Baby Led Weaning vs Traditional Weaning
Starting your baby on solids is exciting! There are different ways of doing it – whether pureeing everything for traditional weaning (TW) or letting a baby learn to bite and chew from the get-go through baby led weaning (BLW). You might have heard of doing both at the same time, but in fact, that confuses your baby at the initial stage and is not recommended.
When Should I Begin Weaning?
The term “weaning” describes the time period where there is a progressive reduction milk-feeing to an infant as he/she is gradually introduced to other types of foods (aka “solids”). The aim of the introduction to solids is to lead the infant towards the dietary pattern of an adult within the second year of life.
Weaning should start when breastmilk or formula milk can no longer provide enough nutrients and energy for an infant’s growth and development. The solids offered should therefore contain foods that offer these nutrients and energy needed by the infant. For example, breastmilk contains very little iron, and infants usually use up the store of iron they had from birth by the 4-6month mark. As such, weaning typically begins around that time. A baby naturally also begins to show a lot of curiosity and puts everything into their mouths at that age, so it is a natural clue for parents to begin letting their babies try new foods then. However, breastmilk or formula milk will continue to be the baby’s biggest source of nutrition until he or she is a year old.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
As the name suggests, BLW is a method of weaning where the baby decides how much solids he/she would eat during mealtimes. The parents' responsibility is hence reduced to:
- Preparing age-appropriate foods cut into age-appropriate shapes and sizes
- Watching out signs of choking (gagging is perfectly ok)
- Cleaning up the mess
How and how much the baby consumes during the meal, is left entirely up to the baby. The baby's primary method of eating is hence by using his/her hands to put the food in the mouth, and the baby is left to figure out how to bite, mash, chew, etc, even before they learn how to swallow the new foods which are not milk.
What is Traditional Weaning?
The above description is quite different from TW where a baby's first foods after milk are prepared by pureeing to an almost liquid state and spoonfed to him/her. In this method of weaning, parents' responsibility includes:
- Pureeing age-appropriate foods to an age-appropriate consistency
- Spoon-feeding the baby his/her entire meals
- Watching out for signs of choking, and while gagging is still safe, it is likely an indication that the consistency of the food is too lumpy/solid for baby
- Cleaning up the mess
Parents using traditional weaning also (consciously or unconsciously) subscribe to the philosophy that they take full responsibility of how much the baby consumes during the meal.
Which Method of Weaning is Better?
There is no better or worse method, but there are differences. The table below spells out the key differences between the two methods of weaning, and so each family can make up their own minds which method works better for their baby:
|What baby eats initially (4-7 months)||Pieces of foods which can be picked up easily (eg. fries-shaped or wedge slices)||Pureed foods, porridge, baby rice or oats mixed with milk and/or purees|
|What baby eats later (8-12 months)||Pieces of foods which require finer motor skills, eg. pincer grasp||Pureed foods with thicker/lumper textures, before progressing to adult foods cut into diced portions.|
|How baby eats||Baby picks up food by him/herself and places in mouth||Adult scoops food with a spoon and puts into baby’s mouth|
|What baby learns to do with his mouth||Bite, chew, manage portions, swallow||Swallow|
|Likelihood of gagging||Expect a lot of gagging in the initial weeks as baby figures out how to manage portions||Less likely, though initially there may still be some gagging, and some when lumpier textures are introduced|
|Likelihood of choking||Not much, since baby would have figured out how to manage portions through gagging||Not much, except when introducing lumpier/harder textures later on (and gag reflexes reduces)|
|Portion control||Baby decides how much to put in the mouth (or throw away!) and how much to swallow, so there is little portion control by the caregiver.||The caregiver usually gets to decide how much to feed baby, and usually does not stop feeding until the prepared portion is finished, so traditional weaning provides better portion control by the caregiver.|
|Messiness||Mess usually all over baby’s head and hands, bib/clothes, chair table and floor as baby mashes food with hands and touches him/herself, the chair and the table. Baby also tends to drop or throw food on the floor as a sign that he/she is done eating.||Mess usually around the mouth of the baby, bib/clothes, chair table due to baby turning his/her head, spitting, waving his/her hands, etc|
|Food Preparation||Usually, less extra time is spent preparing baby’s food as baby will be able to take similar foods as the rest of the family; less the sauces if the food is prepared with salt.||Usually, quite some extra time is spent preparing baby’s food besides the food the rest of the family eats. Purees can generally be frozen so keeping a variety of purees in the freezer may take up significant space.|
Whichever method one chooses when weaning their infant, a few common rules apply:
Watch out for choking
- Always stay with and watch your baby while he or she eats
- Make sure your baby is sitting up when eating. If he or she cannot sit upright without support yet, he or she is not ready for solids.
- Serve foods that aren’t too hard or are choking hazards
- Familiarise yourself with the Heimlich maneuver for infants
Watch out for allergies and develop healthy eating habits
- Start with single-ingredient foods and serve the same foods for 3 days in a row before introducing a different food
- No honey in any food offered to infants below 12months of age to avoid botulism
- No salt as babies’ kidneys are still developing and may not be able to process much
- No sugar to avoid the baby’s taste buds developing a preference for sugar
- Consider different views on common allergy-causing food like strawberries or mango before deciding when you want to introduce them
Weaning Support Services
S$100 initial deposit includes:
- Understanding the differences between BLW and TW
- Step-by-step guides on to prepare foods and equipment needed for preparing foods for BLW and TW
Up to 2 visits
- Visits can be made to any address in Singapore
- Each visit will be up to 1 hour when baby is between 5-7months old and able to sit upright unsupported, and focused on:
- Assessing whether your baby is likely to prefer BLW or TW
- Observing or demonstrating how to prepare baby's food
- Speaking with caregivers to explain the differences between gagging and choking and/or BLW and TW
- Explaining how to maintain consistency in order to encourage the development of healthy eating habits