To Baby-Led Wean or Spoon Feed...That is the Question

My baby food cook book Spoonfed – Real Food for Real Babies incorporates lots of ideas for baby food purees so I get asked a lot about where I stand on the method of baby-led weaning.  Baby-led weaning is essentially the practice of offering baby whole solid foods straight from the family table and chopping or mashing into pieces appropriately sized for baby’s stage of eating and letting them go to town and feed themselves rather than spoon feeding them.

I think the goal of the baby-led weaning method and spoon feeding with homemade purees are similar even though in BLW pureeing the food is not recommended.  That being said, with babies just starting on solids, you would typically need to mash or chop the whole cooked foods into pieces that are easier for baby to handle similar to the thinking of pureeing them but not to the extent that they couldn’t pick it up themselves without a spoon.  So contrary to what some people, including myself, thought about BLW, it’s not about giving your 6 month old a big hunk of steak to deal with on their own…you would still need to cut into appropriate sizes pieces.

A benefit to baby-led weaning is that it lets baby be the master of his domain and food consumption.  He/she is free to eat as much or as little as they want because they don’t have a good intentioned parent shoveling the last few unwanted bites of pea puree into their mouths in order to fill them with the daily “recommended amount”.  But this thinking is also changing in the spoon feeding method in that it is recommended to let baby decide how much they want to eat.  If baby gives you cues they are not interested in any more food, we simply cool it with the spoon feeding and bring the feeding session to an end.

Basically the BLW method and spoon feeding of homemade food method, in my mind, are kind of the same thing…except for the consistency of the food and the fact that you’re helping them out in one vs. the other.  Both advocate feeding fresh, real, whole foods without any added salt or sugars.  I don’t think this is cause for a Trump vs. Hillary heated debate…maybe something more like a pair of sister-in-law’s opposing point of views on whether to serve ham or turkey at this year’s family Thanksgiving.

So my final answer…baby-led weaning rock on!  Spoon feeding rock on!  If baby is getting a variety of nutritious and healthy whole food choices when starting solids it’s all good no matter what the method.

Let’s bring this blog home with some reminders of the benefits of preparing baby’s food at home and I’ll sneakily show you how the BLW method offers the same benefits:

  1. If you make it, you know what’s in it.  If you BLW it, you know what it is.
  2. Homemade food is more flavorful and true to the food’s inherent taste.  BLW…exact same.
  3. $ Savings – BLW…exact same.
  4. There is no culinary degree required – BLW…exact same.
  5. The less processed the food, the more nutrients it retains – BLW…exact same.
  6. Jars of food tend to contain other ingredients like starch and water that take up space in the jar leaving less space for real food.  With homemade you’re giving what you intended to give…food – BLW…exact same.
  7. If you make your baby’s food at home it can really be happiness and pride inducing for you!  If you BLW you will be blissfully happy watching them feed themselves while you get to enjoy your own dinner AT THE SAME TIME!?
  8. Encourages healthy eating habits as they grow into toddlers and beyond – BLW…exact same.
  9. Allows you to offer an additional variety of food rather than having to stick with the commercially made “best sellers” – BLW…exact same.
  10. Everyone will think you’re an awesome super mom or dad if you make baby’s food at home even though it’s not that big a deal…it can be our secret – BLW…everyone will think you are an awesome forward thinking super mom or dad who gives baby the independence to explore real, whole foods on their own.

‘Nuff said.  No matter what the method, keep on feeding baby amazing, glorious, real food and you can’t go wrong!