When talking about introducing solids with other parents, one of my pet peeves is the response “We’re doing a bit of both – some spoon feeding and some baby-led weaning”. First let me get this straight, if you think you’re doing half & half, then you haven’t understood Baby Led Weaning (BLW). There is more to BLW than just finger food.
Spoon feeding (parent led weaning or PLW) recommendations are that finger foods are introduced from 6 months along with the purees. This is to aid the babies development of dexterity and coordination as well as to allow the baby to experience different textures and variety in their foods. So the idea of letting babies play with real food is not unique to BLW, but has always been a part of all weaning methods.
So the term BLW doesn’t refer to the finger food. Instead, it refers to who is in control: *Baby* led weaning as opposed to *Parent* led weaning. The core principle of BLW is that the baby is in *complete* control of what she eats and how much. It requires the parent to be relaxed about the quantity that the baby is consuming and to trust that the milk (either breastmilk or formula) is providing enough nutrition to ensure that food is just for “fun until 1”.
So the difference in weaning methods is not so much about the food provided – you can do PLW and compliment it with finger foods and you can provide purees on a loaded spoon for a BLW baby to feed themselves.
Hopefully it is now obvious why it is not possible to be doing “half & half”. The two phrases are mutually exclusive. You can’t let baby have complete control over what they are eating while filling them up with purees by spoon feeding. You can’t have trust in the nutrition provided by their milk while worrying that they’re “hungry babies” and need to be fed a certain volume of baby rice every day.
This is not meant as judgement on either method, just to explain the difference more clearly. I think as PLW is beginning to fall out of fashion and because of the almost evangelical enthusiasm of many parents who BLW (myself included!) parents who spoon feed are often shamed into saying they do “half and half” as a way of justifying their parenting choice. This shouldn’t be necessary. If you are confident of the methods you choose for your family you should be able to speak clearly about your choice and admit freely “I’ve found Parent Led Weaning works best for us. We obviously offer finger foods too, but generally the family is more contented when we do spoon feeding”.
There should be no guilt. I have experienced BLW and can talk for hours about how effective it has been for us, but I also understand that some parents find it hard to relax about how much baby is eating. I also know that some babies find it frustrating having to “work” for their food.
So be proud and admit your choices without shame. Me? I don’t do anything by halves and that includes BLW.
Edited to add: For another great post on the Baby-Led Weaning mindset see http://www.mummyinprovence.com/baby-led-weaning-blw/the-baby-lead-weaning-mindset