Spoon feeding or self feeding? The pros and cons of baby-led weaning

Eating & Nutrition   |   Age: 8 months


Pros and cons of baby-led weaning

Feeding babies is one of the most basic and universal parts of parenting - humans have been doing it for as long as humans have existed! In all that time, though, humanity hasn’t yet come to any kind of universally accepted agreement on what's the right way to feed the newest members of the family. One of the big debates today is between spoon-feeding a baby purees and baby-led weaning, which is a feeding style that allows for babies to be presented with soft pieces of finger food - typically cut into spears or strips that are easy to grasp, gum, and bite - as their first introduction to food that isn’t breast milk or formula.

Both spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning have benefits and potential problems, but both can be perfectly healthy ways to feed your baby - because the most important factor in making either way the ‘right way’ to feed your baby is making sure that she is getting a balanced menu of nutrients and gets enough to eat to keep growing and developing on schedule. In fact, sometimes the method you end up following isn’t entirely up to you - sometimes the feeding method you follow depends more on what your baby wants (or demands) than on what you've envisioned for your baby’s early eating habits. You’re one of your baby’s strongest influences, though - and you're the one planning the menu, after all - so it's highly likely that whatever you present to her is exactly what she’ll end up eating.

Pros of baby-led weaning

Cons of baby-led weaning

Can you do both?

Some parents take a more moderate view that a combination of baby-led weaning and spoon-feeding purees can be the best way to get your baby started on solids and can give her the benefits of both methods. It's worth noting that some proponents of baby-led weaning don't believe you should switch between these two styles of feeding, but most experts don't think it's a problem. (And the most recent studies show that babies eating solids in either feeding style experience a comparable incidence of choking.) Experts feel that what's really most important is that babies are always supervised while eating and not given foods that pose a choking hazard - like nuts, uncut grapes or small tomatoes, uncut hotdogs or sausage, large chunks of meat or cheese, hard uncooked vegetables or fruit, and gum, candy, or marshmallows. 

So just what's best?

There are many wrong ways to feed your baby - upside-down, for example, or exclusively in potato chips - but the choice between baby-led weaning and spoon-feeding does not actually have a wrong answer. It may have an answer that’s wrong for you, though, or that’s wrong for your baby. Luckily, there’s no rule that says you can’t try one method, then switch to the other if you think it will work better for your family. And, as always, if you have any questions about how to best feed your little one, you should talk to your baby's healthcare provider who will be able to provide you with even more guidance. 


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