Before I became a parent, I had no idea what baby led-weaning was. I actually thought it had to do with breastfeeding!  I now realize that baby-led weaning (BLW) is a method in which the baby controls their solid food consumption by self-feeding.

Baby-led weaning versus spoon feeding

This is a controversial topic among parents. Some believe BLW is a better way to feed their infant, while other parents believe traditional spoon feeding is better. Proponents of BLW think it is a better way to feed as it allows the baby to experience new textures, develop their fine motor skills by picking up their food and may reduce overfeeding.  Proponents of spoon feeding think purees may be a better option due to concerns that a baby may not get enough calories or nutrients if they are self-feeding and that there may be an increased risk of choking. But what does the evidence say?

I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with the Alberta College of Family Physicians and review the evidence on the impact baby-led weaning has on growth, iron intake and choking. The article was co-written with Dr. Kirkwood, Dr. Korownyk and Erin Manchuk. Our group found that transitioning infants to solid foods using a BLW approach (with parental education) results in up to 0.7kg less weight gain at 12 months than traditional spoon feeding, which is of unknown significance. There was no difference in iron intake or choking episodes between the feeding styles.

What do we do?

In our home, we do a combination of BLW and traditional spoon feeding. During the day, George typically has spoon fed meals from our nanny or myself.  At dinnertime when both my husband and I are home and we have more time George is fed with BLW. We make sure to avoid foods with higher choking risks such as grapes, and raw vegetables and make sure that the food that we give George is soft and baby fist sized strips of food. 

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP .