Would you: Do Baby Led Weaning?

It’s a big month for us this month. Aside from #JanuaryJoy (yes, it’s still going on and there will be more posts this week!) Beatrice turns 6 months soon and we’re thinking about weaning. It seemed the perfect time to get these discussion and sharing posts going again and hear your thoughts on weaning. Please do share your thoughts and experiences – both myself and the readers find these posts so helpful I know, so thanks in advance!


Image from Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food

So, weaning. I think I’ve said before that I live in quite a hippyish area of Manchester and I could be forgiven for thinking that everyone does baby led weaning. Before having Bea it seemed like BLW was just the thing to do but I wasn’t sure if I was fully on board with it – it looked messy and I wondered if it was just the latest middle class fad. Since having Bea my thoughts were that I couldn’t do BLW; I’m going back to work when she is 8 months old and as she has thus far been exclusively breast fed (and I have no plans to add in formula once she’s over 6 months,) I’m aware some of her milk feeds will drop, even if I express and that she will need to be getting some nutrition elsewhere.

So I bought the baby led weaning book, fully expecting to disregard it but I am strangely drawn to the idea now. For those not familiar, the book suggests allowing your baby to start eating soft but normal foods (like steamed broccoli for example,) anytime after 6 months that they show an interest. No purees, no spoon feeding, just let them feed themselves. The catch is that the first couple of months or more are very much about learning and playing with food. Babies don’t know how to chew food or pass it back to their throat to swallow initially, but then slowly learn and improve. Milk feeds remain the vast if not entire basis of their nutrition which on reflection actually makes more sense as breast or formula milk is way more nutritious than a bowl of pureed carrot or apple will ever be.

And now I don’t know what to do. I think I want to do BLW. It seems right for Bea and for us. Everything we have done so far has been based around listening to her – her sleep routines and so on but is that because they suited us? Some passages in the book liken giving purees to force feeding and make it sound awful, when like many other baby methods in various books on sleep or behaviour, millions of children have been brought up like that without damaging lasting effects. I don’t really buy into the theory that BLW makes kids less fussy and choose healthier options in later life – surely fussiness is natural toddler behaviour thats inevitable as they get to exercise some choice combined with a bit of boundary pushing, and once a child is exposed to sugars etc, won’t they need some parental moderation of those things naturally? I do however like the idea of her self moderating her intake, just as she has whilst BF. On the other hand with pureeing Bea would eat what I gave her, I wouldn’t have to worry about the salt or sugar contents as I’d be making it and she would no doubt progress easily to being less milk reliant as I go back to work. I still plan to keep feeding her as long as expressing, feeding when I’m home (which is going to be 4 days out of 7 after all,) and my milk supply allows. I wonder if my leaning towards BLW is partly emotional attachment to BF – I do feel guilty that my return to work may impact on her feeding even though I know I should hold onto it as long as possible given the benefits to both of us. Many people tell me that their BF baby just has water or initially some expressed bottles when they are apart, then BF as usual when they are together, but is that me being selfish and hanging onto it, when she might actually really miss it or be hungry in my absence?

So, there’s lots of food for thought there and I’d love to hear your experiences, particularly around your return to work. In case it’s relevant, she won’t be at nursery initially but with my mum at our house or with Pete, so whatever we choose will be easy to continue in my absence.

Wade in readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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53 thoughts on “Would you: Do Baby Led Weaning?

  1. I’ve used both methods. Purees for my eldest almost 10yrs ago and BLW for my youngest around 5 yrs ago. Both were BF, my daughter stopped of her own accord at 10m and my son continued well past his 1st birthday. When I returned to uni full time, he maintained his morning and evening milk feed while taking water during the day.

    You mention mess. Feeding a baby is messy no matter what! I don’t think one is worse than the other. My eldest soon learnt to grab the spoon and had no interest in me feeding her at all. This is probably why BLW seemed to make so much sense the second time around!

    You also agonise over how much food/nutrition they’re getting with either method. Whether you feel like you only actually got one small spoonful of puree into them or there seems to be more chunks of food on the floor than in their mouth. I think this is just part of weaning and getting used to having less control over what they’re eating than when they’re breast/bottle feeding.

    Personally, I found BLW easier as I didn’t have to do any extra cooking/prep. With my eldest I spent hours making baby food in the evenings. I enjoyed it and felt good {read:smug} that she was getting homemade meals, but I just didn’t have the same time/energy when her brother came along. You obviously have to make sure you’re eating right in order to share the same meals, but I think it’s a good foundation for eating together as family as they grow up anyway {which is something I’m very passionate about}.

