Debating whether to introduce let your baby feed herself? Take a look at the baby led weaning pros and cons to help you make your decision. By: Tania Griffis
During my pregnancy, I was consumed with reading baby books and browsing online forums.
I was about to be a first-time mom and wanted to make sure I did everything perfect for my daughter. During one of my frenzied research sessions, I came across a board for “BLW,” that I later learned stood for “baby led weaning.”
What is baby led weaning?
Rather than making your child a special meal of purees and mashes, you give her whatever you’re eating and allow her to feed herself. For instance, instead of mashing an avocado and spoon-feeding her the mixture, you’d instead hand her a slice of the avocado to gnaw on.
Baby led weaning was pretty different from what I imagined moving into solids would look like. I had pictured myself steaming and mashing organic veggie purees, not handing my baby a piece of broccoli to gum on.
Now that she’s eight-months-old, I’ve tested and tried both baby led weaning and purees and discovered a few pros and cons:
Baby led weaning pros and cons
I’ve come to realize that, like most things in parenting, things aren’t as black and white.
Food outside of breast milk or formula is supplemental under the age of one. Solids are important, but not the main source of nutrition yet because your baby is getting most of what she needs from milk. There’s nothing wrong with doing a combination of both.
To help you better decide, take a look at these baby led weaning pros and cons:
Pro: Less prep work
Parents love baby led weaning for the very fact that they have fewer steps to prepare food for the baby.
You take whatever you’re planning to eat for yourself and give some to your baby to feed herself. Simple food like bananas, peas, and soft carrots are fantastic to start with.
Of course, like most things, you’ll find caveats—salt and honey are dangerous to babies, and you wouldn’t want to give her a jalapeño or anything spicy.
Here’s a practical example: I made dinner for my husband and me—a side salad, steamed carrots, potatoes, and grilled chicken. The baby got a small piece of chicken, carrots, and cucumbers cut into long wedges for her to grip easily. She watched us and followed our lead, and we were all able to eat together. No extra fuss!
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Con: Less familiar to most people
I’m fortunate to have both my parents and in-laws live near us, and they each take her two days a week so my husband and I can get work done. That said, they aren’t always comfortable with the idea of giving pieces of meat to a baby with no teeth!
Whether daycare, a nanny or au pair, family members, or babysitter, a caretaker may not be familiar with baby led weaning and would prefer purees.
In our case, I’m thankful for the help and trust their judgment, so my daughter gets spoon-fed when she’s with her grandparents.
Pro: Easier travel and outings
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If you’re a new parent, you might not believe me, but I promise you, a time is coming when you’re able to go to a restaurant with your baby and actually have fun.
Advocates of baby led weaning love the ease of going out minus the special purees or spoons to pack. Simply give your baby whatever you’re eating—just remember to pack a bib, like this cute waterproof, sleeved one below:
Con: It can be a little scary
One of the biggest reasons parents don’t choose baby led weaning is that it can be slightly terrifying. The first time I handed my daughter a steamed carrot stick and watched her guide it to her mouth, an alarm went off in my head. How could I expect a baby with no teeth to eat a carrot stick? I thought.
That said, baby gums—even with no teeth—can be quite powerful (just ask any breastfeeding mom!). While a toothless baby or even a baby with just a few teeth can’t chew like an adult, they actually use their gums to tear off tiny pieces.
Thankfully, babies come with an effective built-in gag reflex to help prevent choking. Like with any food, make sure you supervise your baby as she eats.
Pro: Allows baby to explore different food and textures
Rather than limiting your baby’s diet, baby led weaning allows your little one to try a world of different starter foods and textures.
With purees, most of the textures are the same, from carrots to sweet potatoes. But eating a soft slice of a carrot is quite different from another slice of a sweet potato.
Don’t be afraid to try the same food prepared in different ways, too. A bell pepper slice might not appeal to your baby straight out of the fridge, but lightly steamed, she just might love it. Now’s the time to explore!
And offer different food at the same time. That’s why I love these Oxo divided plates where I can place a variety of food in front of my baby:
Con: Expect food to end up on the floor
Whether puree or baby led weaning, mealtimes are guaranteed get messy. With using purees, however, you have a little more control of the spoon, and the mess will mostly be limited to your baby’s sweet little face.
With baby led weaning, you’re giving your baby absolute control of her food. Expect her to play with it, bang it on the high chair tray, rub it on her clothes, or even taste a bit before dropping it right on the floor. If you have a dog, this is their time to shine!
A splat mat beneath her high chair can make messes much easier to clean:
Tips to make baby led weaning work for you
- Wait until your baby are ready. Signs of readiness include being able to sit upright on her own and being able to grab things using only her thumb and first two fingers.
- Try different textures and preparations of food. Play with different ways to cook and slice the same food.
- Research which foods are appropriate to give to your baby at her age.
- Dine with your baby. Let her watch you eat, and try to eat the same food so she can watch and learn.
Is baby led weaning a good idea?
Baby led weaning has a lot of pros, including less prep work, convenient outings, and introducing your baby to a variety of food and textures.
But it isn’t for everyone, either. Other adults who care for your baby might not be familiar or comfortable with it. You also might feel a little scared that you’re offering your baby non-pureed food, and baby led weaning sure can make a mess.
That said, nothing is black and white in parenting, and it’s okay to try a little of everything until you find what works for you. At the end of the day, the goal is to keep your baby happy and fed, baby led weaning or not.
Get more tips:
- How to Make Baby Food at Home Easily and Conveniently
- 4 Effective Tricks to Handle a Baby Not Drinking Milk
- “At What Age…?” Baby Development Milestones You Don’t Always Hear About
- 11 Things Moms Do with the First Baby We Don’t Do with the Second
- 9 Things to Do If Your Baby Goes on a Bottle Strike
Tania Griffis is a full-time freelance writer and blogger based in Dallas, Texas. She and her husband both work from home and are first time parents to their daughter, Lily.
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