Baby Led Weaning or Spoon-Feeding?
Updated: Aug 18, 2019
As with most issues in feeding, we tend to take a "middle of the road" approach. We believe there are some really positive messages contained in the Baby Led Weaning movement, however we also believe that skills learned during the spoon-feeding phase are equally as important.
As early as two months, babies learn to hold things and quickly begin bringing objects and toys to their mouths between 3-4 months of age. By 6 months old, typically-developing babies demonstrate oral motor skills that are adequate for managing both purees and some dissolvable foods. There is also an oral-sensory window of opportunity between 4-6 months of age, which is why oral exploration of toys is so important. Those babies who never bring anything to their mouths are at risk for feeding challenges as they are introduced to solids.
From the first introduction to solid foods, babies should be encouraged to touch and feel the food, bring it to their mouths even if it's just coincidental because it's already on their fingers, and so begins self-feeding. The baby led weaning movement really supports the idea that babies should have full control over what they are eating, how quickly it goes in their mouths, and when they are done.
As parents, spoon-feeding gives us a sense of control. This phase can last way too long with older infants who are not growing as quickly as the purees give parents a chance to "top the baby off" after they have played around with table foods. Around 8-9 months old, babies are ready to self-feed finger foods and may bat away the spoon, simply because they want to do it themselves. Mealtime battles may begin here as parents try to hold on to the parent-led feeding phase well beyond its natural life.
This is why we encourage all parents to eat with their babies and not just feed them. If you are spoon-feeding purees, give your baby a dipped spoon so that she can take a turn. Offer whole foods that are easier for small hands to hold and take bites of; using two tiny fingers to self-feed teeny-tiny pieces of toast and fruit can be very labor-intensive for a 9 month old. Move on when your baby is ready and if things aren't going well, seek some support.