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Baby-Led Weaning vs Spoon-Fed Weaning - Which Method Should I Choose?

Information about weaning has changed a lot over the years, and this has left many parents confused and not knowing where to start when it comes to introducing their baby to solids. Did you know that back in the 1950s, doctors advised parents to wean their babies from only a few weeks old? Eek! Nowadays, the WHO recommends waiting until the 6 month mark before introducing solids, as milk (breast or formula) is their main source of nutrition up until this point. Some doctors will recommend weaning earlier, however this is only for specific medical reasons.

At Mamamade, we believe in supporting parents in finding the best weaning method that works for them and their baby to help give them the best possible start in life. How you choose to wean your baby is completely up to you and there is no right or wrong way to do it. But new parents are often bombarded with information and opinions that can make the wild world of weaning tricky to navigate!

There are two main weaning methods that parents usually follow with it comes to weaning their baby - baby-led weaning, and spoon-fed weaning. It's very common for most parents to choose one of these approaches and stick with it, or to combine elements of both. Both methods have their pros and cons, which we'll explain below!

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Baby-led weaning

The baby-led weaning method has gained popularity since the term was first coined by health visitor Gill Rapley in 2003. Baby-led weaning is a very relaxed and unstructured weaning method which is based on a baby being offered solid foods to feed themself, without the help (or very limited help) from an adult.

The baby-led weaning method has gained popularity since the term was first coined by health visitor Gill Rapley in 2003. Baby-led weaning is a very relaxed and unstructured weaning method which is based on a baby being offered solid foods to feed themself, without the help (or very limited help) from an adult.

Usually, these will be soft pieces of finger-sized food which they can hold in their hand, rather than from a spoon. It's important to know how to cut foods safely for baby-led weaning to minimise the risk of your little one choking.

Baby-led weaning is only safe for babies age 6 months and over as there is an increased risk of choking for babies younger than this. But all babies are likely to gag a lot when they start weaning (especially BLW!), so it's good to brush up on the differences between gagging and choking to ease any concerns when this happens.

Mothers with their babies and Mamamade meals

Pros of baby-led weaning

  • Improved independence as your little one can pick up food for themselves

  • Exposure to different textures from the beginning

  • Baby can join in family mealtimes more easily

  • Less food preparation involved - more time to spend with your baby!

  • It promotes self-regulation with food intake

Cons of baby-led weaning

  • Parents have less control over how much their child is eating

  • It can be messier!

  • Some parents may be more anxious trying baby-led weaning as they may believe there is a higher chance of choking (there is no evidence to support this!)

  • Parents can be concerned that their baby isn't getting the right nutrients through baby-led weaning. It's important to offer your baby the right kinds of food, and ideally iron-rich foods every mealtime.

Have you tried some of Mamamade's finger foods? If not then you have to try some of our suitable for baby-led weaning meals and snacks. Banana Oat PancakesLentil Veggie BitesVeggie Millet BitesRed Pepper Polenta Fingers and Chickpea 'Panisse' Fingers. Plus we've got loads more! 

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Spoon-fed weaning

Spoon-fed weaning is when a baby is offered soft, mashed or pureed foods on a spoon by a parent or caregiver. Sometimes this is also referring to as pureeing or traditional weaning. These foods will often be porridges, veg and fruit purees, or baby rice.

Spoon-fed weaning is recommended for parents who are weaning their babies earlier for 6 months due to medical reasons, however parents may choose to use purees if they start weaning around or after 6 months.

This weaning method is how babies would have been traditionally been weaned in the past, and is the method that your mum, mother-in-law, grandparents and other older relatives are most likely to be familiar with.

However, you don't have to introduce purees if your baby is being weaned age 6 months or over - you can just go straight to finger foods instead if you'd prefer to.

If you do choose to spoon-feed, it's really important to pick up on your baby's cues and let them decide when they've had enough. Make sure they're developmentally ready to start solids and don't force-feed them when they're done.

Babies eating Mamamade melas

Pros of spoon-fed weaning

  • There's less mess involved

  • Parents may be more relaxed about choking

  • Easier to know how much food a baby is eating and the nutrient density of their foods (i.e. iron-rich foods)

Cons of spoon-fed weaning

  • It doesn't allow baby to self-regulate food intake

  • If you feed your baby smooth mixes and purees for too long, they may develop a dislike for lumps

  • If a baby is spoon-fed for too long it can slow their developmental skills

  • Preparing purees and mashed baby food can be more time consuming

We offer a range of single-ingredient and mixed-ingredient purees and porridges suitable for spoon-feeding your little one, plus all of our organic mixes can be pureed or mashed to suit your baby's needs! Check out our full range of organic baby meals.

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Still unsure which method to choose?

That's okay! Consider the following:

How old is my baby? If your baby is younger than 6 months you should follow the spoon-fed method, whereas babies aged 6 months or older can go straight to finger foods if you wish.

How confident am I with weaning? There is no evidence that suggests BLW increases the risk of choking, however if you feel more at ease with starting your baby on purees and mashed foods that's completely fine.

How much time to I have to prep? Pureeing and mashing foods can involve more prep, which may be something you want to consider when deciding which method to follow.

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which method will suit you and your baby best, and don't be afraid to try and mixture of the two approaches! It's very common to start on smooth purees before moving onto BLW, so don't feel pressure to go for finger foods straight away if you're not ready.

Children eating Mamamade meals and snacks

 Mamamade meals are suitable for all babies and toddlers whether parents are following baby-led weaning or spoon-fed weaning methods. Browse our collection of meals suitable for babies at the very start of their weaning journey!

And if you need some on-the-go advice, why not check out episode 1 of The Mamamade Podcast - Setting the foundations for weaning with Rosie Stockley! Where we talk about starting from scratch to help modern-day parents feel reassured and understood about common questions that you might be a little too nervous to ask. How do I start weaning? How do you know when to start weaning? What do I need to start weaning? What foods do I introduce to my baby? What is weaning actually like for both the baby and the parent? And so much more!

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