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The Eating Journey, Nutrition

You don’t have to choose between Baby-Led Weaning & Puree

Where did we get this idea that using baby-led weaning (BLW) or puree feeding has to be all-or-nothing?  

You’ve probably seen the BLW Facebook groups that don’t tolerate comments about puree feeding and the traditionalists who insist that letting babies whole self-feed risks their nutrition status. And I get it. Doubling down on our commitment to a ‘team’ sometimes helps us feel more confident in our parenting choices, when so often there is very little to feel truly confident about.

But it’s not the Super Bowl. We’re not trying to determine a winner here, we’re trying to nourish baby and raise competent eater. And, in my experience as a pediatric dietitian, different approaches work for different families and different infants.

You can absolutely raise a healthy, competent eater by sticking with either method. Babies who are mostly fed purees will ultimately learn to eat solid foods, and research shows that babies who learn to eat through baby-led weaning can absolutely meet their nutrition needs

If one of these methods appeals strongly to you, works for your family’s lifestyle and seems to be a good fit for your baby, please, go ahead and use it!

But if you’re still feeling confused about which method is ‘best,’ I encourage you to incorporate both methods into your feeding style. 

Baby-led weaning, that is, offering babies pieces of whole foods that are a safe size and texture, helps babies practice their motor skills, learn to eat the same foods that other family members are eating and is often a convenient option for parents who don’t want to prepare a separate meal for their baby.

Offering purees can be a great way to connect with your baby, introduce new flavors and cut down on food preparation. 

And your family can experience all of these benefits together by using both approaches.

Don’t let the dogma stop you. The idea that offering purees to an infant who has been learning to eat through baby-led weaning can be dangerous or that puree-fed babies can’t handle pieces of food is a myth that has been disproven. And in reality, a lot of the current research doesn’t show much difference in the outcomes between the two approaches. What’s far more important is introducing baby to a variety of healthy flavors and utilizing a responsive feeding approach.

You’ll likely find that different elements of the two approaches will work for you at different times. Trying to get the rest of the family fed and enjoy your own meal? Let your baby self-feed. Have some free time to let your baby work on a new skill? Again, self-feeding is a great option.

And when you’re working on flavor training in the early months (self-feeding is not recommended until babies are six months old and displaying good head and trunk control) offering purees via spoon or smeared right onto your baby’s lips is a great way to introduce new and exciting flavors. Even as your infant ages, you’ll likely find that puree feeding at times is more convenient and helps you feel more confident that baby is meeting their nutrient needs.

You can even incorporate both approaches in the very same meal. Pay attention to baby’s cues. Are they loving or rejecting the spoon? Do they want to do everything themselves or are they happy to sit back and let you drive? Every baby is different, and the best we can do is to follow our baby’s leads rather than pushing a certain feeding method upon them. This is just the first of many times when we will need to accept that trusting our children to follow their own appetites and food preferences will help them grow up to become competent, intuitive eaters.


Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only. Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.

1 Daniels L, Taylor RW, Williams SM, et alImpact of a modified version of baby-led weaning on iron intake and status: a randomised controlled trialBMJ Open 2018;8:e019036. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019036

 2 Brown, A. (2017) ‘No difference in self-reported frequency of choking between infants introduced to solid foods using a baby-led weaning or traditional spoon-feeding approach’, Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, DOI: 10.1111/jhn.12528

 3 D'Auria E, Bergamini M, Staiano A, et al. Baby-led weaning: what a systematic review of the literature adds on. Ital J Pediatr. 2018;44(1):49. Published 2018 May 3. doi:10.1186/s13052-018-0487-8


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