Baby-led weaning versus conventional weaning
I don’t know about you guys, but we’re all caught up in Olympic fever here and competition seems to be on our minds constantly. So if baby-led weaning was to compete with conventional weaning which would win? Are there any real advantages of one over the other? Do you have to choose one method or can you in fact combine the two?
Baby-led weaning is definitely winning the race in popularity with many parents at the moment and this was boosted by the media coverage earlier this year that claimed that ‘spoon feeding makes babies fatter’. This story was based on a research study carried out at Nottingham University which looked at the impact of weaning method on food preferences and health outcomes in early childhood. However, this study has been criticised for its small size, with only 155 babies (92 baby-led, 63 spoon-fed), with most of the babies in each group being of a healthy weight. Many factors can affect a child’s food preferences and body weight, including genetic factors, exercise, social and demographic backgrounds, and as this study only asked questions about eating habits at a single point in time rather than over a period of time it only gave a snapshot of the situation. Some of the findings may also have been due to chance, so in fact this study probably proves very little. For a more detailed review of this study you might be interested in this article on the NHS website.
Although many parents would back the more conventional approach to weaning as the deserved winner, there is probably a case for combining elements of both approaches to get the best for babies. Babies should be encouraged to feed themselves when they appear ready and you should allow your baby to take control of their own food intake. When they appear to have had enough, don’t force them to eat any more. It is important that you offer a good variety of foods with different tastes and textures, including a wide variety of finger foods, and babies should be given a spoon to feed themselves with as soon as possible. We know weaning is a messy business, but we need to accept and prepare for this and not discourage independence.
Of course, as parents we like to know how much food our baby is eating and this is often easier with more traditional weaning methods, but we have to accept that with childhood obesity rates on the rise we must keep an open mind about what is the best way to wean a baby. A much larger study looking at feeding of babies from the start of weaning over several years would give us much needed and invaluable information on which to base the best weaning advice for you all in the future.
Let me know about your experiences – which weaning approach do you favour?
Baby led weaning
Have any of you tried baby led weaning? For those of you that haven’t or don’t really know what it is, baby led weaning is where the baby is encouraged to feed themselves a variety of solid ‘finger’ foods from the start, and it has attracted a lot of attention in the last year or so. For those that have tried this new approach to weaning, how was it?
Although some parents swear by it and I can see why some parents might be attracted to it, it does tend to take more time and create more mess which won’t suit a
ll parents and babies. Also, from my point of view the lack of research into baby led weaning is a concern, particularly if parents’ nutritional knowledge is limited or if baby is relatively developmentally delayed. So the advice I give, and the Department of Health’s official advice, still focuses on a more conventional approach to weaning using spoon feeding and purees at the start.
Of course, finger foods should be included in traditional weaning from around 6-8 months anyway to encourage babies to chew and to feed themselves. This helps with speech development and overall progress of babies towards family-type meals. Offering a selection of nutritious finger foods really encourages independence and will suit some babies who tend to be more ‘picky’ about what they eat. But remember, always stay with your baby and make sure they are sitting up straight while they’re eating.
Read our suggestions for finger foods to offer your baby.
Have a good week! - Helen