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Starting Solids: Traditional Feeding or Baby Led Weaning?

July 29, 2021 3 min read

Starting your baby on solids is such an exciting milestone but at the same time, can be really overwhelming for many parents.

There’s so much information available on this topic, with different versions of the 'best' way to feed your baby and what foods to start with. It's confusing right?!

Let's break it down and have a look at the two different feeding methods you can use when starting solids so you can make up your mind about what is going to best work for you.


Feeding Method #1: Traditional approach to starting solids

The traditional approach involves spoon feeding your baby pureed food when they are ready to commence solids (around 6 months). The texture of the food progresses quickly from puree to mash to lumpy and then to finger foods which are introduced at around 7-8 months of age.


Feeding Method #2: Baby led weaning

Baby led weaning has grown in popularity over the last few years, as more research has been done proving its efficacy and safety when starting solids.

In baby led weaning, the traditional approach is skipped altogether and babies feed themselves texture appropriate finger foods from the time they are ready to commence solids (at around 6 months).

In this style of feeding where babies are encouraged to self-feed from the very beginning there can be some advantages. These include:

  • Stimulating your baby with new textures, shapes and tastes
  • Helping to develop fine motor skills and dexterity
  • Your baby can start eating with the family sooner

Some of the biggest concerns from parents with baby led weaning are around safety and choking. There are some precautions with this method that will help to minimise the risk to your bub including:

  • Waiting until around 6 months of age - at this age most babies are able to feed themselves
  • Ensure all the normal prerequisites are met - your baby is able to sit up well and has good head and neck control, can pick up toys and bring them to their mouth, has lost the extrusion reflex (they push their tongue out of their mouth) and they show an interest in food
  • Always testing the texture of the food to make sure it is soft
  • Avoiding choking hazards like small, round food that could block the airway such as hard fruit and veggies, nuts and soft bread (it can form a ball in the mouth)

For this very reason, some parents feel more comfortable starting on purees and mashes, while others enjoy the ease of starting their baby on finger foods, as there is little extra cooking when eating family foods.

The most important concept in both of these methods is that feeding and eating is led by the baby. It is important to watch carefully for their cues to ensure that they have autonomy with food from day one.

Although the name 'Baby Led Weaning' suggests that this is a better method to be able to do this, it is absolutely possible to follow your baby's lead with spoon feeding as well.

This means that if they are not interested in the food, there is no pressure or forcing them to eat it. Remember that when starting solids, your baby is just starting the process of learning how to eat. This will take time and lots of practice.

When weighing up both approaches remember, they don’t have to be exclusive!

Ultimately it is your choice and you can do a mixture of both. You may try one and find that it doesn't work well for your baby and move towards the other.

There is no rule that says you have to pick just one path. Pick a method or blend the two based off the best fit for you and your bub.


Nicola is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and the owner of kids nutrition business, Grub for Kids. With over 7 years of experience as a dietitian and 3 young kids of her own, Nicola aims to educate, inspire and reduce the stress of parents when it comes to feeding their kids.

You can connect with Nicola via the links below: