Baby-led weaning: The pros and cons
If you’re thinking of trying baby-led weaning, here’s the lowdown on what you need to know
You’ll have no doubt heard of it, but what exactly is it? Here we explain what the idea is all about and the so-called pros and cons of self-feeding versus spoon-feeding. But either way you’ll know that ultimately, it’s about the best choice for you and your baby - and like many parents you might find that a little bit of both does you good.
What is baby-led weaning
It simply means letting babies feed themselves – letting them play with it, put it in their mouth, recognise that it’s food, lick it, suck it, chew it and yes you guessed it, eventually figure out how to swallow it. Many parents will rave about the merits of letting their child feed themselves from the very start of weaning, but you’ll want to do your own research before diving in head first.
What are the benefits of baby-led weaning?
- Babies are naturally inquisitive and choosing to pick up and explore food helps your little one gain independence and encourages the dexterity and hand-eye co-ordination
- Your baby could get used to a range of different tastes and textures from the beginning helping them to accept new foods more willingly as they know that they won’t have to eat it if they don’t like it – babies who are offered a limited range of foods can be more prone to fussiness (although research evidence is mixed about whether baby-led weaning prevents fussiness)
- Babies can be offered the same food that the whole family is eating which can also help their social skills – and saves time pureeing and mashing
- We don’t know for sure, as more research needs to be done, but there are suggestions that a baby-led approach means that a baby is less likely to over eat when they eat at their own pace and choose when they have had enough. So, it’s possible that there is a connection between babies who feed themselves reducing their risk of obesity in later life
What are the cons of baby-led weaning?
- It can be a messier approach as your baby might get more on the floor and their face than in their mouth at first
- Some parents worry more about choking but there’s no evidence to suggest that baby led weaning is more likely to cause choking. So long as they are sat up in their highchair the risks of choking are minimal but, obviously you should not leave your baby alone whilst eating.
- Spoon-feeding allows you to easily keep track of what your baby has eaten and there are some studies that question whether baby-led weaning gives babies all the nutrients they need. Some studies have suggested that to boost intakes of iron and vitamin B12, babies be offered iron-rich foods like meat, pulses and fortified cereals at each mealtime