fbpx

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) VS Purees: Can They Come Hand in Hand?

We believe Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a method of feeding that is commonly compared to traditional spoon feeding. Purees, on the other hand, is simply mashed food. Can you feed purees the BLW way? Yes, you can!

The battle of BLW vs purees tends to be confused with BLW vs traditional weaning. 

From its name, the term ‘Baby Led Weaning’ is a method of feeding that puts the baby in charge of mealtimes, and the adults follow the baby’s lead. Purees are a smooth consistency of mashed or blended foods. Purees tend to be compared to BLW because they are commonly associated with traditional spoon feeding, where parents are in control of feeding the baby.

Hence, in this article, we will be specifically talking about the differences between BLW and traditional weaning because we believe they are different methods. Purees are mashed foods that you could also do BLW with. We also delve deeper into the pros and cons of these 2 different feeding methods.

1

Why You Should Trust Me

Who Am I?
Baby-led weaning with finger foods

Hi! I’m Serene, a mom of one 31-month-old (as of May 2023) daughter, who successfully went through BLW and am now reaping its benefits. As I was doing my research on how to introduce solids and what solids to introduce, I was sure that BLW is not a one-size-fits-all method and that not all families are able to cope with its aftermath.

I would choose to compare finger foods to purees, and BLW to traditional weaning – spoon feeding. Personally, I preferred feeding finger foods for various reasons: 

  • Ease of preparation (you can cook a large family pot and just portion out for your baby before adding seasoning)
  • Exposing tastes and textures as different foods brings about different experiences (e.g. avocado’s smooth texture vs broccoli’s crunchy/rough texture)
  • Developing gross motor skills (comes naturally when baby is more involved with eating through their hands)

We also spoke to 3 experts to better understand how BLW can work hand in hand with purees. 

  • Catherine, an entrepreneur, and a cookbook author of 4 cookbooks, from Weelicious
  • Wanda Wijaya, Speech and Language therapist from Ohana Therapy
  • Desiree Lau, Director and Speech Therapist from Magic Beans
2

What is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

Why Choose BLW?

Benefits of BLW

There are several benefits to choosing Baby Led Weaning:

  • Fosters independence: Babies take charge of eating and they can choose as much or as little as they want. Catherine explains that once they start playing with food or throwing it, take that as a cue that it’s time to remove your child from their chair or your lap.
  • Exposes one to a huge variety of foods: Babies are exposed to the raw forms of food alongside its taste and texture
  • Experiences valuable social interactions: As you are eating alongside your child, the attention is not solely on them and they can pick up valuable social skills during mealtimes
  • Develops fine motor skills: Fine motor skills include mouth and oral skills while chewing and swallowing, pincer grasp and hand-eye coordination when bringing the food to their mouths
  • Saves time and money: As you are preparing the same food for the family and baby, you only need to cook once and there is less food wastage.

Challenges of BLW

By allowing your baby to take the lead, these are some of the possible aftermaths:

  • Choking woes: With finger foods, there is a potential for babies to bite off chunks of food that may pose a choking hazard. However, research has shown that it may result in more gagging, but no increased likelihood of choking.
  • Lack of time to clean up: BLW can get messier than spoon-feeding since the baby is exploring and manipulating the food independently.
  • Unsure about babies’ nutritional needs: In the beginning, foods are usually served individually and parents may be concerned about meeting the nutritional needs of the babies. It’s worth noting that in the first year, milk is still the main source of nutrients and we can focus more on food exploration. Desiree Lau stresses the importance of prioritizing essential nutrients like iron and zinc in easily consumable forms for babies, especially when considering their nutritional intake.

Signs of readiness

When feeding finger foods, it is crucial for a baby to be able to sit upright independently before he/she can start feeding himself/herself. Ignoring societal expectations of feeding solids at 4 months old, I chose to wait for my daughter to be ready before introducing solids.

When can a baby sit in a high chair?

Babies can typically sit in a high chair between 4 to 6 months of age.

According to Solidstarts, here are the various developmental milestones your baby needs to achieve before offering finger foods:

Age: 6 months or older
Posture: able to sit upright independently
Head control: hold head upright independently and steadily
Reach & grab: able to pick up objects and bring them to their mouth
Interest: mouths and leans forward to food (I used to carry my daughter to the dining table while we ate when she was 5 months old!)

