One of the things Mr Anderson was the most excited about, aside from just having a baby, was making baby food. The only thing he said absoutely had to go on our baby registry was a Baby Bullet. (I figured, if nothing else, this meant it was more likely I could rope him into doing all of the baby food prep.)
That was because, like many first-time parents, we assumed we would be feeding purees as our baby’s first foods. That’s what everyone does, isn’t it?
Then came the internet.
BLW (Baby Led Weaning)
If you’re in a parenting group, you’ve likely heard of baby led weaning (BLW). This new trend has become very popular with parents in the last few years.
BLW involves skipping over purees (and usually infant cereals, too, which receive their own brand of vehement dislike that I’ll discuss in another post). Instead, parents start their infants right on finger foods.
The goal of BLW is to promote baby’s development by giving them basically total control over their own feeding. The baby puts the food in their mouth themselves, rather than being fed puree from a spoon. The baby learns how to chew “real” food rather than merely swallowing puree. And more often than not, the baby learns how to make a mess really quickly as they’re encouraged to explore and play with their food.
As a person with a bit of a background in childhood development, I get it. Develomentally, it sounds great. I’m a huge proponent of play-based learning and getting kids to do things themselves and independence and all that.
As a new mother, BLW not only sounds like a whole lot of work for nothing, but also potentially terrifying. All the mothers in my group who promote BLW talk about how choking can happen with purees, too. They say that gagging is a normal process of a baby learning how to eat solids.
Sure, fine, but I still don’t like the idea.
However, I recognise that not every parent is going to make the same choices I do. Unlike car seat safety or safe sleep guidelines, this is not a really a life-or-death situation, assuming the choking hazards really aren’t as big as my worst-case-scenario mind makes me think they are.
So while Mr Anderson is itching to pull out the Baby Bullet and start meal prepping for our little guy any day now, I know not everyone will go that direction. In order to help you decide which way you want to parent, here’s a pro and con list, which I promise I made as unbiased as possible.
- True baby led weaning is supposed to bring baby into family mealtime by having baby eat the same meals as everyone else (with food cut into appropriate sizes to reduce obvious choking hazards). This is great for baby’s social development and family bonding.
- BLW means you don’t have to make or buy your own purees, saving your time and/or money. Again, take food you’re already serving everyone else and just make baby-sized. (I would Google what these safe sizes are, as I’m pretty sure there is such a thing as too big and such a thing as too small when it comes to BLW.) To be fair, with the Baby Bullet and these cool silicone ice cube trays we bought, I figure we can food prep for Little Man once or twice a week and it shouldn’t be a big deal. We’ll see when I actually start, I suppose.
- Babies set the pace. If they don’t want to take a bite, they don’t take a bite. There’s no one shoving a spoon at their face and setting the pace for them.
- Using their hands and utensils to feed themselves helps baby with hand-eye coordination, plus they get to explore textures and colours. Supposedly this makes them enjoy food more, but I haven’t found studies to support that (I also haven’t looked very hard, either).
- Being exposed to a variety of textures right away means you won’t have to fight with them to accept lumps like so often happens with traditional puree weaning.
- Choking. For real, the thought terrifies me. Even if it’s as super preventable as people want me to believe, it requires more research to figure out how to do it safely. In my earlier post about starting solids, I said that babies have to be sitting fairly well before you start the weaning transition. This is even more true for BLW. They have to be sitting fully unsupported for at least a minute or longer at a time before BLW is even remotely considered safe to try.
- The mess! Your six-month-old is feeding themselves, y’all, there’s no way the food isn’t going to end up EVERYWHERE. The mess can be helped by using dropclothes and whatnot, and supposedly gets better with time and practise.
- Since apparently a lot of it ends up in a mess on the floor (and chair and table and probably their hair and all over their body), you never really know how much your baby has actually eaten. As I also mentioned in that previous post, your baby’s iron stores start running low around six months. I don’t know about you, but I need to know that my baby is getting an adequate amount of iron from his diet, especially since my bloodwork often comes back anemic.
- Babies eventually need to learn how to properly and safely eat purees. By skipping over them, many parents who are doing BLW may be delaying their baby’s exposure to a whole type of texture.
Okay, I might not have done a great job of keeping the lists unbiased, but at least you get an idea and can start thinking about your options.
It wasn’t a long discussion when Mr Anderson and I decided we were both way more comfortable doing traditional weaning with purees. Maybe we’re just control freaks, nervous nellies, or oddly excited about using the Baby Bullet – or some combination of the three – but that’s just how we feel about it.
As my very wise cousin said to me, there’s no wrong way to do this. Just do your research, make a decision you feel comfortable with, and know that your baby will be fine either way. Lots of people have opinions – some very passionate opinions, at that – but in the end, it’s your baby and as long as they’re fed and getting what they need, there’s no harm in trying whatever method best suits you.
After all, one of my favourite phrases is, “you do you.”