The Pros and Cons of Spoon Feeding and Baby Lead Weaning

The Pros and Cons of Spoon Feeding and Baby Lead Weaning

I personally spoon feed my babies since I didn’t know too much about baby lead weaning 10 years ago when my oldest started solids.   I started solids with my oldest at  6 months by spoon feeding, she wasn’t eager to start and was pretty slow transitioning to more texture and variety.    My youngest was eager to go at 5 months and quickly advanced to more textures and variety and early on took to wanting to spoon feed herself.  Unknowingly, I was doing a combination of spoon feeding and baby lead weaning without even realizing it (She is in the picture below).   I recently attended a talk by Katie Ferraro, dietitian and Mom to five young children which includes quadruplets!    She convinced me that baby lead weaning (BLW) certainly has it’s benefits and was the ideal choice for her when feeding so many babies.

Choosing how to feed is one’s own personal decision as what feels right and best.  Sometimes the baby will let you know what they want as my youngest did, grabbing the spoon from me early on to feed herself.  She took to feeding quickly and moved herself along to feeding herself solids.

Baby Lead Weaning was first introduced by Gill Rapley, PhD.     It simply means letting your baby from the start feed themselves without the traditional use of puree and spoon.  More can be learned at her website  on the actual research and method.

What I like about it, the Pro’s:

  • It’s easy, baby eats what you eat, no homemade baby food or transporting jars whenever you travel. If you have twins (or quadruplets!) this can save time.
  • BLW is cheaper when not purchasing baby food.
  • It teaches a child early on how to self-regulate their food intake, lets a baby set it’s own pace and less likely to over eat.
  • Helps with skill development, the pincer grasp is developed earlier.
  • Gets families started on family meal time sooner with no short order cooks. Small modification can be made with what the rest of the family is eating (no salt or added sugar) which can make meal time easier.

 Cons to Baby Lead Weaning:

  • Less control as to what baby is eating. Iron needs go from .26mg up to 11mg at 6 months of age and baby needs to be eating meats, iron fortified cereals or legumes to meet these high iron needs.
  • It can be very messy, especially when yogurt is involved.
  • Baby can be frustrated earlier on when not able to pick up foods.
  • Fear of choking. This likely is the biggest concern for parents and why they wouldn’t try baby lead weaning.  In actuality, when baby controls what goes into their mouths, they are less likely to choke.  Gagging can often be interpreted as choking, but it’s not the dame. Gagging is an important part of learning how to eat and a protective mechanism for babies.

 Traditional spoon feeding technique Pro’s:

  • More control of what baby is actually eating and the nutrient density (high iron) foods baby is getting in their diet.
  • Less concern with choking

 Traditional spoon feeding Cons:

  • It can be more expensive, if families are purchasing baby food and pouches.
  • It can be time consuming if families are making homemade baby foods.
  • It doesn’t allow baby to self- regulate food intake, more likely to eat more when being spoon feed.
  • It can slow down developmental skills when babies end up being on purees too long.

The best choice for parents is the choice they feel most comfortable with and what works for them.   This is an area that there is no true right or wrong. If one chooses to spoon feed, it’s really important to read your baby’s cues, make sure they are developmentally ready to start solids and listen to them if they are done, don’t sneak in a spoon if they are turning their head or pushing it away. Starting solids should be fun and enjoyable, since it’s just the start of a child’s relationship with food and we want it to be a positive one.

For more positive feeding tips, see Infant Feeding, When and How to Start Solids.

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