Spoon feeding purees has long been the way to introduce foods to babies, but baby led weaning has been gaining popularity around the world. What’s the difference, what are the benefits of baby led weaning, and how can you do it with success?
Many parents are choosing to give baby led weaning a shot, in place of traditional spoon feeding for new eaters. In this post, we’re discussing the differences between the two approaches, why we decided to do baby led weaning with our babes, and a few tips for success should you choose to try it.
Spoon Feeding vs. Baby Led Weaning: What’s the Difference?
Traditionally, spoon feeding has been used to introduce new eaters to solid foods. However, in recent years, many parents have started giving baby led weaning a shot instead. What does this mean and what’s the difference between the two?
Spoon feeding is fairly self explanatory in that you’ll be introducing your baby to first foods via a spoon, in the form of purees. Spoon feeding can typically begin anywhere between 4-6 months, depending on your baby’s individual developmental milestones.
Some spoon feeding foods include purees like:
- sweet potato
- iron-fortified baby cereals
Baby led weaning (BLW), on the other hand, is the idea of skipping purees altogether and, instead, starting your baby on age appropriate finger foods. BLW is intended to begin around 6 months of age, or when your baby has met the required milestones of sitting up and bringing his hand to his mouth to eat food. By this age, most babies will have lost the tongue thrust instinct, where they push food out of their mouths. When using baby led weaning, your baby will mostly eat foods that are soft, easy to grab, and cut into long strips about the width of a pinky nail.
Some BLW food ideas include:
- avocado slices
- steamed squash or beets
- thinly sliced toast (make sure it’s honey-free until at least 1 year of age)
- soft cooked pasta and lentils
- no-salt-added canned beans
- sliced berries
- eggs (optional)
What are the Benefits of Baby Led Weaning?
There isn’t a ton of research behind baby led weaning quite yet, but experts agree that there are many benefits to babies learning to self-feed.
Some of these benefits include:
- A greater sense of confidence in eating and food choices
- Increased satiety
- An early learning of hunger and fullness cues
- The development of fine motor skills and oral motor development
- An increased acceptance of a variety of types, textures, and flavors of foods early on
- Potentially lower anxiety for the parent(s)
- A higher intake of high-energy and fat-rich foods than spoon-fed babies
- An overall healthy relationship with food
You may be concerned about choking hazards when doing baby led weaning, and we totally get it. Rest assured, though, that research shows no difference in choking likelihood between spoon fed and BLW babies. One study even says that babies who are fed the least finger foods have a higher risk of choking.
That being said, all babies should avoid certain high-risk choking foods such as raw apples, leafy greens, grapes, whole nuts, and popcorn until they are age appropriate. Furthermore, you can find more information about the differences between gagging and choking here so that you know what to look for when feeding your babe.
Tips for Successful Baby Led Weaning
We know how overwhelming it can be to make decisions about how to best care for – and feed – your baby. If you’re interested in pursuing baby led weaning, here are a few tips that we think will help.
Be prepared for BLW to take time. Babies don’t master the pincer grasp (picking up food between their forefinger and thumb) until closer to 8-10 months of age, so in the beginning there will be a lot of fist food.
Introduce foods on your baby’s timeline. Baby led weaning should be just that – baby led. Your baby will get to determine when he is ready to try something new, what textures and shapes are best, and how much of his diet will be made up of solid foods. Additionally, your baby won’t be eating three meals of solids a day for a while.
Above all, make sure good nutrition remains the priority. Breast milk or formula should remain her primary source of nutrition, so there’s no need to force solids all at once while doing BLW. There may also be a need for certain dietary supplements, especially if your baby is strictly vegan.
However you choose to feed your new eater, we believe that fed is best – and that whatever way you decide is the best way for your family.
Tell us below:
- Have you done spoon feeding, baby led weaning, or both? What was your experience?
If you found this post helpful and are interested in learning more about baby led weaning, check out our Ebook First Bites: The Definitive Guide to Baby Led Weaning for Plant Based Babies.