New research explores the benefits of baby lead weaning versus spoon feeding purees. But what works best for you and your family?
Parenthood really can be a series of challenges to keep you on your toes.
Just when you think you’ve mastered one thing (and are smugly toasting your fabulousness with a lukewarm cup of motherhood lifeblood AKA coffee), something else sashays onto your radar as if to say; “Thought you’d got this parenting gig sorted did you? IDIOT!”
Take starting solids for example. And the whole baby lead weaning versus puree decision.
Just when you’ve managed to get your baby settled into a boob or bottle feeding routine, they hit the 4-6 month mark and suddenly start requiring human food. Back in the day, our mothers and grandmothers would have cracked open a bag of baby rice cereal, mixed it up with some breastmilk/formula and called it a day. Solids a la rice. Done and done. Fast forward to today however and it’s a different story. Baby lead weaning versus puree is a whole new ball game.
A hot topic of conversation
‘How to start solids‘ is a hot topic of conversation in Mother’s Group circles. Purees vs baby led weaning (BLW), spoon versus fingers. There are fierce proponents on either side of the coin, each convinced that their way is the right way. Now, new research from over the ditch has shed new light on baby feeding methods and their impact on weight gain and eating habits.
Researchers from the University of Otago in Dunedin recently published the results of the ‘Baby-Led Introduction to Solids (BLISS)‘ study which followed 206 mothers and their babies from birth through to their second year, to assess whether the baby led approach reduces the risk of becoming overweight.
The mothers and bubs, who joined the study during pregnancy, were divided into two groups; one which would take a BLW approach to feeding from 6 months of age and one which would introduce solids via spoon feeding/purees/mashes.
Baby led weaning and weight gain
One of the biggest selling points of baby led weaning is self-regulation, or the idea that babies will naturally regulate the amount they eat when they aren’t constantly being offered food off a spoon. ”It has always been assumed that if babies are allowed to control their own food intake then they will be better at judging when they have ‘had enough,’” Anne-Louise M. Heath and Rachael W. Taylor from University of Otago in Dunedin told Reuters Health. It has been thought that this sets in motion a positive pattern and association with food as babies grow older and understand their own personal hunger cues. The study however, found that this wasn’t necessarily the case. At both 12 and 24 months into the study, there was no difference between the BLW group and the spoon-fed group in terms of weight gain and babies who had become overweight.
“We were surprised that letting babies feed themselves their solids from the start, didn’t seem to improve their ability to stop eating when they were full. And that they were just as likely to become overweight as babies who had been spoon-fed.”
Parents who follow a BLW approach often worry that their bubs may not be eating enough (especially when you see how much finger food ends up on the floor/in the highchair/in the dogs mouth) but this doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case.
There were however, other differences that became apparent throughout the study.
One of the outcomes of the study which surprised researchers, was the direct link between BLW and a less fussy approach to food. “We were very interested to find that babies following this baby-led approach to introducing solids enjoyed their food more and were less likely to be picky eaters,” said Heath and Taylor. “This is particularly interesting because the difference in picky eating was fairly large, even though the families had been randomly assigned to follow this feeding approach with their baby.”
Baby lead weaning versus puree? What’s the verdict?
So what’s the verdict AKA the BEST way to introduce solids to your baby? Annoyingly, we don’t have a definitive answer! Experts agree that there may not be a single best way to move on from milk and that it comes down to trusting your parenting instincts and being led by your child.
Some children love feeding themselves and will refuse a spoon, even when offered. Others may be more than happy to do both. You know your child best. Starting solids should (and can) actually be a fun experience. Experiment with different tastes and textures. Invest in a couple of plastic drop sheets for under the highchair and embrace the mess! Let your bub set the pace and you can’t really go wrong.