Baby Led Weaning vs Purees

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Baby led weaning vs purees

If you are an expecting mother or a new mom considering how you will choose to introduce solid foods to your baby, you’ve probably heard some debate about baby led weaning vs purees.

In the Montessori circles, baby led weaning is quite popular. Many other parents decide to begin the weaning process with purees, however.

Just to be clear, starting the weaning process does not mean stopping formula or breastmilk. The introduction to solid foods is just the first step in a long journey.

When your baby reaches a certain age and is showing all the signs of readiness for solids, either of these methods, or even a combination of both, are completely appropriate. And I would argue that both are perfectly Montessori aligned.

What is baby led weaning?

Baby led weaning (BLW) is exactly what it sounds like. You are essentially allowing your child to wean at their own pace. BLW requires babies to pick up appropriate-sized bites of food and put that food in their own mouths and eat.

Baby, reaching for food on tray. Baby led weaning.
Baby, reaching for food on tray.

Some dieticians believe that BLW is preferable; that a child’s first foods should be ones they pick up and feed themselves. This is due to the exploration factor of BLW. Babies get to experience the texture with their hands, as well as their mouths. This makes for a messy, but sensorial and enjoyable mealtime for babies. It also allows for babies to have a great amount of control over how much they consume, letting them get a grasp of the sensations of hunger vs fullness.

Why do some parents prefer baby led weaning to purees?

Many parents in Montessori and “natural parenting” circles believe the addage that giving a child food before one is “just for fun”. So, they are hesitant to replace much, if any, breast milk or formula with solid foods.

Parents who follow the BLW weaning strategy believe in respecting the child and encouraging their autonomy. Parent who choose baby led weaning are making a great choice for their children!

Why choose purees over baby led weaning?

Parents have different reasons for different parenting choices, though.

Many parents who start their babies on purees instead of finger foods believe it benefits babies to experience flavors and textures via spoon feeding first.

Mother giving baby purees.
Mother, spoon feeding baby purees.

There is evidence to support that food before one is NOT just for fun, but for supplemental nutrition.

There is also evidence that the introduction of solids between 4 and 6 months is optimal in preventing food allergies. Many 4-6 month olds, however are not quite ready to eat chopped solids. So, this evidence supports starting with purees.

A misconception among those who choose BLW is that parents who feed their babies purees are somehow “force feeding” them, and that a baby’s cues of disinterest or satiety are ignored in favor of “finishing the jar”, thereby teaching a baby to ignore their fullness cues.

This is simply untrue in most cases.

Have you ever tried to nurse a baby that was full? Yeah, no…they purse their lips so tight a sliver of paper couldn’t sneak through. The same thing happens when you try to spoon feed a baby who is full.

A full baby will give the same cues whether they are in front of a plate of food or being fed from a jar.

Parent’s who choose introducing purees in favor of the BLW strategy are also making a great choice for their babies!

Baby being spoon fed.
Baby being spoon fed.

Can you do a combination of purees and baby led weaning?

Sure!

It is entirely possible to introduce your baby to a variety of flavors and textures via purees, then as they become adept at swallowing, introduce finger foods to their diet.

There tends to be a lot of judgement between mothers about which type of weaning is best and when it should be done.

The WHO guidelines are not the same as the AAP guidelines. The WHO guidelines recommend to start solids no sooner than 6 months. It is important to understand, though, that the World Health Organization (WHO) makes its recommendations for impoverished countries, as well as developed countries. So, these recommendations take many factors into consideration that are not applicable to all of us.

Canada’s recommendations for introducing solids are different from America’s, but similar to the WHO’s. Canada, however, clears parents to introduce their babies to cow’s milk as early as 9 months old.

So, you see the recommendations on everything baby-feeding related are always going to vary on where you live!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidlines state:

​Introduce solid foods around 6 months of age
Expose baby to a wide variety of healthy foods
Also offer a variety of textures

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx/

The AAP also warns not to introduce solids prior to 4 months. So, not before 4 months, and “around” 6 months. Essentially, 4-6 months, with all signs of readiness.

What’s important to understand is that we all have our reasons for weaning different ways.

All three of my children were fed a combination of finger foods and purees, as desired. None of them were “force fed”.

It is entirely possible to follow a Montessori philosophy and to “follow the child” no matter how you choose to introduce your baby’s first bites.

Baby led weaning vs purees, or both; whatever you choose, you’re doing awesome.

In the blink of an eye, you’ll be putting your sweet baby on their first bus ride to kindergarten and all the stress of how they ate their first foods will make you laugh. I roll my eyes at how much I stressed about introducing solids to my first child!

So, try to worry less and try to enjoy your baby’s first tastes of food as much as they will.

Cheers and don’t forget to subscribe!

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