    You probably just have to go with your instinct really, read Bea’s cues and figure out what’s best for all of you. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong way.

    Franky

  2. It’s another one of those ‘there’s no right answer’ parenting issues! Whatever you do bea will thrive regardless (even if some are committed to one camp or the other. The river cottage baby and toddler cookbook gives a balanced account of each, plus some great recipes. I blw my two and found it fun and easier as they ate what we ate (also made us cut down on the salt), though we had to stick to slow-cooked soft meat until they grew teeth, and there is a bit more mess I think. Nursery and my parents needed a bit of support to feel confident doing it. I love food and cooking so I enjoyed it but friends who don’t found blw a pain in the arse (though you are a bit of a foodie, no?). I went onto formula when I returned to work but I had friends who expressed or just fed lots in evenings. The kids enjoy feeding themselves and though it isn’t a guarantee of no fussiness (in our house it has nothing to do with food and everything to do with attention-seeking!) my pair aren’t fazed when presented with unusual foods (makes travel and eating out a breeze) and will try anything though can’t guarantee it’s blw. It’s over so quickly and going back to work is a big transition so do whatever causes less stress, IMHO. Good luck. Xxx

  3. We are in the early stages of weaning with my 6 month old son. I see no reason why you can’t do a bit of both! I like some of the ideas behind and benefits of BLW but also want to know how much Teddy is eating and seeing how much he enjoys porridge for example off a spoon I wouldn’t want to deprive him of that. He has already learnt how to swallow from puréed veg (but still quite lumpy) and after feeding him we always give him the spoon which he then puts in his mouth himself. As well as puréed fruit and veg I have offered a few BLW foods which at the moment are normally being thrown on the floor! I plan to continue to do a combination of both but gradually increase the BLW elements. Like you say we were probably all brought up with purees to start and we can all eat fine!

  4. I {big heart} BLW. I BLW’d & exclusivly BF with both my boys, mainly as I am lazy and unorganised and spontainious. The thought of having to plan my day around bottles & food stops slightly terrified me. I loved how spontanious we could be, stopping off for an unplanned lunch somewhere and not having to worry about not having food for the baby.

    The BF dropped as they managed to eat more and by the time they were 1 both boys were on morning and night feeds only, with my eldest self weaning at 14 months and my youngest is down to just a morning feed at 16 months.

    I cant say it makes them any less fussy, I think thats just toddlers. My eldest who is almost three will eat something one day then wont the next? And if you tell him its a chicken nugget he’ll eat anything!

    To start with its terrifying, and the first time they gag on a bit of food will have you wanting to run to the kitchen and blitz the lot, as the book says you have to trust them and thankfully I never had to intervene. Just make sure you know what to do and your highchair keeps her supported & sat upright.

    The thing i love most about BLW is its made me healthier. I cook more than i ever did, healthy nutritious meals. I cut the added salts, sugars & processed junk from our diets and we sit down as a family to eat, almost every night. Plus my dinner doesnt go cold while i feed the baby!

    Good Luck!!

    • Your first paragraph completely sums up my attitude to BF and BLW! 🙂 I’m also looking forward to improving our meals – we are in a bit of a rut as to mid-week meals and I have to admit without the worry of my weight while Pregnant and BF we have veered to the shall we say more filling, portion sizes and food types 😉

  5. We wanted to go down the blw route but at 5.5 months our little boy started waking every hour for a feed. I started giving him purée and he loved it and went back to his normal sleep. Now at 7 months we do both fingers foods and purée. He often dips his breadsticks into his yoghurt or puréed food. I found it has taken quite a while for him to get used to finger foods but gets very excited now at food times. Good luck, it is lots of fun. The choking is a little bit scary but I soon got used to it!

  6. We did BLW as it made the most sense to us – the only real change we had to make was using low-salt or salt-free stocks and not adding salt when seasoning our cooking (I usually just took out a portion or two for L and then seasoned the rest as usual). It suited us great to have L eat what we ate, and it meant not having to worry too much when we were out and about – in terms of snacks, I would usually take fingers of cheese or cucumber which she’s always loved. Pretty much of our meals are home-made, so it wasn’t a worry for us that she wouldn’t get what she needed – if anything, it just means that our fridge is even better stocked with fruit and veg than normal!

    It did take a long while for her to get onto three full meals a day – we started bang on six months but it was only just over two months later that she was really beginning to regularly eat decent amounts. I did worry about this on and off (mainly because people would constantly say “are you sure she’s eating enough?”), but kept going back to the BLW book for reassurance and I was essentially really happy that she was being introduced to eating at her own pace. Also, knowing that she was still getting what she needed from (breast)milk was also hugely reassuring.

