By Fran Taylor, the Brighton Nutritionist
Starting your baby’s weaning journey should be a fun and exciting time for you both. It can however seem a little overwhelming. Type baby weaning into Google and a few hours, plus countless blogs and websites later, you may end up feeling slightly panicked and confused. There are some strong, divided opinions out there telling you to lead your baby or to let your baby lead you. These different approaches to weaning can come with weighty claims about your child’s development which adds to the pressure and anxiety you may already be feeling.
Take a breath and relax. The reality, and evidence, is unsurprisingly not so conclusive and clear cut. There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to weaning, in the same way as there’s no one way of eating which fits all adult’s nutritional needs. The World Health Organisation recommends starting to introduce solid foods at six months old, but at this age some babies may be more advanced and ready to try feeding themselves compared to others. Regardless of approach all babies need certain key milestones before any weaning is started – that means being able to sit unaided, picking up objects and bringing them to their mouth and can swallow food.
Baby led weaning
Baby led weaning (BLW) means letting your baby feed themselves rather than spoon feeding with purees. I think it’s important to make clear that at the moment there isn’t a whole heap of robust scientific research into the benefits of BLW and long-term outcomes. What has been shown is that BLW has encouraged greater participation in family meals, more exposure to family foods and reduced the anxiety about weaning. It can mean less prep for you to do as you can give them foods you’re having, which can also result in you eating healthier, as the food you cook for your baby will have less salt.
It is also possible that BLW:
- Helps to develop hand eye coordination
- Encourages more self regulation of food intake
- Helps to stimulate muscles in the baby’s mouth allowing them to be more efficient at eating and this can help speech development
- Increases variety and sensory experiences
What about spoon feeding?
The popularity and reported benefits of BLW doesn’t mean the traditional spoon-feeding approach should be disregarded. We know that iron rich foods, in the form of milk and cereals are more likely to be offered when spoon feeding.
- Able to offer wider variety of foods and nutrients from the start including iron-rich meat and a bigger range of vegetables.
- Less mess!
- Better idea of how much your baby has eaten
- Baby might be ready for this and not BLW
So, both approaches have their advantages, and despite what you may have read, they need not be mutually exclusive. The best approach is therefore the one that suits your baby, that you are comfortable with and that you both enjoy. Remembering that food before one is largely for fun is a good mindset to bring to weaning, it will help you both enjoy this exciting time. That’s a great start to eating and cooking brilliantly as a family.
If you’d like to find out more about the what, why and how of weaning come along to our weaning workshop on 20 June at the new Community Kitchen on Queens Road.