Parent-led vs Baby-led weaning - Who's right?

So in today's world it would seem that there are two ‘ways’ of feeding your child solids. What most people are more familiar with ‘Parent-led weaning’, and the seemingly newer trend of ‘Baby-led weaning’. There are pros and cons of both. And when it comes down to it, you need to do what you are most comfortable with, and what your baby responds best to. However, to help you out in understanding why you may choose one over the other – here is a simple ‘How To’ guide for starting solids. Plus a little bit of research to help you through. 

Parent-Led Weaning

Parent-led weaning is feeding your child through a progression from pureed food, to then mashed and lumpy food, and finally to soft but ‘whole’ foods. This approach fits in with the stages of development an infant goes through as he or she loses their choking reflex, refines their pincer grip and starts to understand hunger signals.

Pros

  • Lower perceived risk of choking
  • Larger range of foods you can start your baby on when first trying solids – it is often easier to puree foods than to try and adapt whole solid foods
  • Yummy combinations to try
  • Easy for on the go (use food pouches for example)
  • Parents can monitor exactly how much their infant is eating
  • Infant is more likely to consume the food pureed in the early stages – so you can have peace of mind that they are getting the added nutrients they need on top of milk
  • You are less likely to get into a bad habit of feeding your infant ‘whatever you are eating’ – such as biscuits or seasoned dinner food, which are not great first foods for baby.

Cons

  • You need to monitor your child’s hunger and full cues. When a parent is feeding a child it is easy to keep spooning the mixture into their mouths without taking into account how full they may be getting. Without realising it you are overriding their fullness cues and setting them up for over-eating in later life.
  • You have to sit and spoon feed your child which makes it harder to have family meals or when out in restaurants or at friends’ houses
  • Pureeing and storing different food combinations can become a second part time job
  • You need to be careful to proactively progress your child onto lumpy foods by at least 9 months.  Research shows children who are delayed in starting textured foods have a higher risk of dental problems, language and speech delays, and fussy eating behaviours as toddlers.
If I were to advocate parent-led weaning it would probably be more so for first time parents. They usually have more ability to concentrate on the infant whilst feeding them (thus avoiding overfeeding). They also tend to be more nervous about their child choking when compared with parents of subsequent children.
 

Baby-led weaning

Baby-led weaning should only start once a child is 6 months of age and has strong head and neck control and can sit upright unaided. This technique is allowing your child to self-feed small, softened portions of everyday foods.

Pros

  • As milk should still be the primary source of nutrients for a child under 1 year of age allowing a child to feed themselves at their own pace will aid in self-regulation of hunger and fullness
  • Allows you to cook one meal and have everyone sitting down to eat it together
  • Gives you more freedom and flexibility when going out for dinner
  • Your infant will start with real food from day 1. They will understand texture, taste and what the whole food really look like
  • Easier if you have more than one child
  • Promotes better dental health, speech and language development and acceptance of a varied diet as a toddler

Cons

  • Some infants may struggle with more textured foods in the beginning and reject all the food presented to them – this can be frustrating and costly

  • There are some great foods which are quite hard to give to infants who can only use their hands as utensils

  • It can be hard to keep track of what your child is eating (vs what is ending up on the floor or in the dog’s mouth)

  • Can be anxiety producing for some parents who are worried about choking.

It is important to learn the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is normal for infants. This is a healthy automatic response to food hitting their throat. It will lessen over time, but is helpful when they are young to prevent anything too big getting lodged. Choking is silent. This is why you should ALWAYS watch your child when they are eating. Choking is when the wind passage is blocked, it is very scary and your baby will probably not make a sound and rather be trying to draw breath. Gagging or coughing, on the other hand, is a positive way for your child to spit out food they cannot swallow easily. 

When it comes down to it both these options are legitimate ways for your child to start out. As long as you understand the strengths and weaknesses of both methods.

 

Reading your child’s fullness cues is important:

  • Turning away from the spoon
  • Pushing the spoon away
  • Closing their lips tightly
  • Swiping all the food of their highchair tray
  • Mushing all the food up in their fingers but not putting anything to their mouth
  • Dropping food on the floor without trying to eat it
Many parents quite like starting out with purees and then quickly moving on to more solid foods once both they and their child have gained some confidence. This can be as early as 6.5 or 7 months old, which means there is no harm done to development.
 
Bottom line is to not get swayed by what other people are doing or your favourite blogger is advocating. Do what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. Personally I loved starting out with purees and sharing in my child’s enthusiasm of the new flavours. She had moved to feeding herself portions of the meals we cooked by the time she was 7 months old. It did make life quite a bit easier and it really was not as scary as I had thought it would be. If we were to have any more children I may want to start with whole solid foods from the beginning. However, Sofia really did not enjoy the texture of lumpier foods so it may not have been a nice experience for her regardless. Each parent to their own – and each child to their own. Your infant will be nourished by its milk feeds primarily either way.

 

How can we help?

We have our Starting Solids ebook to help you navigate best first foods for baby. 

Over at Nurture Box we have the beautiful Starting Solids kit which comes with our starting solids ebook download. 

 

 

What starting solids questions do you have? Ask below.

Leave a comment