Traditional spoon-fed weaning vs Baby-led weaning.
Being the somewhat anxious mom I am, when it came to transitioning my little one from just breast milk and formula to solid food, I had done my research. Of course I knew the different methods and the pros and cons, but it didnt make it any easier when the time came to wean him to solid foods.
Traditional spoon-led weaning
This traditional method is the one most moms are familiar with and is the method that was more widely used for previous generations. Babies are ﬁrst introduced to pureed foods at 5-6 months and are spoon-fed. At about 7-8 months soft ﬁnger foods are introduced and the purees are served more lumpy and with a little more texture. The transition is done gradually until baby is able to eat solid foods at the table with the family.
The pros with this method included having better control of the nutritional content and how much was actually eaten by baby. It was also a much less messy experience than the baby-led method which is good news for the moms you preferred not to spend as much time cleaning up.
The con with this method was the sometimes diﬃcult transition from pureed to more solid food for some infants and the preparation it took to make jars of pureed foods to store away. It took some time preparing a whole different storage of food for baby that is different to what the rest of family eats.
Baby-led weaning has been gaining in popularity as more mothers are skipping the pureed phase and jumping straight into ﬁnger foods and soft solids at 6 months old. Baby-led weaning allows babies to explore the tastes and textures on their own and at their own pace.
The plus side is that they learn to chew earlier and are less likely to reject the more solid textures. With this method they are able to feed themselves and mealtime becomes a social occasion where baby eats at the table with the rest of the family. There is also the added bonus of no pureed food preparation. Yay.
The biggest con is the mess left behind as infants are obviously messy eaters. There is also the uncertainty of how much of the food baby actually ate as some of the food would be on the ﬂoor, on the chair, on their face and clothes and not actually in their tummy. Another unfortunate minus is the possible gagging on the solid food and having to watch out for any choking which of course understandably scares a lot of mothers.
As the name suggests, mixed weaning is introducing both pureed foods and ﬁnger foods at the same time at 6 months. It involved either alternating between the two methods by meal time (e.g. breakfast ﬁnger foods and lunchtime spoon-feeding) or by how baby was doing. For example if baby was more interested in trying to feed himself, more ﬁnger foods were given for that period. And if baby was found to be gagging a lot more on the solid foods, more purees were given for a few meals and then ﬁnger foods were reintroduced again later.
My personal experience with little one
After knowing all of this, I chose the traditional spoon-fed weaning, mainly because it was what I was accustomed to. I also preferred the slow transition in textures over the abrupt change to solids with a possible risk of gagging and choking which obviously scared me honestly.
I started him off with his pureed foods as planned and that part went well. However when it came to transitioning him to ﬁnger foods and more lumpy foods at 8 months, he outright rejected it. It was a struggle for weeks to get him to eat anything that was not smoothly pureed. I had a picky eater on my hands who refused textured foods. Sigh. He even occasionally gagged on small lumps of mashed up food. And after a few weeks he even began refusing most purees as well. When I say it was a difficult transition for us I am not exaggerating.
I began wondering if I would have had this problem if I had done the baby-led weaning instead. At 11 months I was still having diﬃculty with getting him to eat. Some days he ate well and other days I felt defeated as most of his food went uneaten.
The breakthrough happened at around 12 months when we just started giving him food from off our plate while we ate in front of him. Suddenly he was interested in food again. He would grab at our spoons and plates as we ate. Of course he had a few gagging episodes but he was totally ﬁne. I was just super elated that he was eating once again. He preferred to be included in a social family meal where everyone was eating rather than being spoon fed his own prepared meal.
If I had to do this all over again, I would have chosen the mixed weaning method. I would have given a mix of purees and ﬁnger foods/soft solids from the get go and adapt as we went along. But I can only say that in retrospect. I would never know how my son would have done with the early introduction of solid foods from an earlier onset. Would he have gagged a lot? Would he have wasted even more food if left to feed himself more often on his own? Would he have still ended up being a picky eater? I will never know.
Each baby is different and one method that works for one baby may not work for another and I had to understand that and learn and adapt as I go. After all, that is what motherhood is all about anyway….. learning and adapting as you go.