Q: I need to start weaning my son, who is displaying a real interest in food. But I am confused about how to do it. Do I wean him the old fashioned way with purees, or do I try baby-led weaning? What are the main differences between the two, and how do I know which one my baby is suited to?
A: Deciding how to wean can be overwhelming and there is much conflicting advice. Ultimately you have two options, either by food purees or baby-led weaning.
The puree option involves introducing your baby to different foods by spoon feeding blended fruits and vegetables. As your baby gets older, you can start to combine different vegetables or fruits to make dishes more interesting; introduce meat, fish, pulses and grains; and increase the consistency so that it starts to become lumpier.
The ultimate goal is for your baby to master chewing and swallowing. However, if you choose to follow this technique, you will still need to offer your child some finger foods (e.g. slices of banana, pieces of cheese etc) so that your baby can also learn the basics of self feeding.
Baby-led weaning involves giving your baby whole pieces of food (such as large pieces of cooked broccoli or carrot) for them to gnaw on, and learn to chew and swallow. Essentially, they are feeding themselves by holding food with their own hands and bringing it up to the mouth at their own pace.
This method allows babies to master lumpier foods from the outset, and experiment with different flavours and textures – so it can be a very messy business! However, if you choose to wean this way, do include some blended or mashed foods to keep the diet varied. Some foods, such as meat or dried fruit, are not suitable for baby-led weaning as they are not soft enough.
The best option for your child mostly depends on the age of the baby. Currently, the advice is to wean at around six months. Baby-led weaning is more suitable at this age as the child should have enough hand to eye coordination to self feed, and be strong enough to sit up. This helps to minimise the risk of choking.
However, on the advice of your health visitor, babies can be weaned earlier – sometimes as young as three or four months - and purees are usually more suitable for younger babies as you are in control of the food and the baby's feeding position.
Do you believe in baby-led weaning, or is the old fashioned way better? Leave a comment below...