Baby Led Weaning or Spoon feeding? Which is best?

So your baby is getting bigger and you are thinking about starting solids. There’s a lot of info out there and some of it can be confusing and contradictory. And if you are anything like me, you have been talking to other mum’s and they all have a different opinion on what’s best for your baby! Ugh! So what’s what?!

There are two main ways you can choose to feed your baby

1. Traditional Spoon feeding – this involves starting on smooth purees, and gradually increasing the texture from a smooth puree to mashed, then minced and moist, to soft finger foods. Different textures should be introduced by the age of 10 months, for optimal feeding development. This is the method currently recommended by the Ministry of Health.

Pictured (right) is my daughter at 10 months eating cereal and fruit from a bowl.

Top tip: a spoon in each hand can help them develop skills in both and prevents them favouring one hand over the other.

Generally, at around 6 months, you start with 1 to 2 tsps of food AFTER a breast milk/formula feed. Gradually increase the amounts of food offered, this will depend on your baby’s appetite and growth.

You may start with one meal a day, then slowly increase to three meals a day. At around 8 months meals are had before milk. By 12 months baby should be having 3 main meals, with the family and 2 snacks, with milk as an extra, not a main.

2. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) – BLW is a newer strategy which involves giving baby soft form finger foods, usually whole foods. So they can pick up the food and feed themselves. Pictured is my son at 7 months, eating kumara fingers, avocado and chicken pieces. It is thought that this approach is better for children to learn to control their food intake with their hunger cues and may help to reduce over eating and obesity later in life. BLW is thought to promote positive family meals and help develop positive relationships with food and promotes fine motor skills.

BLW is not currently supported by our Ministry of Health, for feeding our babies.

The main concerns are with:

1. choking (but studies now show that choking risk is NOT increased with BLW)

2. not enough iron intake for bubs

3. not enough energy intake for bubs

It’s very important that you avoid giving infants and toddlers foods that are a choking risk, including, small, hard and round or smooth and sticky foods. For example, grapes, nuts and seeds, raw vegetables or hard fruits (carrot sticks, apple) hard candy, fish and meat bones, popcorn, marshmallows, pips from fruit and foods with stringy textures such as pineapple and celery.

When is your baby ready?

It is recommended that baby’s start on solids around six months, but not before 4 months as their gut has not matured enough to digest solid foods.

Your baby is showing signs of being ready for food when they:

Can hold their head upright and sit unsupported.

Are able to pick up objects

Are able to bring their hand to their mouth

Have an interest in food

Are able to manipulate their tongue to move food around their mouth and swallow (if they are spitting food out, they’ve not learnt that yet)

Are turning towards food when hungry and away from food when full

But what about Allergies??

New research shows that introducing allergens earlier, between the ages of 4 and 8 months, is best for reducing allergy risk.

If you have a family history of allergies, eczema, asthma or food allergies, then there is a higher chance of your baby also having allergies.

It is recommended that you introduce all new foods, especially the common allergens (peanuts, nuts, egg, wheat, dairy, shellfish) one at a time, with 2 to 4 days before introducing another, to clearly see any reactions. If you have ANY concerns about allergies and introducing foods, see your GP or allergy specialist.

So what do I do? BLW or spoon feeding?

My best advice is be led by what your baby needs. If your baby is showing signs of wanting food, can hold their head up and is between the ages of 4 to 6 months, then start introducing solids.

If your baby is reaching and grabbing for foods, can put food to their mouth and loves being independent, then BLW may be the way to go. My son flatly refused to be fed puree food and he couldn’t spoon feed himself, so after a few agonising days, of me trying to feed him puree and him screaming and trying to shove fistfuls of goop into his mouth, we started BLW. Really soft finger foods that he could mash in his mouth with his gums and teeth, and soft fish and beans for iron and protein.

Introducing iron rich foods early is important. Babies have enough iron stores from birth, to last them 6 months. Breast milk does not give them enough iron so getting iron from foods becomes really important. Make sure you include, legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils, red meat, leafy greens, chicken and eggs.

If your baby enjoys being fed, is happy having pureed food and is still learning how to move food in their mouth and swallow, then feeding them puree food is probably best. My daughter would not feed herself, did not want finger foods until about 11 months and insisted I fed her puree. I spoon fed that kid for months, while increasing textures, then giving her a spoon for each hand to feed herself, before introducing finger foods.

Not sure what to feed your baby? Need help with a fussy infant or toddler? Been diagnosed with food intolerance’s or allergies and not sure where to start?

Contact me for a one on one consult, I can help guide you and your bubba on your food journey.