Why you can’t do Baby-Led Weaning by halves

"Toddler" Led Weaning

"Toddler" Led Weaning

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

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7 Responses to Why you can’t do Baby-Led Weaning by halves

  1. This is SO true! I don’t get how you can BLW “kinda” – for me, its either you are or your aren’t … I consider myself to be a bit hardcore when it comes to BLW … it is so much more than just nutrition!

  2. Thank you for the link love!

  3. This has been really interesting for me to read as I thought I was doing half and half! The main reason being that my baby had been having purees for about 2 months and was having 3 meals of mush a day before I found out about BLW. I didn’t really think it would be possible to just cut this out so started doing ‘both’ or not! Next time I will definitely be reading the book and doing it properly from the start as I believe it to be a much healthier way of teaching babies about food. Now I am stuck with a problem of trying to get my baby to eat next stage sludge with lumps in and it is a nightmare!!

    • It is so ingrained in us that spoon feeding is how weaning is done (mostly by the people marketing jars!) that you just don’t question it. I was very lucky to hear about BLW before I started on weaning, but I was all set to start making my own purees before then. I think you’re probably right that having started out on purees it would be hard to drop it suddenly in favour of a completely BLW approach. That might only serve to unsettle baby and make them more suspicious about food. What you are doing, in effect, is phasing out purees and moving on to BLW by gradually moving the emphasis from spoon feeding on to self feeding. But as MummyinProvence says in her article, BLW is more about the mindset than the food that you provide. You can provide purees and still be doing BLW – you just load the spoon and give it to baby to feed themselves!

      As for introducing the lumpy stuff, if it’s not going well maybe you could skip it altogether? Keep giving the purees but gradually hand over control of the spoon to baby and just compliment it by adding in more variety of real food. Eventually they’ll be eating more and less dependant on the purees and you can phase them out completely. Does that make sense?

  4. mamaurbana says:

    This is a really great post! Thank you for writing it!
    We do PLW, mostly because I’m a control freak but also because my daughter was NOT interested in anything chunky/lumpy/whole/fingerfood sized. But she was all over the purees that I made her, so while we experimented with both when food was introduced, we are now PLW all the way.

    I think I’m more of a control freak because we had to switch from breastmilk to formula around month 4 – while I trust formula to give her the technical nutrients she needs, I like the idea of her getting a lot of her nutrients at this point from actual real food that is more often then not organic and local.

    We recently started offering her finger foods and she is much more receptive to those then “lumpy sludge” so mum2babyinsomniac, finger foods may work well for you!

  5. Velle says:

    I’m a half-and-half, and had JUST written a post about it when I read yours. I think you’re right – I’ve probably used BLW as a means to an end – feeding the baby. And while BLW is probably “more than nutrition” (and anecdotally successful with mothers everywhere), I don’t think PLW is as bad as the books make it out to be, and nor is bub having a tragically disadvantaged life because she’s fed by spoon sometimes. 😀

    We’re lot more comfortable doing a blended approach as both baby and us are happy with that, and it fits in a lot more with the types of food we cook at home. (We do lots of Chinese soups and rice.) But thanks for the encouragement to acknowledge where we are with our approach, and be proud of it.

    • Absolutely. While BLW is the new “in thing” and I love how successful it has been for my family, PLW has been the norm for many years and has worked well for many families. If that’s your thing, go for it! 🙂

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