Baby Led weaning or spoon feeding?
This blog is my experience of weaning my 3 babies from Mother and Dietitian eyes. Three very different (but enjoyable) experiences. If you’re asking the question – should I do baby led weaning or spoon feeding? Then please keep reading.
Baby n0.1 – Weaning the spoon feeding way
Seven years ago, baby number one was weaned at 20 weeks (as recommended at the time), using the spoon feeding method. I hadn’t heard about Baby Led Weaning (BLW). So joyfully and enthusiastically I got the blender out and started whizzing up and freezing batches (and batches) of ice cube trays filled with colourful fruit and vegetable purees. We progressed as recommended, through the stages to mashed, lumpy and finger foods at 7/8 months of age, making the most of the important ‘window of opportunity’ for different tastes and textures. By 12 months, he was happily having the same meals as us. Its a method of weaning that worked well for us at the time. Hard work and a bit of a faff, but I enthusiastically got on with it.
Baby no.2 – The Baby Led Weaning (BLW) way
The ‘hard’ baby of my little batch! Plagued with reflux and an undiagnosed cow’s milk allergy. I had completely lost my confidence by the time we got to weaning. The baby showing the way, rather than the parent leading the weaning, really suited my thought process at the time. Recommendations had now changed to starting weaning at 26 weeks, giving the baby another couple of months of optimum nutrition through their milk feeds. The concept of the baby taking control really suited me as a Mum and a Dietitian. Food is about so much more than nutrition! It’s also about learning about different tastes and textures, participating in the social side of family meals and seeing how far food can be thrown! So, playing with, and having fun with food was really important to me. From a nutritional point of view, I loved the process of my baby deciding when and at what speed to reduce his nutritious milk feeds, at his pace, not mine. He could decide what foods and nutrients he needed, and choose when to stop eating, based on his appetite, not my perceived opinion on how much he should eat. So we embraced BLW and it didn’t disappoint! I loved the hassle free and very enjoyable (if not very messy) meal times. He loved his food (and still does), my only regret was that I didn’t video the record breaking speed that he ate a banana! Polished off in less than 1 minute! Amazing!
Any negatives of BLW?
- The mess! But lots of Al fresco dining and take a splash mat/newspaper when you eat out. Problem solved!
- Waste – BLW can therefore be a bit more expensive. Particularly hard with ‘precious’ items like salmon and avocado that are immediately thrown on the floor! On the positive side, the cat had a nutritious couple of months!
- Not for everyone – if you’re a bit of a perfectionist or like to be in control, then this method of weaning might not be for you.
- Gagging – be amazed how effectively they can gag food out! But gagging can lead to the odd vomiting experience. More traumatic for you than baby!
Baby no.3 – The ‘mixing it up’ weaning method
Just when you think you know what you’re doing, you realise you don’t! Baby number 3 was 6 weeks premature and this threw my weaning experience out the window. After having such a good time with BLW, I desperately wanted to repeat baby number 2’s experience. However, premature babies are advised to begin weaning earlier than the recommended 26 weeks (reduced iron stores that are put down in their missed last trimester of pregnancy) and premature babies often have delay’s in their development. Sitting up is an important developmental milestone that must be reached before BLW can safely start.
I decided to start weaning just before 26 weeks, with mashed up or naturally smooth foods like porridge and yoghurt. Although these were spoon fed, I tried to hold onto the much loved BLW concept of ‘fun with food’ . Weaning progressed very slowly, but by 7/8 months, she was really enjoying her food and managing finger foods well. Now 10 months old, the majority of her meals are finger foods with the BLW concept, we still spoon feed the occasional foods. I can’t handle the mess now a days!
So, whether you choose baby led weaning or spoon feeding or a bit of both…… here are some of my weaning tips.
Tips for successful weaning
- Remember weaning is a process over many months
- Every child is different and every parent is different. What works for one, might not necessarily work for you
- Don’t stress, let your baby take control
- Trust their fluctuating appetite. Some days kids will eat you out of house and home, other days (or even weeks) they will hardly touch their food. Its all normal.
- Offer drinks regularly in a beaker or open cup. Milk or water are the best, to protect their teeth
- Avoid honey until baby is one
- Limit high salt foods (read the labels) and don’t add salt to their food during cooking or at the table
- Try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere
- Never force feed or insist your child eats everything off their plate. Let them judge their appetite
- Get support from your Health visitor, GP or Dietitian
- Most importantly – ENJOY and watch your babies love for food develop
Whether you choose baby led weaning or spoon feeding – attending a children’s first aid course is a must. Speak to your Health visitor about local courses.
Let me know your favourite baby led weaning or spoon feeding stories in the comments box below.