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Getting started with weaning – the different approaches explained

Like every aspect of raising a child, there are different ways to approach weaning.  With so much advice available, it can be difficult to work out what’s going to be best for you and your little one.

I’ve used a mix of approaches with my 3 children over the years and feel there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, so wanted to share my thoughts.  Hopefully they will help you choose which method is going to be best for you and your baby.

3 Main Ways to Wean:

Nowadays, these are the 3 most prevalent ways to wean:

  • Traditional weaning – spoon feeding purees to start and gradually progressing to mashed up food with chunks over the next couple of months and adding finger foods later.
  • Baby Led weaning – this involves letting your baby take the lead.  Giving your baby pieces of food that the rest of the family are eating.  The food is cut into smallish chunks, and your baby feeds himself, rather than you feeding them.
  • Combination weaning – as the title suggests, this involves a mix of the above.  Some meals involve purees, other meals involve finger foods, allowing your baby to feed herself.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the different approaches – based on my experiences, chatting to friends and reading lots about weaning over the years.

Traditional Weaning

The Pros:

  • It’s much easier to monitor how much your baby has actually eaten (rather than dropped on the floor)
  • It can be easier to ensure your baby’s diet is nutritionally balanced
    • Iron rich foods in particular, can be difficult for babies to chew if not pureed.
  • It’s generally less messy – particularly in the early days when you’re in control of the spoon!
    • As your baby starts to grab the spoon and tries to feed himself, things do get messier…
  • For parents who worry about their baby gagging or choking, feeding purees initially can help alleviate this worry.

The Cons:

  • Making up purees is time consuming – and it can be frustrating when your little one refuses to eat your lovingly prepared purees.
  • Having to spoon feed makes it harder to enjoy a meal together.
  • Some babies get very used to the smooth textures of purees and struggle when lumps and different textures are introduced.

Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

ikea floral cushion
The Pros:

  • BLW babies tend to be more adventurous and less fussy in their eating habits.
    • Allowing your child to explore the foods they are eating in their own time is felt to help with this.
  • No stressing about introducing food with lumps.
    • Your baby is exposed to a variety of textures from the start.
  • Babies are more likely to participate in family mealtimes from an early age.
    • You can all eat at the same time, rather than you having to spoon feed your baby
  • Allowing them to feed themselves is felt to be an important part of their development, helping with hand-eye coordination.
  • Can be easier for mums with other children – your baby can just eat a small portion of the meal prepared for older sibling(s) – assuming it’s low salt and contains no ingredients unsuitable for young babies.

The Cons:

  • It’s MESSY!  There’s no getting away from this – there is usually more clearing up and tidying up after mealtimes.
  • it’s harder to monitor how much your child is eating (vs. finishing a pot of puree) and whether they are getting the nutrients they need.
    • Certainly in the early days, a lot ends up on the floor or down the sides of the high chair!
  • Some people worry about their baby choking on bits of food
  • BLW shouldn’t be started before 6 months – which can be an issue with really hungry babies.

Combination Weaning

ikea cushion and matThe Pros:

  • Your baby will learn to both chew and swallow from the start.
    • There’s less chance of your baby rejecting textured, lumpy foods if they’ve been eating finger foods which require some chewing from the start.
  • They are given the freedom to feed themselves sometimes, yet you can still keep a good track of what they are eating
  • Methods can be switched to suit.  If you’re at home, your little one can have some of your food, if you’re out and about, you can grab a pre-made puree to make life easier.

The Cons:

  • Some BLW purists will say that you are undoing all the good if you switch to purees and spoon feeding sometimes, and that you may confuse your baby.
  • Choking remains a concern for some.
  • You’ll still have the additional work of making up purees.

As with most aspects of raising a child, there are generally no right or wrong answers.  The ‘right’ thing is the approach which works best for you, your baby and your family.  Discovering what is best may well involve some trial and error!

Whichever method you choose, here are some things to bear in mind:

  • No nuts, whole grapes, popcorn, raw jelly – all of these are serious choking hazards
  • No salty or very sugary foods – no need to add any salt to your baby’s meals and sugary foods can lead to tooth decay.
  • No honey until 1 year old
  • Eggs can be offered after 6 months – but should be fully cooked (both yolk and white should be solid, not runny)
  • It’s also recommended not to give children low fat foods – babies need good fats for their development.

Whichever weaning method you choose, the key is to stay relaxed, allow your baby to go at his / her own pace, offer a range of nutritious foods and allow them to explore lots of different tastes and textures.

Good luck and Happy Weaning!

Helen x


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