
One advantage is that you have a better idea of how much your baby has eaten. You may therefore be more assured that they’ve eaten enough of the nutrients they need.
Some babies prefer to be fed rather than having to feed themselves, so frustrations and tantrums may also be avoided. Other babies, however, can be quite strong-willed and definitely want to have more control! It’s worth noting that even babies being weaned with spoon-feeding will need to be given finger foods from around 6 and a half months.
Baby-led weaning, or ‘BLW’ as it’s sometimes called, is particularly focused on the social aspects of eating as baby eats the same food as you at family mealtimes. It means providing food for your baby in whole, unprocessed forms, rather than pureeing or mashing it. With BLW you really let your baby get stuck in, exploring food all by themselves – some of which will end up in their mouths!
One advantage of BLW is less additional cooking, because you offer your baby the same food that you’re eating. This can also offer health benefits to you, because to make them suitable for your baby any recipes you choose need to avoid sugar and salt.
With baby-led weaning you also eat together, showing your baby how to pick up food and then to eat it. Babies learn by copying and because you’re sharing a meal together, you’re also teaching them early social skills.
If you’re advised to wean early, however, you shouldn’t choose the BLW method. That’s because before 6 months your baby won’t be ready to cope with whole foods and complex textures, which could be a choking risk for them.
BLW is a very messy approach to weaning, but if you choose this path it’s important to embrace the chaos. After all, learning to eat is very much a sensory experience
You don’t actually have to choose between traditional weaning or BLW. A mixed approach is absolutely fine too and in fact, although you may decide to feed one way, your baby may have other ideas! The most important thing is to respond to your little one’s cues – that way you’ll find the right approach together.