    Compared to the other babies in our group, who were all largely puree-weaned, L definitely has the more adventurous palate and eats pretty much everything (though like every toddler has days when she’ll turn her nose up at something she normally loves) – she loves strong flavours and things like curries – but I don’t know how much of that is a reflection of the foods that M and I like, and cook at home, and how much is down to the way she was weaned. But considering the first meal she ever completely demolished (at 6.5 months) was saag paneer, there’s definitely been some influence on that front!

    Ditto what Beck says about the River Cottage baby book being good – we have that and the BLW cookbook and I tried a fair few recipes out from both to good success in the early months.

  7. Hi Rebecca
    Been doing some research into baby led weaning myself… It is worth approaching with your medical head on too, as peads are v anti- no RCTs and multiple case reports of choking etc. worth bearing in mind.
    Lizzie

  8. We started off just doing purees because it seemed easier and F was always a very hungry baby. He went onto 3 meals very quickly and at that point we did a mixture – porridge for breakfast and some finger food and mashed meals for the others. I never really made separate food for him, but maybe mashed it up a bit. To be honest I was very worried about him getting enough to eat, so BLW exclusively wouldn’t have worked for us.

    I don’t think it’s made a difference to how adventurous he is now. He’s brilliant at feeding himself and stopped having anything different from us a long time ago. Any problems we have are due to him being a toddler, as everyone else has said. I would also say the main factor that has made him a good eater has been nursery: they’re so good with table manners and getting them to try different things. From day one we said not to mash his food (he was 11 months when he started) and that helped us at home. What that translates to is that as long as you can get everyone who looks after Bea on board then that’s the key.

  9. As you know, I did blw with Connie. We both got on really well with it and she learned very quickly how to feed herself. You can still use puree’s in blw, you just pre load a spoon and put it in front of her. Purée is essentially soup and that’s a fab thing to get kids into.

    I had to return to work earlier than planned and I’m convinced that our house move and Connie starting nursery were what caused her to start to refuse virtually every food she had previously wolfed down (needing to take control of something in her life). It started around 10months and went on for about a year. It took me a long while to learn not to fret when so many delicious home cooked meals were left untouched. I don’t want to add more concern or worry but what I’m trying to say is just as Bea’s sleep has been up and down, the weaning process will be too. Don’t overthink it. Some kids have a super sensitive gag reflex and blw is too stressful for some mums. Other kids hardly gag at all. You’ll quickly get the hang of it and find your own way of doing things, and as she’s been bf, she’s already been exposed to a variety of tastes.

    Re the feeding thing and your return to work… Connie used to have one, sometimes two formula feeds at nursery as I really struggled with expressing and then just had a massive feed when she got home. That was the most wonderful part of my working day!

    B xx

  10. I haven’t done baby led weaning with either of my babies and it just hasn’t appealed to me. No offence but I always thought it sounded a bit hippyish and after returning to full-time work with both, my priority is a full nights sleep which solids contributed to. They both started with real food purees at 4 months which was recommended when breastfeeding clearly no longer sustained them and finger foods from 6/7 months (which I suspect is like blw). Maybe I just had greedy babies? My eldest now always gets complimented on how well he eats. As always, I think listening to your baby and your instincts and what fits in with you as a family is best.

  11. I was all geared up to do BLW, but found out that the reality really terrified me, despite endless self educating on baby first aid. So, to avoid anxiety filled meal times, I made my own purées which have gradually become lumper, and now at 8 months I feel confident enough in my boy’s abilities (and my nerves!) to have started giving him foods to eat, alongside the purées. This way he can practice feeding himself but I also know he won’t go hungry – hungry = grumpy, just like his mama!

    Like everyone else has said, it just has to be what feels right for both of you. This is a really fun and messy time. Although, it felt so strange to be giving him anything other than my milk at first, like you are doing something wrong! It’s funny how different the local weaning talks can be. My sister in law lived in Chorlton when she weaned her babies and the focus was completely on BLW. On the other side of the city, the talk I attended was really all about nutritional value, e.g. don’t give your babies junk food. Not even a mention of BLW.

    • Yep, I am terrified at the thought of the inevitable gagging. I’m hoping Bea isn’t too bad with it though – fingers crossed. The amount of toy/teething chew etc that she tries to shove into her mouth currently however isn’t a good sign!

