blw for beginners

Traditional vs Baby Led Weaning – Feeding Baby As They Move Past Milk

Reaching the 6-month milestone for your baby is exciting. There are so many big changes taking place, one of the most interesting being the transition from milk to solid foods.  With all of the feeding information out there, let us help you navigate the differences between Baby Led Weaning vs Traditional Weaning.

Do What’s Right for Baby and Your Family

If you haven’t already learned this in the first six months of your child’s life, people have advice about everything.

When it comes to feeding your baby, ultimately, you know what is best and what is effective.

Eating is a Learned Skill

Your baby has been accustomed to liquids as their primary source of nutrients for their entire life. Learning how to take bites, chew, swallow food, and prevent yourself from chocking are all learned skills.

Eating is a process of trial and error. And sometimes the process is more nerve-wracking for parents than it is for our Littles.

Two Basic Approaches to Feeding

While there are no right or wrong ways to feed your child, there are two basic approaches to feeding.

The Traditional Method is the one most are familiar with, where you start by offering purees. Another option is the Baby Led Weaning Method, where the baby eats the same thing the family eats (with some restrictions of course).

baby spoon feeding

Signs of Readiness

Before you start to consider how to feed your baby, it is important to make sure your little one is showing signs of readiness.

Medical professionals around the world recommend waiting until your child is around 6 months before introducing solid foods.

Besides reaching the “age milestone” other signs of your child’s readiness include:

  • Sitting up with little or no support
  • Ability to hold their head steady
  • Reaching out and grabbing things effectively
  • Showing interest in food
  • Effectively reaching out to grab food from your plate
  • Taking objects to their mouth quickly and accurately
  • Making gnawing and chewing movement

Important to Know for Either Method

Whether you decide to go the Traditional route or give Baby Led Weaning a try, some guidelines are important to follow regardless of what method you chose:

  • No HONEY until the age of one
  • Limit salty foods. Consider not adding salt to your cooking.
  • No choking potential hazard foods (this will be touched on again below when it comes to Baby Led Weaning).

The Positives and Negatives of Both

Both methods are effective and have positive outcomes. And…both have their pros and cons. In our case, we primarily practiced Baby Led Weaning with our daughter.

We did however introduce our daughter to foods that are “naturally” pureed like different fruit/apple sauces and potatoes. And those “pouches” have been a god-send on more than one busy morning or car trip.

Traditional Weaning Ins and Outs

Traditional Weaning Basics

This method includes:

  • Starting with purees with a silky smooth consistency between 4-6 months
  • Progressing to mashed/chopped textures
  •  Introducing finger foods around 7 months
  •  No meat until 6+ months
  •  Introducing different foods on different weeks

 Pros to Traditional Weaning Method

  • You know much more precisely how much your child has eaten
  • No concerns about choking or gagging
  • Much more clear “guidelines” to follow, as this method has been around the longest
  • Ability to use pouches/jars when on the go

 Cons to Traditional Weaning Method

  • Unsure of what is in the pureed food purchased at the store
  • Feeling restricted by what foods can be introduced, and when (due to specific guidelines in this method)
  • Transition to solid foods can be difficult.
  • Hours spent pureeing baby food at home
  • Money spent on devices/contraptions to make the baby-food making process easier
  • It is time-consuming to spoon-feed your child, which also makes it harder to enjoy a meal as a family

baby self feeding

Baby Led Weaning Basics

This method broadly includes:

  • Waiting until baby shows “signs of readiness” in concurrence with 6 months of age
  • Offering soft, easy to hold, finger foods to your child. For example, steamed carrot sticks (as opposed to a carrot puree)
  • Encouraging your child to self-feed, and learning to use fork/spoon on their own. Parents can load spoons for their Little, but it is recommended that they feed themselves.
  • Your baby gets to choose the foods they would like to eat, based on what you present to them
  • There are very limited food restrictions as to what your child can eat. They can eat what everyone else is eating (NOTE: ask your child’s pediatrician which foods your child should avoid in the first year)

 Pros to Baby Led Weaning

  • Very little food prep. As stated before, baby eats what you eat. No need to pull out the blenders or food processors!
  • Eat as a family! No separate mealtimes needed since baby is eating what you’re eating. Having baby see you eat is also a great way to demonstrate how to use utensils, chew, pick up a glass, etc.
  • Allows for food exploration! BLW allows your child to start to use their senses; the sensation of touching, squishing, licking, etc
  • Gives way for your child to be a non-picky eater. Introducing foods early can broaden their experiences and taste buds early. It’s fun to watch baby explore a range of flavors and textures (that are not all blended together).

 Cons to Baby Led Weaning

  • MESS FOR DAYS! If you are a clean-freak, or breakdown when there is a mess, save yourself the stress and skip BLW. We would lay down a drop-cloth under our daughter’s highchair to help with clean-up after
  • Concern for choking!!! Many parents mistake gagging for choking. This was the hardest for my husband, as he thought every time our daughter gagged, she was gasping for air.  Gagging is completely normal for babies and is their way of pushing food that was too big to swallow out. This is an IMPORTANT SKILL TO LEARN.
  • Learning how to cut food in safe sizes to prevent choking. It’s a slight learning curve at first but once mastered, food prep is a breeze.
  • Uncertainty as to what has been eaten. It’s sometimes hard to decipher what was eaten, swept off the floor, or what the dogs were able to sneak. This sometimes had me worry if our daughter was getting the right nutrients (our pediatrician confirmed she was getting everything she needed).
  • Other people’s opinions can be a major con. Older generations generally fed through the Traditional Method with purees, rice cereals, and cereal added to milk. Be prepared for the unsolicited advice from people who are unfamiliar with the BLW method. I had to guide and educate family members throughout our feeding journey.

Additional Information

As we all know, every child is different.  And with that, each child has different dietary needs to consider.

If you have any questions or concerns, refer to your child’s pediatrician. They will be able to advise you further about food allergies, recommendations in changes to diet, etc.

Practice Makes Perfect

My daughter just turned 2 and looking back, introducing Baby Led Weaning was the best choice we could have made.

She is an adventurous eater, she uses her utensils, will sit at her table, and can safely cough up something she didn’t chew fully.

Remember, eating is a learned skill!

You didn’t wake up one day and automatically be able to scarf down a cheeseburger. Stay confident throughout this process (whether you decide Baby Led Weaning or the Traditional Method) and remember:

  • Every family is different. Choose what is best (and easiest) for baby, you, and your family.
  • STAY CALM! Just like us, your child’s appetite can fluctuate. Don’t force your baby to finish, or eat something they refuse.
  • Trust your baby’s appetite and try not to worry about the amount they eat.

Baby Led Weaning Resources

Traditional Method Resources

  • Baby Foodie – A great website with puree recipes. BONUS, they include beautiful pictures that make even an adult’s mouth water.
  • Annabel Karmel – A leading expert in the puree world. She offers great advice and recipes

Sarah Bear Rively is a Reno resident for over 30 years and loves the uniqueness of Northern Nevada. Sarah and her husband are parents to a sassy, smart, considerate “three-anger". Sarah has spent the majority of her career helping Reno’s at-risk populations through non-profit and social service work.  She now proudly works for the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Sarah considers herself a fun-loving person who enjoys laughing, getting creative, helping the community, and spending time with family.  You can follow her in real life on Instagram and TikTok.