BLW first foods

newborn using a fork to feed himself

I managed to introduce her first 100 foods before my daughter hit 1! It was not an easy task because at some point, I felt like I could not find any more new foods!

With my perseverance and dogged determination, I did it! 

Here are just the first 10 foods I introduced.

  1. Chicken
  2. Banana
  3. Avocado
  4. Apple 
  5. Carrots
  6. Spinach 
  7. Eggs
  8. Salmon 
  9. Blueberry
  10. Si shen powder (which I don’t recommend anymore because it was recalled in Singapore)
  11. Sweet potato
3

What Are Purees?

Why Choose Purees?

Benefits of Purees

Here are the benefits of introducing purees to your baby:

  • Ensure proper nutrition: Parents are in control over the ingredients and portion sizes. 
  • Gradual introduction of flavors and textures: The smooth consistency of purees helps babies transition from liquid milk to solids. 
  • Convenience: Purees can be prepared in advance and stored in individual portions. They are also convenient to bring on the go.
  • BLW is not for every baby: Desiree Lau notes that not all babies may be suitable for baby-led weaning due to potential challenges with oro-motor and fine motor skills. Babies facing difficulties with chewing or picking up food might find this approach challenging, leading to frequent gagging and limited self-feeding efficiency. These babies might continue relying heavily on milk feeds, become fussy with eating, and develop a dislike for food in the medium to long term. If your baby persists in relying mainly on milk feeds after attempting BLW for several weeks or months, seeking guidance from a Feeding Therapist or Speech Therapist may be beneficial.

Challenges of Purees

Here are some cons of feeding purely purees:

  • Aversion to textured foods: A baby may have a preference for smooth textures, making it tough to transition to lumpier or solid foods later on. This could potentially lead to picky eating or a limited diet in future. 
  • Delayed development of mouth and oral skills: Babies may miss out on the opportunity to chew foods 
  • Delayed development of gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination if spoonfed: Babies who are exclusively spoonfed with purees lack the opportunities to grasp spoons, or foods themselves and manipulate the foods towards their mouths.
4

Comparing BLW vs Purees

Difference Between BLW and Purees

These two methods have their pros and cons and they are not mutually exclusive.

While this table outlines the general differences between baby led weaning and spoon-feeding purees, it is important to find a method, or a combination of methods that better suits your lifestyle and your child’s needs and level of readiness.

Main foods
Level of Independence
Nutritional intake
Risks
Developmental skills
Mess levels
baby self feeding
Baby Led Weaning
Developmentally-appropriate finger foods
High levels: encourages self-regulation and independent eating
Baby is in charge of the amount of food he/she eats
Higher chances of gagging
Tastes and textures: exposed to a variety

Chewing and self-feeding skills: develop a lot faster as the child learns from day 1 of solids
Messier with food exploration
mom spoon feeding baby
Purees (through traditional weaning – spoon-feeding)
Purees and mashed food
Low levels: highly dependent on the caregiver to be fed the food
Parent controls the type of food and the portion
Minimal risks as food is mashed
Tastes and textures: slower exposure 

Chewing and self-feeding skills: child focuses on learning to swallow first
Parent controls the mess
5

Combining BLW and Purees

Doing BLW and Purees Together

Great news – you can do purees, the BLW way! Simply put, you can also feed purees and let the baby take charge of mealtimes too.

In fact, you do not need to skip purees altogether and you can get the best of both worlds!

Baby trying mashed and finger foods
On the left, there’s mashed avocado fed with a spoon, and on the right, you have a long strip of carrot (finger food)

How to incorporate purees the BLW way

Encourage self-feeding

Regardless of whether you are offering finger foods or purees, let the baby explore the foods and practise self-feeding, using a spoon. This allows the baby to better regulate hunger and satiety, allowing the adults to follow the baby’s cues. Catherine also advises parents to be patient as feeding should be a special time together to connect, explore and learn from each other.