  12. we started off with purees as I hadn’t really looked into it much. However my daughter had other ideas and completely refused a spoon from about 7 months so I was forced into Blw. In the end though it was good as there was no faffing with making separate food and she could eat out with us and I didn’t have to spend time feeding her while my food went cold. It is messy but it does settle down eventually. Invest in long sleeve bibs and a highchair that doesn’t have to many nooks and crannies!
    Weaning was a bit up and down for us and it took a few months before she was into 3 meals and we also had to take a break when she was unwell and then start from the beginning again. We also had problems with dairy intolerance and wind issues but thankfully that settled by 12 months.
    Not sure about the fussy eating thing. My daughter is really fussy but I think that’s her personality. She’s very stubborn and knows her own mind. She started off trying everything but now would rather throw food on the floor and go hungry than try something new! For weeks she lived off blueberries, bananas and pasta (then stopped eating blueberries and bananas!)
    It’s an exciting time though so have fun!
    I love this website for recipe ideas although of course they can eat what you eat but I still liked to try new things out

    http://www.mylovelylittlelunchbox.com

  13. We have started solids this month bang on 6 months. I fully expected Hugo to wolf down what I presented (purees of every variety) but infact he hasn’t yet swallowed a thing! He mainly spits food out and does a lot of gagging. I’m in a similar boat in that I will be heading back to work soon and am concerned he’ll go hungry if he won’t take a bottle or eat anything!
    Friends have reassured me he will eat when he’s ready and I do feel a bit guilty that I may have rushed him.
    I have order a Gill Rapley BLW book and taken a step back. He is sleeping well and clearly getting enough nutrients from my milk so I am going to come back to it in a week or so and try not to worry.
    All the best for starting Bea with solids. This post couldn’t be better timed. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I think regardless of which method you choose, weaning takes longer than you think. Even if you start at 6 months when they’re ‘ready’ for food, the majority of their nutrition will be from milk (formula or BF) until they’re about 9 months. Don’t expect her to start eating well or dropping feeds til about then and it’ll be less stressful for you! I read somewhere that babies will work on about a 3 day cycle, rather than a daily one, so if they seem to eat zero one day they’ll make up for it on day 3. I found things easier when I realised that that was mainly true for mine.
    The main thing, as people have said, is to try and stay sane when they refuse or spit out lovely food you’ve made them! I was of a similar mind that I’d like my kids to be able to self regulate their food intake and to ideally be non fussy eaters- which I think is more to do with how chilled out you are when they’re refusing things than the method of weaning you use.

  15. We started with a mixed approach both times around. More BLW with added spoon feeding (for things like porridge and yoghurt) though as opposed to traditional puree weaning with finger food. We’ve taken the baby’s lead and by 9 months old my eldest would pretty much eat the same as us (obviously watching out for things like salt intake and food that presented more of a choking risk). At 8 months my youngest has decided she absolutely does not want to be spoonfed so we’re on all finger food now.

    I don’t believe that puree / spoon feeding is force-feeding though, I’ve always done that with the baby’s collaboration, letting them hold the spoon and following their cues.

    My eldest will eat a wide range of food and is willing to try new things. Unless its a day when she claims she doesn’t like anything but I think that’s down to her being 3.

    Re: milk, in your position I’d start with expressed milk for Bea to have in the afternoon if she wants it. She might not and be happy with morning / evening feeds and water during the day.

  16. I started off with a bit of both with my little girl (now 11 months) and I found the book ‘Weaning Made Easy’ by Rana Conway (and her recipe book) really helpful. At nearly every meal I originally some purée and some finger food and usually some of both went in (inevitably the rest of both went on the floor/wall etc – neither approach is more messy than the other as far as I can tell!) but at about 8 months, she started refusing to be spoon fed anything other than breakfast and yoghurt so now we’re completely on finger food. While I love the idea of sharing our food, in practice it only works out at about 50% of meals so there’s still plenty of preparing special food, especially more interesting finger foods. Some of the time it’s just throwing together some mini sandwiches and a range of interesting accompaniments.

    I’m still breastfeeding and although my little one doesn’t eat huge amounts of food, she quite quickly dropped feeds during the day so I now do 4 (morning, morning nap, afternoon nap and bedtime) plus at least another during the night, but she can go without the daytime feeds if I’m not around. I’m a bit of a cookbook addict – the book ‘Bebe Gourmet’ is also gorgeous but a bit more purée heavy.

    Good luck – weaning’s great fun!

