Baby-led or traditional weaning? Chances are it won’t be your decision!

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If you meet with any new parents in the first few months of parenthood, talk will inevitably turn to weaning. Hours will be spent discussing the merits of baby-led against the traditional puree approach, and vice versa, and usually one will be chosen over another.

What many first time parents don’t anticipate is that their baby will have their own, very decided, views on the matter. Many of the parents I have met have been super keen on a particular style of weaning, only for their little darling to have an entirely different plan in mind! I have known very neat and tidy mothers, who had intended to go down the purée route, taking newspaper (as a splash mat just isn’t big enough) wherever they go to place around their baby-lead loving (and extremely messy) babies. However, help is at hand with the ‘Multi Use Water Resistant Playmat’ from JoJo Maman Bébé. It is an inspired item as it is larger than most splash mats and can be used when weaning at home or as a picnic blanket that tucks neatly under the buggy when on the go.

On the other hand, some mothers (and I might just be referring to myself here) absolutely loved the idea of baby-led weaning but found they had a child who systematically push every bit of finger food off their tray and then sat with their beak open, eyeing a puréed spoon and making little uh uh uh noises, until food was spooned in. I found the Brother Max 2nd Stage Weaning Pots to be fantastic for this. They are a good size (170ml), click together so there’s no need for lots of ice cube trays in the freezer, are microwave and dishwasher safe, free of chemical nastiness and the frozen food pops out very easily (much better than bashing a frozen ice cube tray on a work surface until something cracks!). Most importantly they are fab for taking purees out for lunch or can hold small snacks instead.

Of course, in most cases, babies like a little (or a lot) of both approaches and if they are fiercely independent then they learn to use a spoon for those tricky (I have yoghurt in mind, here) things. In any event, whether you have a mucky pup or an open beak, the following top tips for first time weaners are invaluable:

  • Don’t worry too much. Just think, everyone you know has learnt how to eat and so will your baby. The first couple of months are about introducing food to your baby in a fun and enjoyable (and just a little bit messy) way. They are still getting everything they need from their milk and some babies take longer than others to adjust to solid food. Just make sure you have some handy Brother Max 3-Pack Catch and Fold Bibs to deal with the mess!
  • Make weaning fun. If you haven’t flicked the radio on and danced like a dervish, pulled silly faces and played hide and seek behind kitchen cabinets then you just aren’t trying hard enough! General rule of thumb here- if you would be embarrassed if another adult saw you, then you’re doing it right.
  • Variety is the spice of life! It can become easy to get set in our ways and forget to vary a baby’s diet. Aim to introduce new foods on a regular basis. In this way you will have a child who is happy to try lots of different things and avoid fussy eater territory.
  • Get into food swaps. Once you have weaning firmly established you will want to vary you baby’s diet as much as possible. If you have a group of friends who have babies of the same age, make one large batch of something each and then swap it over. Hey presto- lots of tasty meals for your little one to try.
  • Try a range of beakers. It’s a good idea to introduce a range of different beakers to your baby after 6 months and see which one they prefer. I’d recommend the Sippy Cup and Doidy cups from JoJo.
  • Don’t push it. It is never a good idea to force a baby to eat. It will probably come flying back out anyway. If you are feeding purees, a good idea is to hold the spoon to your baby’s lips for 10 seconds. If they don’t open, stop there. You can always try again a bit later on.
  • Keep an eye on their weight. It’s a good idea to take your baby to be weighed a few times in the first year. If they’re keeping on their percentile line then you know weaning is going well.

First time parents, you have been warned… oh, and always preload that spoon.

Rosie Wright runs weaning workshops for first time parents in Brighton.

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9 comments for “Baby-led or traditional weaning? Chances are it won’t be your decision!

  1. Marcella
    30/03/2012 at 1:04 pm

    great info and tips – you don’t tend to get much on weaning while there’s loads on breastfeeding!!

