The pros and cons of baby-led weaning
Baby-led weaning (BLW) – a fancy term to describe introducing solids by letting your baby feed herself finger foods – is the latest new trend in parenting.
There’s no doubt it makes for an adorable photo op on social media - but can you really ditch the blender and miss out the puree and mash stage? Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of BLW, and see what nutritionist and dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan has to say.
The good parts of baby-led weaning
- You avoid the time-consuming process of pureeing.
- It introduces babies to different textures from the start, so you don’t have to fight to get them to accept lumps later on.
- Many parents have found their BLW babies are less fussy when it comes to food than their puree babies.
Dr Joanna says:
“They’re eating fresh, whole foods as opposed to packaged or processed foods, so that’s the important thing. I like the idea of getting them more involved in and appreciating food. It’s great to get them using their hands, and chewing on a bone helps their teeth come in and get the idea about chewing.”
The not so good part of baby-led weaning
- It can be hard to know how much your baby is actually eating because much of her food ends up on the floor.
- Your baby might not get all the nutrients she needs.
- It’s messy.
Dr Joanna says:
“It’s difficult to get enough meat into your baby this way – they’re not going to be able to chew and digest it. You’ll have to mince up some meat for them to ensure they get enough iron. Back when we were hunter-gatherers, we would have chewed the meat for our babies and ground certain foods between stones to make it easier to digest. Human babies take a long time to develop and become self-sufficient compared to other animals, so parents need to help them get enough nutrition out of food for quite a long time.”
The final wash up on baby-led weaning
You will still need to give your baby some pureed or mashed food. Dr Joanna says “There are good things about both approaches, so why not combine them? Give your baby a pork chop to chew on, but take some of the meat and process it. Mix it with quinoa to add a bit of texture, as well as some mashed sweet potato, pumpkin or peas.”
Joanna’s top tips to make feeding your baby easy:
1. Feed them what you eat
“By 10 or 12 months, your baby should be having the family meals,” says Dr Jo. “Sometimes we put infant nutrition up on a pedestal and think we need special foods for them, but your baby can eat what you eat if you’re preparing wholesome meals and you don’t add any salt. Preferably you won’t add any sugar either, but that’s not quite so taxing on them as salt. All you need to do is take a small portion of the family meal and process it in one of those little food processor bowls.”
2. Freeze some for later
“When you cook, put some additional portions in the freezer so you have something to pull out for the baby if you’ll be out for lunch or you don’t have time to prepare something,” Joanna says.
3. Buy healthy packaged foods
“There are some really great products out there” says Dr Joanna. “While it’s an expensive way to do it for every day and it’s not fresh food, it’s great when you’re travelling or you’re out for a meal. Those kinds of products are absolutely fine to fall back on.”