  17. When we started weaning my little girl, we started off with a combination of baby led weaning and purees. My little girl has always been very independent and enjoyed feeding herself so we were primarily doing baby led weaning from 7-8 months, which included some purees/ yogurt/ porridge which we would assist with by loading the spoon. Baby led weaning really worked for us with my little girl, but all babies are different so I would suggest trying a bit of both for the first month or two and seeing what works best. Just for context, I was also breastfeeding and went back to work at 9 months and didn’t have any issues. Finally an obvious point but, it might be worth speaking to the people providing childcare to see what they feel comfortable with. My husband was initially wary of baby led weaning until he saw how comfortable/ confident my daughter was, my mum was really in favour because she enjoying us all sitting down and eating together, my daughter included, but my mother in law remains really wary of it and worried about my daughter choking, despite the fact she has been on solids for 9 months now. Good luck with the weaning, I found it a really exciting time.

  18. If BLW feels right to you and Bea then do it! I’ve followed Annabel Karmel (with a few finger foods) and have found it great, but that’s because it really suits my daughter – she’s always been hungry and adapted really well to solids, but doesn’t seem to enjoy finger foods and gets rally grumpy when she hasn’t eaten much, so purées work best for us! I also find that she eats a much wider variety of food in purée form and I feel happier that she has a mixed and balanced diet. However, if she hadn’t taken to purée so well or had preferred finger foods then we would have done more BLW. Whatever makes you and Bea happy!

  19. I’ve done a mix of Annabel Karmel purees and finger foods with both my BF babies. They’ve both been very easy to wean and I’ve been lucky that they seem to enjoy their food. I honestly don’t believe that BLW babies make less fussy eaters in toddlerhood – at nearly four, my eldest eats pretty much the same food as we do and is as good a eater as any other child that I know. My youngest is still a baby but will eat anything and everything at the moment – however I know that this might change at any point!

    Gill Rapley’s inference that weaning with purees is akin with force feeding is total and utter rubbish. She’s clearly never seen a baby windmilling their arms and shrieking with excitement for another spoonful of mush! I’d also like to see her try and force a mouthful of food into a baby who’s had enough. Believe me, once they’re done, babies are experts at keep their mouths firmly shut and letting you know that they’re finished.

    I admit that cooking purees can be a lot of extra faff and I’m not sure I could be bothered if I wasn’t on maternity leave. However on the other hand, it’s only a short lived phase and even purely puree weaned babies are on proper food after a couple of months.

    Ultimately though, you should just do whatever you feel most comfortable with and what fits best with your lifestyle.

    Oh – and I agree the River Cottage book is great. The lamb curry is a firm family favourite in our house!

  20. Oh I have so many thoughts on this. I thought I was going to be a hardcore BLWeaner, and I discovered I love making purees too.
    As you suspect, your baby will guide you through this process. I really like BLW , but I did not like the book making things all absolute that if you started spoon feeding the process will go wrong. So, not true in my experience.
    In the end we have been doing a mix. At the beginning I made a lot of purees (with the Beaba Babycook, that I love, such a good investment, saves you time and dishwashing!, only 1 thing dirty), at the same time I did offer all kinds of foods BLW style, and she liked those too. Then she went through a phase where she wanted to be fed squares / pieces of cooked / steamed food directly in her mouth. And now she is mostly eating by herself, though some foods like yoghurt she likes to be spoon fed still. BTW I do not think it is force feeding, because, you will see very soon you can not make a baby eat what it does not want, it will close the mouth tight and spit it out. They also really clearly let you know when they do not want food anymore. Also she loves to have her own spoon to practice and she is quite good at putting it in her mouth.
    As for the salt and sugar contents, you can still control it with BLW, because you will still be preparing her foods. (This has been quite the challenge, in order to share our meal with her I am slowly learning to cook and season without salt).
    So what I am saying is mix it up a bit and do as you feel, and let your baby guide you through the process. They do love the independence of feeding themselves and the glee the kid gets from stealing food from your plate, eating by themselves and sharing the same meal as adults is very special to see.

  21. I second the recommendation for Rama Conways book. It doesn’t push BLW or purees and we have done a bit of both from about Five months. It seems to be working well.
    G loves his food and I have certainly never felt like I was force feeding him!

  22. Oh I got myself in a right funk over this. I personally now think people make way too much of attaching themselves to a method. Basically, a mixture of smooth purées, yogurts spoon fed to the baby, combined with nice bits of steamed veg, fruit, buttered toast, soft meats etc to play with, chew and feed themselves at the same stage works fine…in my experience. I was in a similar stage of indecisiveness about what to do and how, until someone said to me :’baby-led weaning? Oh, we used to just call that ‘feeding the baby!’ With hindsight, I can’t believe the middle class horror some people are starting to associate with spoon feeding a bit of purée. It’s nearly as bad as the dreaded looks reserved for bottles and formula!! Feeding a baby from has become an absolute minefield for mums from day 1, when it probably should just be about good old trial and inevitable error, and working out what is best for both individual mum and baby.

