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Baby Weaning: Traditional vs Baby-Led

Baby Weaning: Traditional vs Baby-Led

Breastmilk is highly encouraged in the first six months of a newborn’s life. However, as they mature in their first year, they will transition to more solid food. Weaning means your baby will no longer rely on breastmilk for food. Now, what important tips should you know about the process?

Why is Breast Milk Still the Best for Babies?

What is Weaning?

Weaning essentially means the gradual replacement of breastfeeding. While that sounds simple enough, mothers know that weaning does not happen overnight. It is not going to be as easy as turning a light switch off. But you can try a few approaches to make it stress-free.

Experts say that weaning starts the moment your baby takes food other than breastmilk a couple of times in a day. Subsequently, weaning ends when your baby no longer relies on breastmilk for food.

Mothers often decide when to wean their babies. Typically, it happens some time when the baby is 6 months to a year old, but it could be earlier or later.

Reasons for Weaning

Please note that weaning to solid foods should only be done after your baby reaches 6 months. Doing it before they turn 6 months could be dangerous.

According to studies, mothers decide to stop breastfeeding because they:

  • Feel or think that their baby isn’t getting enough milk from each breastfeeding session.
  • Report that their babies are “losing interest” in breastfeeding.
  • Experience pain during breastfeeding, as well as other “effects,” like cracked nipples or mastitis.
  • Believe that their babies are no longer satisfied with breastmilk alone.

Finally, for some mommies, they are urged to wean their babies because they need to get back to work.

Tips in Weaning from Breast to Bottle

Before solid foods, many mothers would first like to wean their baby from breast to bottle-feeding. Here are some useful tips:

  • Do it slowly. Allow some time for your baby to adjust to the change.
  • Take note of your baby’s age. If you decide to wean when they’re already 7 or 8 months old, you can guide them to drink straight from a cup.
  • Decide on the breastfeeding session your baby is “least keen on.”
  • Replace that session with infant formula in a bottle or cup.
  • Drop one session at a time. This means you will need to wait a couple of days or a week before you drop another breastfeeding session.

what weaning means

Traditional vs Baby-Led Weaning

Since the goal of weaning is to stop breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding), how mothers introduce “solid foods” is crucial.

Generally, there are two ways to wean the baby and introduce new foods – either you use the traditional approach or the BLW or baby-led weaning methods.

But how are these two different from each other and what’s best for your baby?

Traditional Weaning Method

Traditional weaning means mothers take a more proactive role in introducing new and solid foods to their babies. You can do this by buying puree or mashing foods, and then spoon-feeding them to your baby.

Pros

In traditional weaning, you can:

  • Easily monitor how much your baby is eating as they can be readily measured.
  • Avoid wastage; since you are feeding your baby, there is less risk that the food will land on the floor.
  • Check the labels (for store-bought cereals and puree), so you will know its nutrient contents and easily gauge if your baby’s nutrition is balanced.
  • Worry less about choking as puree and cereals are thinner.

Cons

Traditional weaning means you:

  • Either need more time to mash the food or spend a little more money for the store-bought cereals and puree.
  • Might not enjoy mealtime together as you need to spoon-feed your baby.
  • Might struggle when it is time to introduce real, solid foods as they are already used to the smooth texture of the puree.

Baby-Led Weaning

Many mothers are tempted to try baby-led weaning as they believe that it will make their baby more adventurous when it comes to eating a variety of food.

When we say baby-led weaning, it means that your baby will self-feed. Of course, it does not mean that you will leave them to their own devices. But generally, you will have to leave small bits of solid foods in front of them during mealtime.

Your baby will then take their time to explore the food and then take them in their mouth to eat.

Pros

In BLW, you can:

  • Ensure that your baby is having foods with different textures.
  • Have less difficulty in the future as your baby may be less picky or fussy in their eating habits.
  • Enjoy mealtime more as BLW encourages the baby to eat together with the family.
  • Have more time for other things as you don’t need to mash foods for puree.

Cons:

Baby-led weaning means you:

  • Might deal with a lot of mess. Since your baby will self-feed, they will get food on their clothes or drop them on the floor.
  • Will have a harder time to track how much they are eating.
  • Could worry more about the risk of choking.
  • Must be patient and wait until your baby is 6 months or older.

Best First Foods for Babies at 6 Months

Combination Weaning

From the name itself, combination weaning means you will explore both the traditional method and BLW. Let them try some finger foods one time and spoon-feed them with puree or cereals in the next.

Many mothers find this method more appealing because it can fit in a lot of situations. For instance, you can use BLW while at a restaurant by giving them small chunks of your food. And then you can switch to puree when you are somewhere else like a park or in the car.

Another benefit of combination feeding is your baby will learn to chew and swallow at the same time. Think about it, when you rely on puree alone, your baby will most probably just swallow before they learn to chew.

However, some mommies feel that choosing to do both traditional and BLW may confuse the baby.

Important Tips in Weaning

Whether you choose the traditional approach, BLW, or the combination method, you are encouraged to follow the tips below:

  1. Check if your baby is truly ready for solid foods. You need to look out for hand-eye coordination, the ability to stay in a sitting position (while holding their head steady), and the ability to swallow.
  2. Introduce solid foods slowly, preferably one small teaspoon at a time until your baby is “looking for more.”
  3. Introduce foods one at a time, and start with vegetables.
  4. Give them a variety of healthy foods as they slowly learn to eat solid foods.
  5. Refrain from giving them sweet and salty foods. Not only are they not the healthiest options, but they can also affect your baby’s eating habits in the future.
  6. In traditional weaning, it means that you need to look out for signs that your baby is full. You may notice them turning away from the spoon or being fussy when you push the spoon into their mouth. For BLW, they might just stop picking on their food.
  7. Stay away from eggs and peanut butter early on as they may cause food allergies. Also, no honey until they are one year old.
  8. For BLW, avoid foods that are hard, small and round, and sticky.

Key Takeaways

Although it is going to be a long process, weaning means your baby is one step closer to exploring a variety of food. Since there is no right or wrong answer, consider your baby’s preferences and abilities in your weaning decisions.

Learn more about Parenting here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Weaning: stopping breastfeeding, https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/breastfeeding-bottle-feeding-solids/weaning/weaning, Accessed July 29, 2020

From breast to bottle: your 14-day weaning guide, https://www.livingandloving.co.za/child/from-breast-to-bottle, Accessed July 29, 2020

Purees vs Baby-Led Weaning?, https://childrensmd.org/browse-by-age-group/newborn-infants/purees-vs-baby-led-weaning/, Accessed July 29, 2020

Getting Started with Weaning – the different approaches explained, https://weaningweek.co.uk/getting-started-with-weaning-the-different-approaches-explained, Accessed July 29, 2020

Weaning experts share seven simple tips to get your baby eating solid food, https://www.heart.co.uk/lifestyle/parenting/expert-tips-weaning-success/, Accessed July 29, 2020

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated May 26
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.
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