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Traditional vs Baby-led Weaning

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                                            Dr. Sakshi Mahajan

Child Nutrition Expert

A new mom who is all set to weaning her child is always confused with two options – “traditional weaning” or “baby-led weaning”. Especially, with so many opinions around, the decision-making becomes all the more difficult. Not to worry! Let’s understand both the concepts in order to provide your baby with the much required healthiest start.

Like every aspect of raising a child, there are so many opinions out there and it can be difficult to decide what is best. This is a summary of my experience of both methods. Let’s accept the fact every child is unique.  What is great for one person may not be for another.

There are two basic approaches to weaning:

  • The Traditional Method, where you offer purees to start with solids and feed him through a spoon or a mashed feeder.
  • The Baby-led Method, where you offer baby foods that are soft-cooked and cut or mashed into small easily manageable pieces. 

Mothers feed is the best gift which you can give for your baby. At the age of six months, milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet its nutritional requirements. At this stage, child is ready to eat adult food. This is the weaning stage.

So, Weaning is the process of expanding the diet to include food and drinks other than breast milk or formula milk. Introduction of different tastes and textures promotes biting and chewing skills. Chewing improves mouth and tongue coordination, which is important for speech development.

Is your baby ready for weaning?

You can judge from the following symptoms:

  • Sits up and holds his head steady
  • Shows interest to eat
  • Picks things up to put in his mouth
  • Swallows some food when you offer it to him?

Now let’s learn how YOU can wean your Baby.

There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby but there are essentially two main camps : baby led weaning and traditional weaning.

Baby-led Weaning (BLW): Baby-led weaning means letting your baby feed themselves right from the very start of the weaning process. Baby-led weaning is an approach to introducing solid food where baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon.

Traditional weaning: Your elders would suggest you to start giving biscuits and milk or purees at the age of four to six months. This is called Traditional weaning. Traditional weaning involves pureeing and mashing foods to make it a little easier for babies to swallow.                                                   

BLW V/S TRADITIONAL WEANING

  • Four Months Vs. Six Months

With traditional weaning, health professionals suggest starting to feed baby solids around the age of four to six months but baby led weaning shouldn’t begin before six months. By six months, babies are more capable of reaching and picking up small portions of foods.

  • Chewing Vs. Swallowing

Traditional weaning and baby led weaning both teach a child how to eat; however, the order that children learn to eat is reversed. With baby led weaning, your child is learning how to chew the food and it may take some time for them to actually swallow. In the first few weeks they may just be chewing, sucking, tasting and then spitting out the half eaten food.

  • Preparation Vs. Cleaning

Traditional weaning involves a lot of different devices to create the right first tastes and textures including blenders, steamers, ice cube trays and food processors. It involves a lot of preparing of chopping veggies, steaming fruits and mixing ingredients to create different meals.

Baby led weaning, on the other hand, is a lot simpler in the preparation sense, but the cleaning process can get a little messy. After all, unlike traditional weaning, you are not feeding your baby; they are feeding themselves and thus you can expect the food to end up all over the floor, the high chair, the table and the baby. But it’s all part of the exploration.

Exploration Vs. Digestion

Baby led weaning focuses on the learning process of eating. Babies are encouraged to explore the different tastes and textures with their hands and mouths.

Traditional weaning focuses on ensuring that baby is actually swallowing and   digesting the foods.

The Risk Factor

Two of the biggest fears when it comes to baby led weaning is whether baby will have an allergic reaction and whether baby will choke or gag on the foods.

With traditional weaning, these concerns are much less of an issue as you are introducing one food at a time and are pureeing and mashing the foods to lessen the risk of choking.

So, don’t think much! Cook different meals happily and feed him. Try to make your own schedule and choose to find a happy medium between the two, such as offering purees for breakfast but baby led weaning for lunch and dinner. Whatever You decide to do, keep it fun and work with what’s best for your family and you.

However you choose to wean, focus on building healthy habits and make it fun!

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