  23. We do BLW, partly because its what I’m naturally drawn to because I do believe that it helps babies to learn to regulate the amount that they eat, partly because I am lazy and the thought of making purees or playing “here comes the airplane / one bite for Mummy, one for Daddy etc.” bores me to tears and partly because I hope it will prevent food becoming a battle ground when my daughter is a toddler.
    That said, unless you want to eat three meals a day yourself, at breakfast, midday and 4.30/5ish, the theory that they eat what you eat when you eat it doesn’t really work so you do end up making special food anyway. Iris and I eat breakfast and lunch together and then I pretend eat whatever she is having for tea because it really does encourage her to eat too.
    As others have said, BLW is definitely not the fastest method to full weaning so you do have to be relaxed about the potential for night time feedings. Iris slept through from 7-7 from 10 weeks with only a dream feed, which she dropped at 5 months (in each case of her own accord). Since turning 6 months she has woken 2-3 times a night to feed. I’m fine with that, because it goes with the BLW territory, but it helps to be aware of the possibility of it in advance.
    I’m going back to work in a month when Iris will be 8 months old. I had initially thought that I would express at work for her day feeds, but actually I think the time it would take to express wouldn’t balance out the benefits of her continuing to be exclusively breast fed at this age, but like weaning, it is a super personal decision.
    BLW / puree / puree with finger foods (which isn’t BLW, just to be really pedantic) – I’ve been surprised by how much fun weaning is, so hopefully you, Bea and Pete will enjoy it.

    • On your thoughts re expressing at work to continue EBF… one mum said to me that she gave some formula when she returned to work because once eating the baby no longer had a ‘virgin gut’ and that was the first time that adding in formula felt less of a desecration of all those months of BF to me!

      My plans were to express if necessary, but I was concerned how productive that would be when I was away from Bea and also reducing feeds – to a good combination for supply…

      Interesting re the sleep. Bea sleeps through and also has since 10w, but has been increasingly unsettled the last few nights and last night woke 5x! I wondered if she was getting hungry – i.e. needing more feeds as a sign of readiness for complimentary foods… That would be very hard if I was back at work.

  24. I have twins, and did purée because it was a while ago, I would agree, do what is best for you. It is probably only a couple of months before they’re on finger foods, but having frozen cubes of purée and defrosting a couple here and there was a good option for me. Mashed banana and weetabix all the way! I’m sure you could grout tiles with that stuff. I think I still may have some bolognaise sauce on my light fittings too. Happy days xx

  25. Weaning is one of those very emotive topics, especially for first-time parents. In my experience, they all seem to get to the point of eating ham sandwiches by toddlerdom, regardless of the method!

    As a paediatrician, I am sceptical of ‘pure’ BLW. We are well aware that a child’s iron stores, important in development, deplete after the first 6 months or so. I just can’t see how a baby can get full nutritional requirements from what it can feed itself at this very young age, especially if breast-fed. (I am therefore sceptical of the ‘food is fun before they’re one’ theory, although I would not put this POV across to my patients).

    I also think that infant feeding in general is “baby-led”, whether the food is presented on a spoon or not!

    I did a mixture of both purees and finger foods, offering both at each meal. I felt that offering a wide range of flavours, textures and colours of food important. Best of both worlds IMO. (Plus, I found making purees and all those tiny tupperwares fun 😉 And Ella’s Kitchen pouches can be convenient when out and about) My daughter became very adept at feeding herself with a spoon very early on anyway, and wasn’t keen on intervention!!

    I breast-fed, but did slowly introduce formula in the daytime from about 7 months in anticipation of returning to work at 9 months (my job is not compatible with expressing at work). I kept early morning and pre-bed feeds on returning to work, as I felt it was important to keep the emotional connection, but soon found that DD was not overly bothered with how her milk came! Introducing formula seemed a lot easier (in terms of how I viewed it) with my second child than with my first.

    Whatever you do, take loads of weaning pics, they are priceless!

    • Hmmm interesting thanks Jenny. The BLW book suggests that iron stores slowly deplete (like a half life graph) and while food intake increases they remain topped up from the milk feeds. It also suggests allowing them to chew meat to get the goodness out of it and states that iron is more bioavailable in meat than in fortified foods.
      Obviously there are people who say the WHO guidance on exclusive BF until 6m and BF until 2y on demand is aimed at developing countries where water supply is dirty and nutrition poor, but I wonder if those babies BF later (with an adequately nourished mum) get Iron deficient…?

