Before we dive into the discussion on when to start solids for your baby, I…
With parents swearing by baby led weaning and those loving traditional weaning with purees, it’s so confusing trying to decide the best method to use. Both offer advantages and disadvantages.
But how do you know what’s the right approach for your baby?
I don’t like labels mainly because it forces us to think in absolutes. It forces us to choose sides based on someone else’s criteria. When really the only person setting criteria should be your baby and how their body is growing.
Trust me, I know it’s tough trying to decipher “baby language” but it’s not as hard as we make it out to be. What helped me make sense of what’s best for my baby was to look at what “typical” development looks like in humans and go from there.
I can hear you say “Ya, Ana! But my baby is different”, I’m going to say this. We all grow teeth. We all lose our baby teeth too and they come back! We all go through puberty. Woman go through menopause.
See where I’m going with this?
There are certain milestones that our bodies go through that are pretty universal.
Sure we all go through them slightly differently, and that’s where our unique body comes in.
As with everything I share, I feel very strongly about being on our kids side. Giving them a voice too.
In this post, I’m going to share about how human learn to chew and based on this, you’ll see how the decision to do puree or BLW will pretty much be obvious based on your little baby.
Baby Oral Motor Skills Between 4 to 6 Months
At this age, babies eat by having milk deposited at the back of their tongue. Their tongue can only move back and forth … that’s it!
Their fatty cheek help to keep their tongue stable as it moved back and forth too. See they do have a purpose other than being kissed a million times a day.
But between 4 to 6 months, your baby’s head starts to elongate and their jaw lowers making more room vertically in their mouths. In addition, the inside of their fatty cheeks starts to lean out making more room for the tongue to move from side to side.
Because at this age, handle a liquid consistency. So any foods we give them have to be pretty much liquid.
Based on the physical abilities of a 4 month old, it’s safe to say that it’s not a good idea to start them with BWL.
You can get away with starting purees, if you thin them enough. I talk a lot more about what feeding your 4 month old looks like in this post.
Can Your Baby Handle BLW at 6 months?
Around 6 months, your baby will start moving its tongue side to side. This is the very beginning of chewing.
When you think about how you chew, it starts to make sense. You actually move the food with your tongue and place it on top of your molars. It’s basically that side to side motion that begins to appear.
Since this motion is still developing, the main way a 6 month old will chew is by squishing foods with its tongue to the roof of their mouth.
If you’re thinking about starting BLW at 6 months old, look at giving your child easy squishable foods.
If you can squish the food on the roof of your mouth wiht your tongue or by pinching it between your fiungers you’re good to go.
What are the the foods to start Baby Led Weaning (BLW)
Here’s a list of squishy food you can start with.
- steamed carrots
- Roasted butternut squash
- Roasted zucchinis
- Veggetable soup veggies without the broth
- Boiled potatoes
- Very soft cheese cubes
- Steamed/roasted pears
- Steamed/roasted apples
- Large cylindrical pieces of meat for baby to suck on (e.g.pork chops, ssteaks, chicken breast)
What’s Better, Purees or BLW?
I’m a big fan of both purees and baby-led weaning, or finger foods because they both offer great advantages. If you choose to start solids before 6 months, you’ll have to stick to traditional weaning and offer purees until your baby is ready to handle finger foods.
Because I recommend to start solids at the 4 to 5 months mark (here are a few reasons why you might want to start earlier) I used a combination beefing approach. We start with purees and gave our littles the equivalent in finger food so that they can touch and play with their food.
Advantages of Purees (Traditional Weaning)
- Great way to include leafy greens and other hard to chew foods
- Good for babies who are not particularly skilled at bringing foods to their mouths yet
- Can be helpful in situations where weight is a concern
- Can batch cook and freeze to have meals handy
- Is helpful to sneak in that extra nutrition babies might need
- Gently transition to more complex tongue lateralization movements required for chewing and food manipulation
Disadvantages of Purees (Traditional Weaning)
- More prep involved
- Often comes along with more pressure from parents and less control for the child which can lead to power struggles at mealtimes
- Parents can often stay in this phase too long and not introduce finger foods soon enough
Advantages of Baby-Led Weaning
- Full sensory experience
- More exposure to family meals
- More control/less pressure
- Child learns to eat at their own pace
- Develops oral motor and fine motor skills
- Allows parents to eat at the same time
Disadvantages of Baby-Led Weaning
- Can be Messy
- Not appropriate for all infants as they might have not reached the needed physical milestones
- Does not follow the pattern humans learn to eat depending on what food is given. Too difficult foods can be given and not realize baby can’t eat it.
- Concerns regarding choking
Combining Baby Led Weaning And Purees
In the world of nutrition, if there’s one thing I learned is that I was not a big fan of extremes. A balanced approach always was the wiser decisions in most cases. I like to offer my baby both purees and finger foods for these reasons:
- First and foremost, combining purees and finger foods allows us to follow how babies normally gain their oral motor skills and learn to eat
- I get to sneak in the nutritious foods that are hard or awkward to eat for a baby in their younger months
- I can expose them to allergenic foods sooner
- Baby can still have control of her feeding with finger foods and with the spoon
- Baby gets to continue to practice hand motor skills while grabbing the food and aiming it to her mouth