Traditional or Baby-Led Weaning?

When and how to wean your baby, is a very personal decision. For most families, the approach can be selected according to parental preference and the baby’s development. Considerations such lifestyle, ease of preparation and commitment of cleaning up time can all be factored into the decision about how to wean the baby.

For infants with cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA), FPIES and non-IgE allergies, the choices about when and how to wean will likely be made under the advice of a specialist doctor and the supervision of a dietician. That said, access to these services is often only available through appointments which can be months apart. Difficulties encountered during allergy weaning can be complex and health visitors and GP’s, rightly, shy away from offering any advice. Parents tasked with weaning a child with non-IgE allergies can feel like they’re aboard a ship without a compass and with no land insight.

In this upcoming series of Sunday blogs, we will explore the typical concerns and considerations experienced by parents before and during weaning.

To ease into the topic, we’ll start by exploring the advantages and disadvantages of traditional weaning versus baby led weaning.

Part 1- Traditional Weaning

Traditional weaning, otherwise known as spoon-fed weaning, involves starting your baby on a range of puréed foods. Popular first foods include butternut squash, carrots and sweet potato blended to a smooth consistency. Rice and rusk porridges are also firm favourites for traditional weaning. As a rule of thumb, the baby is offered an ice cube sized amount of purée once a day until they are comfortably eating that portion. A second ice cubed sized portion is then added at a second time of day and so forth until the infant is eating 3 meals a day. A wide range of books are available to help with inspiration and recipes for spoon fed weaning.

As the traditional weaning process continues, and the baby’s ability and confidence to chew improves, the transition from spooning puréed food to mashed food is made.

Traditional weaning does have some distinct advantages. The first is mess, or lack there of! As the baby’s food is spooned straight into their mouth, there’s a lot less opportunity for it to find it’s way on to the floor, up the wall, into tiny ears and all over your brand new jeans.

The weaning process can be started earlier as it’s, at least in theory, harder to choke on a purée and there’s little requirement for the baby to have coordination. The use of the spoon also enables the feeder to withhold the next mouthful until the previous one has been swallowed. Parents tend to report feeling happier with traditional weaning as they have a fairly accurate idea of how much food their infant has consumed and, generally speaking, there isn’t a lot of waste generated.

Traditional weaning, though, can take a potentially joyful time as your baby experiences the delight of real food, and turn it into a laborious and stressful process. Time must be set aside for making all the puréed/mashed food. It’s also surprisingly difficult to prepare a small quantity of purée and if your baby decides they don’t like carrot, you may find yourself eating your dinner with a side of puréed carrot for a week.

The acquisition of a lot of special paraphernalia is also a consideration when choosing your preferred weaning method. Clearly, if you already own a selection of blenders, food containers and tiny plastic spoons, then the traditional weaning shopping list won’t be so lengthy. But modern kitchens aren’t known for their vast size and all this equipment needs storing. If you’re already short of space, traditional weaning may put an extra strain on your kitchen cupboards.

And finally, I do keep hearing whisperings of traditional weaning being linked to obesity. While I personally receive all such statements with an amount of skepticism (after all, the name traditional suggests that many generations of infants have been spoon fed, myself included, and we aren’t all overweight!), there’s probably a valuable warning hidden beneath the media hype. In my opinion, (as an allergy Mama, not a doctor, not a dietician!) I would hazard a warning against pressuring your baby to continue eating once they’ve started turning their head away from the spoon. If there are concerns to be had about people learning to eat beyond the point of being full, then training an infant to continue opening up for another mouthful once they’ve lost interest may well be the start of that habit. If you are concerned about traditional weaning and obesity, though, there’s no shame in deciding that it’s not be the right type of weaning for you and your baby.

To summarise, traditional weaning has the advantage of creating less mess. Parents may feel more confident to start weaning slightly earlier and are able to monitor the amount of food their baby has eaten.

There is, however, increased preparation time and more equipment required for traditional weaning. And lastly, if you’re worried about traditional weaning and obesity, it might be best to put away the spoon and consider baby led weaning.

Coming soon- baby led weaning!

Xx Allergy Mama

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