Introducing solids to your baby is an exciting milestone for parents. Until about 6 months breast milk (or formula) provides enough nutrition for a growing infant and then as stores of iron start to run down it is important to start offering solids. Traditional and baby-led weaning are two differing approaches to introducing solids.
U.K. guidance is to start introducing solids when your baby meets three signs of readiness, which usually happen around 6 months of age – see the page below from the UNICEF and NHS leaflet Introducing Solid Foods.
Traditional Weaning – Spoon-Fed
Traditionally the first solids offered are purées – vegetables or fortified baby rice, starting with runny consistencies and increasing the chunkiness through time. Traditional weaning starts with babies being spoon fed, with ‘finger foods’ offered from 6 months alongside purées and mash.
Baby-Led Weaning – Baby-Fed
‘Baby-led Weaning’ is an approach introduced by UK health visitor and researcher Gill Rapley in her 2008 book ‘Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Food’. Really all weaning approaches should be and can be ‘baby-led’, however the ‘Baby-led Weaning’ approach specifically advises to avoid spoon-feeding a baby but instead to allow babies to self-feed from the start, and to refrain from feeding them via spoon. Baby-led Weaning isn’t suited to all babies, but most are able to try this approach from 6 months.
Baby-led Weaning vs Traditional Weaning
Although traditional weaning is a sound approach to feeding your child, ‘Baby-led Weaning’ is becoming an increasingly popular approach and research has shown that it may have some benefits over traditional weaning:
- More adventurous eaters
- Less fussy eaters
- More enjoyable mealtimes
Some of the worries around ‘Baby-led Weaning’ have been allayed by research too – particularly when care is taken to avoid hard foods as first foods, and to include iron and calorie-rich foods first:
- Risk of choking is no higher than with traditional weaning
- Risk of faltering growth is no higher than with traditional weaning
- Risk of iron deficiency is no higher than with traditional weaning
Whichever route you choose (and it doesn’t need to be strictly one way or another) then being responsive to your baby’s cues is key. Aiming to give your baby exposure to lots of different flavours and textures in their first year, in an unpressured way will be a great way to start them off on a lifetime of enjoyable food experiences.
Want to know more?
- From 2018 I am running Baby-led Weaning workshops for parents in my local area in and around South Warwickshire – Stratford upon Avon, Banbury and Leamington. Get the chance to get all your questions answered and be confident in feeding your baby! For more info see here.
- Looking for an in depth workshop to answer all your Baby-led Weaning questions? Jessica Coll is a Canadian dietitian who specialises in infant nutrition and in particular Baby-led Weaning. You can access her excellent online course with lots of recipes, videos and practical tips on Baby-led Weaning here (affiliate link).
- For a recent review of the evidence around Baby-led Weaning see this paper: Baby-Led Weaning: The Evidence to Date by Amy Brown, Sara Wyn Jones, and Hannah Rowan in Current Nutrition Reports 2017; 6(2): 148–156
- For Gill Rapley’s website all about her take on Baby-led Weaning see here: http://www.rapleyweaning.com