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Baby-led v conventional weaning

The baby led weaning (BLW) method has recently become more popular, and there have even been a few research papers about it, although none have not yet drawn any conclusions as to whether it is a more appropriate method of weaning than conventional weaning.

Baby led weaning is where infants are encouraged to self-feed with foods that they can pick up, as opposed to parents spoon-feeding using purees. The advantages that are described by BLW advocates are that it encourages self-feeding and so reduces the chance of fussy eating as they grow older, because they are in control of their own feeding.

However, as there is a lack of research in this area there are concerns that babies won’t get enough energy and nutrients e.g. iron, as if they were spoon fed especially if parents’ knowledge is limited or if baby is relatively developmentally delayed. It is not a method that works for everyone. It can also take more time to get started and is very messy!

Obviously finger foods should be included in the weaning diet, whether ‘Baby Led’ or not, as they encourage self-feeding & chewing. The best practice to follow and the current official advice from the Department of Health is to begin spoon feeding with purees and then to provide soft finger foods from around 6-8 months of age.

When to introduce finger foods

Babies are inquisitive and will want to get involved when it comes to mealtimes, putting their hands in everything and making a mess. It’s a good idea to encourage parents to give their babies fingers foods from around 6-8 months of age (once a baby can reach out and grab them) as it encourages them to learn to chew (developing muscles for speech) and take control of what they are eating, learning to self-feed.

Even if babies don’t have any teeth they can still gnaw on soft foods quite happily. Start with soft finger foods that they can easily pick up and hold in their hands – cooked pasta, toast fingers, cooked & cooled vegetables (e.g. broccoli/cauliflower florets, green beans or carrot sticks), cubes of cheese, rice cakes, and soft fruits without the skin. Try to avoid sweet biscuits & rusks so babies don’t get used to expecting sugary snacks

Of course, choking is a risk so make sure parents don’t leave babies unattended and that they are always sitting up whilst eating.