Some combinations that you could consider, blending the two methods:

  • Squashed blueberries (finger food) with Greek yogurt (purees)
  • Rice balls (finger food) with applesauce (purees)
  • Chicken drumstick (finger food) with mashed potatoes (purees)

Preloaded spoons to offer purees

When introducing purees, parents are quick to feed (traditional weaning). However, when doing the BLW way, you could always encourage your child to self-feed by introducing a spoon meant for BLW.

Spoons that are meant for BLW tend to be:

  • Short and chunky: so their small hands can grab
  • Shallow: help beginning eaters scoop a reasonable amount of food to eat (some even have holes in them to purposefully allow food to be stuck)

Here are some spoons that we could recommend:



Mix textures

Instead of offering 2 different foods at the table, you could offer the same food, but prepared differently so your child gets to experience different textures. For example, you could offer a small broccoli floret as a finger food and a shallow bowl of mashed broccoli for your baby to spoon.

Doing a combination in an Asian context

Baby feeding himself

Living in Singapore, we grew up eating porridge when we were younger. Needless to say, our kids were also expected to eat porridge when they turned about 4 months old. 

Is it possible to feed porridge and do BLW at the same time? 

Yes! Porridge has the same smooth consistency as purees. You could treat porridge like how you would treat any purees. Porridge can be cooked with less water so that the consistency is thicker and less watery. This consistency makes it easier for the baby to scoop and self-feed. 

Cooking porridge is also a good way to ensure proper nutrition as you can cook it with chicken stock, mashed fish or other proteins and vegetables in them. 

To combine porridge and finger foods, you could offer porridge with a side of carrot stick, broccoli floret, steamed apples, omelet strips and many more. 

6

Every Baby Is Different

Choosing a Suitable Approach

Regardless of the method you choose, there are pros and cons to both methods of feeding. Most importantly, Wanda Wijaya advises parents to keep the mealtime fun and create opportunities for your child to be curious as they explore food.

Pros & Cons of BLW

Pros
  • Fosters independence
  • Exposes one to a huge variety of foods
  • Experiences valuable social interactions
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Saves time and money
Cons
  • Choking woes
  • Lack of time to clean up
  • Unsure about babies’ nutritional needs

Pros & Cons of Purees

Pros
  • Ensure proper nutrition
  • Gradual introduction of flavours and textures
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Aversion to textured foods
  • Delayed development of mouth and oral skills
  • Delayed development of gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination if spoonfed

Every baby is different and it is important to be flexible. Instead of obsessing over the best way to feed, it would probably be better to focus on what works for the family and respond to your baby’s cues and readiness.

7

FAQs About BLW vs Purees

FAQs

Can you transit from purees from BLW finger foods?

Yes – slowly but surely! Prepare developmentally-appropriate finger foods and encourage your child to explore with the food and self-feed. 

My daughter has been spoonfed since 6 months old. Can we switch to BLW?

Definitely! Introduce finger foods gradually and encourage your child to hold and explore the food on their own. If they are older, you could consider letting them use their own cutlery and feed themselves.

When do I increase the food intake?

Typically, you can increase the food intake to 2 meals at 8 – 9 months old, and increase to 3 meals from 10-month-old onwards. Desiree Lau also suggests increasing the frequency of meals (from one to two a day) as the baby becomes more accustomed to feeding. She states, “As the number of solid feeds increases, the number of milk feeds can be reduced. There is no hard and fast rule to increasing the food intake.

How do I complement milk feedings with solid foods?

  • Introduce solids gradually – start with 1 ingredient a day
  • Milk should be the main source of nutrition in the first year
  • Offer solids after milk feedings: find a suitable window of about 30 minutes after milk feed so that your baby is not too hungry or too full to explore with the solids. 
  • If you’re breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed on demand.
  • When a baby starts to consume more solids, Wanda Wijaya recommends gradually reducing the milk intake (by 10-20ml) while observing the child’s hunger and fullness.

Disclaimer: Nuevamae is not sponsored by any of the mentioned brands or platforms. This article expresses our honest opinion based on our experience and research. Read more about our mission. This article includes affiliate links so we may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase via the link.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Nuevamae
      Logo
      Enable registration in settings - general