  2. Rebecca
    02/04/2012 at 12:50 pm

    I thought this was going to be a fair assessment of baby led but in fact once again this seems to favour purees. I don’t mind either way but I would like to see more promotion of baby led! Of courses they throw the finger food off the tray at first, that doesn’t mean we should give them purees…

  3. Helen
    02/04/2012 at 1:46 pm

    Food is for fun until after one!! The best advice I was given! Milk is the most important food they get till they’re over a year.
    babies don’t know what food is for or how to handle it, so they need time to figure it out, this usually means picking it up, throwing it across the room, sucking it, gumming it, spitting it out! But all part of learning process, baby led weaning teaches a baby to eat when hungry and they go on to know when to stop rather than over feeding. Clever stuff. We loved the splash mats and the long sleeve bibs to get us going. Have fun weaning, we loved it. When my little one was seven months old he had figured out how to eat melon, eating the juicy bit and leaving the skin. Enjoyed every second of baby led weaning compared to spoon feeding my eldest, who worried me senseless when he wouldnt eat what how much I thought he should eat. Good luck xx

  4. 02/04/2012 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks for all your comments! Rebecca- I’m sorry you felt that it wasn’t a balanced article in terms of BLW and purées. I tried to make the point that very often your baby will have their own preference on the way they are weaned and I don’t advocate one approach over another. My own son prefers purées but I know many other babies who have thrived on BLW.

  5. Debbie
    03/04/2012 at 9:25 am

    A baby wouldn’t know a spoon held food or ever choose to be spoon fed unless someone had spoonfed them first. The fact that your baby knew a spoon could shovel food in his mouth shows that baby led weaning was never practiced. BLW isn’t something that can be done on a part time basis, you need to let them lead and never interfere, with that approach every baby will eventually start to feed themselves – its their natural instinct to eat, not to use utensils held by third parties.

  6. kirsty
    03/04/2012 at 4:22 pm

    I would have to disagree that babies don’t know a spoon held food unless fed from one. Has your baby never watched u eating or do u eat with your fingers! I am pretty sure my baby knew after watching me eat for weeks before she started eating!

  7. Helen
    03/04/2012 at 6:28 pm

    Debbie, reading your mesg I thought the tone comes across as rather pushy and it’s as if you are having a go at a fellow mum for doing what she believes is best for her child. I’m sure that wouldn’t be the case as it would only take the most perfect parent in the world to criticise another mums parenting.
    As a blw mum, I have come across many parents who believe it is just about giving finger foods which we know it isn’t as my above post touches on, it is way more. But when I see other blw mums telling people they are doing it wrong or criticising them for doing what they know the purée way, it does get my goat!! I know I am not the perfect mother, so I don’t preach. With blw I like to tell my experience of it to help mums make a choice to how they introduce food to their little ones, but criticise I most certainly do not.

  8. sarah
    05/04/2012 at 10:45 am

    I’m a mother myself and a nanny of over 20 years and have done both approaches, to begin with I wasn’t keen with the BLW however it does work, but what I will say is that it has to be done right. why can’t babies eat food if they want and many do quite easily, it’s not for every family or every child, I’ve had children not pick up the pieces and not want to self feed or touch food at all. They need more support and we adopted a little bit of both approaches but not puree foods, simply spoons with flavours on them so the babies understood what was needed and they soon picked them up! I’ve not got a little one who now they are older (2) it’s obvious the child was weaned via the BLW as they will eat anything (and I mean anything) put in front of them. no fuss and happy to have food thanks. There are real benefits to both and it’s what suits you as a person, your baby and your families needs. I think a bit of both and alot of common sense is the true route forward!

  9. 05/04/2012 at 8:35 pm

    Lots of interesting comments & a very interesting article. I have found that the best way for us is a bit of both & to the above poster that blw can’t be a part time thing…it can. As adults, we eat a mix of soups, breads (or purees & finger foods) and so, in my opinion, it’s pretty natural to give your baby a bit of both. My daughter goes for the fist/hand rather than the spoon and loves her finger food, which proves it’s natural as it’s totally her choice to eat a puree and finger food! And by the way, she will eat anything & everything like a little munching machine!

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