  26. We did a mixture of both & really enjoyed it. One reason I did lumpy purées was the time of year. We started in December & I felt that Alice should have something warm & comforting inside her at lunch time.

  27. I found no matter what you may plan, your baby will tell you what she wants to do! I was keen on trying both methods, however my son took a really long time to take to feeding. Would only accept purees and took months to progress to slightly thicker/lumpier. Just spat out any ‘bits’ or lumps as soon as he found then. No hope at all of finger foods! Rice cakes got sucked until bits broke off then he spat them out. He also refused to hold a spoon and feed himself till over a year old. He knew what to do, he just picked up my hand, placed the spoon in it, and guided it from bowl to mouth 🙂 At over 2 years old he still occasionally does that when he is poorly and wants the comfort of me feeding him. Eventually it all evens out, I’ve seen no difference amongst the children I know in terms of pickiness. I did find weaning really stressful because of all this, however as someone said previously, by the toddler years they can all demolish a sandwich!

  28. I started baby led with Jesse at around 5 months. He took to it right away, as he was always trying to grab our food and seemed really interested at dinner times. I wanted to do it so he could sit with us as and be part of the family dining experience without my having to let my own dinner go cold whilst feeding him! He took a couple of months to get in to being able to chew but it’s been SO much easier; if we are out in a restaurant I just break off bits of what I have and he eats that. I have worried he isn’t getting or enough food but he’s still on all milk feeds (he’s pretty hungry!!!) plus 3 meals a day. At 9 months now he has toast or a banana or crumpets or a little fruit bar – that kind of thing for breakfast and then whatever we are having for lunch – omelettes or meat & veg or fish fingers or pasta and then at dinner recently I’ve started mixing up the BLW with a spoon feed so he has an Ella’s kitchen every night. Mainly because we don’t eat dinner until late and I wanted to make sure he was having something. It’s just about doing it YOUR WAY and not really basing it on what others are doing. Every family and every baby is different and Bea will be amazing at both 🙂

  29. Megan is just 6 months and we’re doing a mixture of both. So far she has spoon fed porridge for breakfast and finger foods for lunch (lunch is a loose term for whenever in the day we fit food in). She loves both the spoon feeding and the BLW meals. I’ve found that with doing both each has helped the other, so because she was used to playing with finger foods, when we introduced porridge she took to it straight away, and the swallowing of the porridge has helped her learn to swallow as she feeds herself.

    I hate the fact that all the reading about either method makes it feel very either/or, I love the idea of BLW but also have enjoyed the spoon feeding (which we introduced because I was hoping more solids would help her reflux issues). Just go with what works for you and Bea, trial and error is the way, she’ll let you know what does and doesn’t work for her!

    Finally, the BLW book likens spoon feeding to force feeding but if doesn’t have to be, when Megan shows she has had enough I stop feeding her and let her play with the spoon and bowl. Spoon feeding doesn’t necessarily equate to forcing a certain amount down them. And neither do you have to necessarily make separate food, as long as your food isn’t salt heavy, you can purée most things!

    KL x

  30. What works for one doesn’t work for another. If I have learnt something about being a mum is always follow your instinct and do whatever works for you and your family.
    I always gave mine what we were eating from the start. I adapted the meals with less salt, no spice etc and gave it to them first puréed, then thicker. The puréed phase is really short. I remember I was terrified about chocking, so BLW was to scary for me. But they were both very early on grabbing and eating whole bits, so I let them as long as it felt safe. They eat solid before you know it. Not sure if it is that, but my kids are now 3 & 6 and eat most things (one being a lot fussier than the other). They eat curries, sushi, fish, seafood and we can all enjoy restaurants and a variety of dishes. With both of us working full time, it makes life a lot easier to cook one meal for the whole family. I know friends that still cook ‘kiddie food’ and some kids I know will only eat pizza, fish fingers, pasta and sausages.

  31. With my daughter ( who is 10 months now) we started off with purees and baby rice, and I loosely followed Annabel Karmel’s weaning menus. It suited my daughter and I actually really enjoyed cooking up the purees and inventing new ones. Now she is eating mostly chopped up food ( loving the River Cottage baby recipes!) finger food ( she loves toast especially) and some lumpy puree too. The Ella’s pouches have been helpful now I’m back at work and don’t have time to cook every day, and she enjoys those too. Some of my NCT group did BLW and it’s worked for them, so I think it’s just a personal thing and you just do what works for you and your little one. I gave up BF at 6 months and moved onto formula, it was very emotional leading up to giving up, but I felt it was the right time for us, and my daughter loves her bottles, and we still get our special time together.

