Baby’s First Foods
Puree Method VS Baby-Led Weaning
Its such an exciting time for parents when your little baby has solids for the first time. The new flavours they taste along with the adorable faces they pull. However there seems to be two sides to how to introduce solids to your baby. Purees and spoon feeding versus Baby Led Weaning. In this article we have researched both the Australian Government recommendations and the Baby Led Weaning Methods to compare the pros and cons of both to help you decide which is best for you and your child’s health and development.
Age or When to start
Both methods recommend to start from around 6 months as the best time to introduce solids to your baby from an only milk diet (breastmilk or formula). Babies get all the nutrients they need from breastmilk/formula before this time. Your baby is not missing out on anything by not introducing solids until 6 months or after.
How do you know they are ready?
Both methods state these key signs to knowing if your baby is ready;
· Baby can sit upright with little or no support
· Baby has good head and neck control
· Baby shows interest in you when you are eating
· Baby can reach out and grab things effectively and accurately
· Baby tries to grab your food and brings it to their mouth
· Baby can pick up toys and bring to their mouth to chew/gnaw on
Remember every baby is different. If you are unsure talk to your child health nurse or doctor.
How to start?
Now this is where the two methods are complete opposites. Spoon feeding purees and offering finger foods.
The Australian Government recommends this method starting with soft purees (preferably homemade) that you spoon feed to your baby. From 6 months smooth pureed foods then onto mashed foods, then by 8 months thicker/chunkier food then to finely chopped food and finally onto finger food.
Baby Led Weaning
Start with soft finger foods straight away from 6 months onwards. The principles of baby led weaning is based on the way babies develop and the skills that appear naturally in their first year. If opportunity is given to your baby to handle food at the right time (usually 6 months) they will instinctively start to feed themselves when they are ready.
World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation recommends that babies should start on solid foods around 6 months and does not mention specifically how.
What types of food to start with?
This method suggests starting with foods that are high in iron such as iron enriched baby cereals, pureed meat or legumes. After these it is suggested to introduce foods in any order and more than one new food at a time, offering a variety of foods from the five food groups.
Baby Led Weaning
This method recommends you start with foods the family is already eating, that can be cut into finger sized pieces that are easy to grasp for your baby so that when they pick it up a part of it is poking out of their hand and can go into their mouth for tasting. A range of foods from the five food groups and textures. “You will be surprised what babies can chew without teeth”. Baby Led Weaning stands by the principle that spoon feeding is unnecessary even though it seems to have become the normal way to give babies their first foods. “This trend of spoon feeding is left over from the days when parents were advised to start solids at 3 or 4 months of age when babies were too young to feed themselves” Taken from the book Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.
How much do you feed them?
Using a soft plastic spoon, it is recommended to start with as little as a teaspoon building to a table spoon of pureed food. Then feed until your baby turns their head away as a sign, they don’t want any more. Other signs your baby has had enough;
· Baby turns head away
· Is distracted or not interested
· Pushes spoon away
· Firmly closes mouth
All babies are different some babies love to be spoon fed, other will refuse to let you do it and want to do it themselves, others will throw away the spoon and feed themselves.
Baby Led Weaning
This is where we feel this method shines through. Mealtime is seen more as ‘playtime’ for you baby to play, squish, taste and eat food at their own pace and be in control. Offer pieces that are easy to pick up and its up to the baby how much they eat and how fast she eats. Its also up to them how quickly they move onto a wider range of foods that you will offer. If they don’t like it, they will taste it and put it down moving onto something else on offer. Key benefit here is going with the babies instincts rather than against them which makes meal times easier and fun, although messier.
When to feed them?
Both methods are on the same page here. Offer solid foods once a day building to 3 meals a day. Both recommended you feed baby when they are full after a milk feed (maybe 30-45 minutes after a milk feed). When your baby is happy and comfortable sitting in an upright position either on your lap or in a high chair. To include them in your family’s meal times at the table so they can watch you eat and copy you, feeling like part of the family.
· Need spoons and bowls to start this method
· Need to make or buy puree rather than foods your family is already eating
· May refuse to eat from a spoon causing the parents stress
Exposed to only one texture type at the start
· No opportunity to practice chewing from an early age (chewing muscles are the same muscles needed for speech)
· Most feel pressure to make the baby eat a certain amount
Baby Led Weaning
· Allows babies to move onto solid foods at the right pace for their individual developing body and ensure milk feeds are not cut to early.
· Helps develop babies hand eye coordination, dexterity and chewing skills.
· Allows baby to eat as much as they need in their own time, establishing good eating habits that may last a lifetime
· Makes picky eating and mealtime battles less likely (as no pressure for baby to eat) so no need for tricks to persuade them to eat healthy foods.
· Allows babies to explore taste, texture, colour and smell of individual foods
· Encourages confidence at mealtimes and enjoyment of a wide range of foods
For more information on either method see the following resources;
Read the books;
Baby Led Weaning or Baby Led weaning Cookbook by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.
We prefer the cookbook as it has the basics behind Baby Led Weaning along with some great nutritious recipes for the whole family.