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When it comes to weaning your child onto solid foods, the amount of advice and guidance can be overwhelming. Especially when you start looking into traditional vs baby led weaning. What works for one family won’t necessarily work for another, but it can be really difficult to make comparisons.

Traditional vs Baby Led Weaning

Traditional weaning is when you start your child on smooth foods, including things such as baby rice and fruit or vegetable purees. These are spoon fed to the child by the parent. As the baby grows, the foods progress onto more complex purees including wheat, dairy and meats. Then, more textured foods are introduced as a transition onto solid foods.

Baby led weaning is a contrast to this, in that the child is given finger foods to eat. These will be very soft to start off with, such as cooked vegetable sticks or bread. The approach in baby led weaning is to allow the child to choose what they want to eat, and to feed themselves. Once your child is confidently chewing and swallowing, you can move onto different textures and types of foods.

Is my child ready for weaning?

There are a few signs to look for to see if your child is ready for weaning. The first being that they pay much more attention to food, especially yours! You may find them staring at it longingly, or even trying to take it. If they can stay in a seated position and support their own head (for example in a high chair), plus be co-ordinated enough to look at food, pick it up and put in in their mouth, they are likely to be ready to start. Your child will also need to be able to swallow foods, but it can take a while to develop this skill. You may find that they move food around with their tongue, and then either swallow it or spit it out. This is a very normal part of weaning.

Your approach to weaning

The most important thing you can do is to make sure that you as the parent have the right mindset going in to weaning. It’s nothing to be scared of, and your child will get there in their own time. If you are nervous and cautious when feeding your child, or helping them to eat, they will pick up on it and may form a poor association with food.

It will be way out of your comfort zone, but you will need to give your child a bit of freedom and allow them to guide you, both in terms of what they want to eat and how they want to eat it. As long as you are adequately prepared and supervise your child closely, the chances of choking are very low.

You may have to sit on your hands, but don’t be tempted to hover with a cloth to clear up every single spill whilst your child is eating. Weaning is messy, but wait until a ‘meal’ is finished to clean as this demonstrates the right message to your child (that it’s OK to enjoy your food). As your child grows, you can start to encourage more careful eating behaviour.

If you are going with the spoon fed approach it’s a good idea to give your child one of the spoons to play with, before it has food on. That way they can get used to the texture of it plus the feeling of it in their mouth. It also encourages the child to feel that feeding is fun and they get to wave a spoon around! A soft rubber or plastic spoon may be better to start of with than a hard metal spoon. It will certainly be softer on little gums.

Whichever way you choose to feed your baby, try to relax, have fun and know that you are setting them on the right path for a lifelong healthy relationship with food.

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Gemma Hall

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