With your first-born, it feels like every time you think you’ve mastered one baby-rearing challenge, you’re set with the next. Just when you’ve stopped fretting about how much milk your growing infant is drinking, you’re faced with anxieties about when to start feeding her solids, whether the meal is nutritious enough and if she’s going to actually eat it.
There are two major approaches to weaning: the traditional spoon-fed method (where the parent is in control), and the modern ‘baby-led’ weaning (where the baby learns to feed him or herself).
“With first babies, moms often lack the confidence to combine the two methods,” says Dr. Rana Conway, author of Weaning Made Easy.
There are advantages to both. Spoon-feeding allows parents to control how much their baby eats and mix new flavours in with favourites. Knowing that dinner is going to end up in your baby’s belly rather than the floor is reassuring for parents whose sanity depends on regular nap-, feed- and bed-times.
Meanwhile, baby-lead weaning is convenient for parents who don’t have time to prepare separate meals and there’s no danger of overfeeding (although it can be messier than spoon-feeding).
“The advantage is that families can eat together and all have the same meals, so babies get used to eating the food you do,” says Conway.”
Combining methods is easy, says Conway. “The balance between spoon-feeding and self-feeding … changes over time,” she says. “Most babies need spoon-feeding to start with, but it’s also vital to give them something to try to eat with their fingers too. This means they’ll be getting the nutrients they need, but they can also learn about real food,” Conway says. “After a few months, self-feeding really takes off and by a year most babies will only need help with foods like yogurt or porridge. It’s about taking a balanced approach and seeing what works.”