Once you have decided it’s time to start to introduce some solids to your little ones diet. Mums start to do some reading on what the best approach to this is. Many mother’s groups come up against the conversation topic of ‘Purees vs Baby-led weaning.’ With everyone trying it for the first time, no one has first-hand experience of what the correct approach is to introduce solids to your baby. So let’s start at the beginning…
What is pureed diet?
This approach is the ‘original’ method to introducing solids that most (if not all!) of our parents used with us. Initially parents are encouraged to introduce single food purees that resemble a texture of somewhere between yoghurt and milk. Most babies will start with pureed vegetables such as pumpkin, potato, carrot and pureed fruits such as apple and pear. Before moving on to combinations of these. In addition to this, it is also suggested that by 6 months babies are also being offered baby-rice cereals and pureed meats/chicken/fish. The rational behind introducing the baby-rice cereals is that these are fortified with iron, which babies require at this stage of their development. Many parents will combine breast milk/formula with the rice-cereal and some pureed fruit/vegetable to make the taste more appealing to the baby (mind-you, some babies love it just as it comes!!!)
Due to the nature of needing to cook and pureed meals, many parents will adopt the approach of pureeing large batches of fruits and vegetables, and freezing them in ice-trays or specially designed baby-food containers for the freezer. This can save hours in food preparation and ensure that you always have food available for your baby.
Progressing past purees, thicker and lumpier meals are then offered to babies progressing to soft and lumpy foods such as pastas, soft fruits and vegetables (pear, nectarine, peaches, strawberries, avocadoes etc) etc. Gradually you introduce more and more variety to the babies diet, until they are consuming a well-rounded diet similar to the parents (minus the salt and sugar!)
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is an approach to baby eating that allows your baby to take the lead in the weaning process. Instead of spoon feeding your baby puréed food, you give them only finger foods and let them feed themselves from the start. It is thought that by using this approach your baby can choose what they want to eat, and eat as much or little as they wish. This approach is ideally suited to babies starting solids around the age of 6 months. As it relies on them holding the food in their hands, and moving it to their mouth. The approach suggests that ‘Ideally your baby would sit at the table during your family meal and just have a bit of whatever you’re having (as long as it has no added salt and isn’t too sweet).’ Ideal first foods to start your baby on are anything that can be cut into a stick shape, long enough for your baby to hold in his fist, with some sticking out the top that he can get into his mouth. Food should also be soft enough for them to be able to bite bits off with their gums, but not too soft or it will just turn to mush when they squeeze it. Steamed vegetables and soft fruits are good first foods to try. Due to the nature of this type of eating, many babies do not achieve adequate solid nutrition until 9-10 months. This approach allows your baby to play and explore with the good at the beginning, and slowly they will eat more food as their coordination and interest develops.
What is better for my baby?
There are arguments for both! And I am not about to tell you which one to do, and there is no strong evidence to say one is better than the other.
It is really important to look at both approaches from a holistic point of you, rather than simply a nutritional point of you. Below is a table of some of the pros and cons for each style. In the below table I haven’t included points such as ‘Less stressful’, ‘Babies enjoy it’, ‘Its natural’ as I feel these are very ambiguous and could apply to both arguments.
|Baby-led weaning||· No baby purées to make
· No need to spoon feed your baby
· Babies enjoy it due to having choice
· No transition to lumpy food
· Easy to go out
· They learn through family meals
· Aids physical development
|· A lot of food waste
· It’s messy
· Baby eats less solid food
· Can take some planning
· You might miss some of your favourite foods
· Need to eat meals at certain times
· Can require a lot of preparation
How do I decide what to do?
From working with large numbers of mums, I can honestly say that neither approach will suit every baby or family. Some mums HATE mess, and therefore cannot stand the thought of BLW due to the nature of the mess involved. Other mums HATE having to sit and spoon feed their baby, therefore pureed meals end up being dreaded.
My honest opinion is that a combination of both is a great model. This way you get the benefits from both approaches, and can make choices for when you can mentally and emotionally deal with the mess vs when you would prefer to simply spoon in a pureed meal. This option also ensures that your baby is receiving adequate nutrition, and a large variety of all foods.
My personal message to mums is, don’t feel pressured into either approach. Do what is best for you and your baby, and adopt either approach to suit your lifestyle.
Sally Muir – Dietitian, Mum and Personal Trainer!