Weaning is a significant milestone in a baby’s life, marking the transition from a milk-only diet to the introduction of solid foods. This process can sometimes make parents a little nervous and I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to simplify it and help offer parents and carers confidence in weaning.
A fairly new concept – Baby-led Weaning – where babies are offered more solid pieces of food and self-feed right from the start of a baby’s weaning journey has been promoted and encouraged in recent years. However, some parents can be a little nervous about this method. I personally like to recommend a BEST OF BOTH approach to weaning, where you try both finger foods AND some purees and let your baby lead and explore at their own pace. If you’re not clear on the difference between the two, do check out my complete guide to baby led weaning, which outlines exactly what it is and the approach I personally advocate in detail.
If you want to read more about the Benefits of BLW I’ve written about that too, but in this post I’m sharing some of the LESS well talked about benefits of starting weaning with purees.
A wide variety of food options
Baby food options are practically endless, especially if you start weaning with purees as it allows a really wide variety of foods that simply need to be readily mashed or blended or cooked and then blended. Purees can be made from a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates/grains, providing babies with a wide range of foods, nutrients and textures.
Babies can STILL self-feed
One of the purported benefits of BLW is that babies can more readily self-feed, but actually, babies can start to learn to self-feed with purees too. This might involve using their hands and/or baby using cutlery, but they can still be in charge of that feeding experience. In fact, many children (mine included) want to be in charge of the spoon right from day one of weaning. While purees are often spoon-fed to babies, I’m a big fan of recommending they are offered on a pre-loaded spoon that the baby holds. This can help to encourage babies to self-feed and develop fine motor skills.
A more gradual introduction of solid foods for nervous families
Starting with purees allows for a gradual increase in the texture of foods that can help more nervous parents or babies who may be sensitive and need a more gradual introduction to solid foods. As your baby becomes more comfortable with swallowing, you can slowly make purees more textured really easily and start introducing soft, squidgable finger foods.
Experience and experimentation with using cutlery
This is a great skill for babies to learn – self-feeding and using cutlery. It takes time for these skills to be honed and mastered, but it’s a really important skill in our society. I’ve written about cutlery use during weaning before.
Support from Family Members or Caregivers
Many family members may feel more confident offering purees – and although it’s good to encourage them to branch out with this somewhat, it’s good to also allow flexible childcare with a baby who can use a spoon and eat purees and mashes as well as finger foods if needed.
Development of Eating Skills
Solid foods, including purees, help babies to practice eating. This might mean using their lips and tongue to remove food from a spoon or using more complex mashes to help them get used to chomping more lumpy style foods. You can also really easily change textures in the purees and mashes you offer too, meaning that a baby can nice and gradually move through different textures as and when they need to – it’s really easy to follow their lead with purees and move textures up via stealth. See my blog on “moving through textures” for more.
However, if you DO decide to start with purees, it IS important to move through those textures so that babies experience MORE than just purees in the first weeks of weaning to help them develop those eating skills and build on their oral motor skills needed to safely eat.
In conclusion, there are benefits to offering purees at the start of weaning, but it’s good if finger foods and more complex textures are also introduced after the first weeks or so of weaning to help baby move on and learn to eat efficiently.
However, every baby is unique, and what works best will depend on the individual child and family. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or questions about weaning your baby or if you’re nervous about finger foods and choking. I have all the advice you need covered on my Online Weaning Course.