  32. I started off weaning by spoon feeding Alex. He quickly moved from smooth to mashed to lumps. I used Annabel Karmel’s book for him originally and did some bulk batches for him. We soon moved on to cooking our family dinners from the River Cottage recipe book and just mashed Alex up a portion from my plate. At this time we started to put chunks on his tray too – sweetcorn, peas, mangetout, etc. He then seems to have naturally progressed on to feeding himself by hand and is now getting used to feeding himself using a fork or spoon. He is not fussy at all, in fact he is the exact opposite! I think whichever way you choose they all end up in the same position as they become more independent.

  33. We have done BLW since 6 months. EBF and now at 9 and a half months we at pretty much on 3 meals a day and down to 4 BFs a day. Need to go down to 3 in next 7 weeks as that’s when I go back to work. I found the beginning of weaning pretty stressful! So much harder than just wapping a boob out! The gagging is, in retrospect only really for a month or so, if that. ! I’m glad we stuck with it though as we are often complimented on how well our wee one eats and on how good his fine motor skills are (unfortunately he can now pick his nose & eat it, lovely unexpected benefit!). He can also sit for family meals which is so lovely and he always seems to eat more when there are lots of people to watch around the table. We also did ‘purees’ (mostly mash we were having or pretty thick soup) and yoghurt on loaded spoons. He pretty quickly was able to pick up the spoon and get the food in his mouth. I don’t have a problem with this either as I feel he’s still in control of his portion control which was one of my main reasons for going down this route. We also give some of those Ella’s kitchen pouches (particularly when at other people’s house or public places where the mess can be a bit much) and found that the little ones can, from 8 months ish onwards, suck out however much they want from the sachet. Again, not ideal but helpful & mess free! Wouldn’t do it everyday as think sucking food in like that is more likely to lead to tooth decay. I always offered something on a spoon to begin with, like you because I wanted to fill him up a bit more and to begin with they are pretty much just playing, which is lovely. Over Christmas it just seemed to click though and he suddenly started wolfing food and fit bang eating, chicken, ham and beef in chunks. Previously he’d eat meat only if say it was a stew mashed withI some veg and given in a loaded spoon. BLW purists might shoot me but I think finger food plus loaded spoons has worked wonders for us. Good luck! It’s so lovely to watch them begin to enjoy food and be social around it.

  34. I did a lot of reading, got frazzled, and in the end did what my Mum did with me which was a mix of finger foods, self feeding, and spoon fed mashed – starting with veg/fruit and yogurt, then moving on to mashed food like shepherd pie. I never fully puréed to remove all lumps but this meant M could learn the skills BLW gives, motor skills, self feeding, satiety and saying ‘finished’ and also play with textures etc, but she could also easlily participate in meals with us like fish pie where she couldn’t easily eat with her fingers. Most meals had finger foods and we encouraged her to use spoons as soon as she could to feed herself. After the first few months she ate adapted versions of our meals so I wasn’t constantly cooking! I’m lucky that she isn’t a fussy child but this worked well and she’s comfortable and confident eater now at 21 months. I know parents who have BLW and got all the benefits, others who BLW but still had fussy kids, and those who spoonfed and produced good eaters, so I’d not be too puritanical either way and go with what’s comfy for you and Bea. An exciting step in the journey, I loved watching M explore and get to love food!

  35. We loved, loved, loved baby led weaning. Yes, they take a bit longer to get on to three meals a day – but it made absolutely no difference to sleep here. Most sleep issues are developmental leaps – if they are having plenty of milk then it isn’t true hunger for food that’s waking them.

    Re iron stores – baby gets enough iron from breastmilk to sustain them for the first year – there are various research papers and articles (I’m sure you will have access to the relevant societies Rebecca) that support this.

    T is now a very sociable eater – he is an absolute delight to take out for a meal and there’s never any stress. Some days he isn’t too fussed for food, just like we are sometimes as adults – others he is ravenous, and we just go with it.

    It was a really simple and straightforward process for us – no pureeing, freezing, having to sit and spoonfeed – just cook, offer and leave him to it while we ate our meals. The gagging is a bit frightening at first, but the whole point of their gag reflex being so far forward in their mouth is that they don’t choke – and you will be surprised at just how effectively they can deal with things. Even if they have no teeth!

    Do what feels right for you and Bea – as long as you feed her something, it doesn’t really matter!

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