Put a Bib on It

Baby-Led Feeding vs. Spoon Feeding


Starting solids can be scary for first time parents. But does it have to be?Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, everything changes.

We made it to six months of exclusively breastfeeding Miss E (hooray!) I remember all too keenly how in those first few weeks, I imagined it would be a relief to hit this mark and start solids. I’d received several books full of recipes on making my own baby food, had lovingly washed and stored lidded ice cube trays and weaning spoons. But when I started reading about the benefits of baby-led feeding, I was seduced by the notion of giving my daughter another opportunity to make her own choices.

Baby-led weaning, or feeding, “is the common-sense practice of giving your baby soft, palatable whole foods and letting her feed herself her first ‘bites,’ while continuing to breastfeed.” I loved absolutely everything I read about it, and loved watching Miss E smash broccoli, smush avocado, and even gnaw on a chicken leg bone. Starting solids seemed like it was going to be low stress and enjoyable for everyone.

But when she tried to jam a really big piece of toasted homemade bread into her mouth, I panicked. What would I do if she choked? Even my husband, who is infant CPR-certified, wasn’t sure he would be able to keep his cool and do what needed to be done. Miss E’s pediatrician scolded me something fierce when she found out we were doing baby-led feeding, and that was all it took. Attack of the first time parent jitters (again) led me to give it up.

So I spent the better part of a day washing and sautéing and roasting and blending bananas, apples, broccoli, pears, carrots and sweet potatoes. And it’s been scarier feeding Miss E with a spoon than it was letting her feed herself, because she makes faces and gags and has thrown up on two occasions. I don’t feel comfortable jamming a spoon into her mouth when it’s clear she doesn’t want me to, but I still can’t get back to a place where I trust she’ll be okay exploring food on her own. When I think about how merrily she smeared avocado all over her face, gnawing a ripe slice with gusto, I lament loading her little spoons with goopy oatmeal.

I’ve told myself I’ll give it two weeks. If she still hates spoon feeding as much as I do, I’m going to bite the bullet and let her bite into (the very softest) slice of pear.

Author: Jillian Kuhlmann

Mama. Nerd. Writer.

6 thoughts on “Baby-Led Feeding vs. Spoon Feeding

  1. Yeah. This is a good one. We didn’t do the baby-led thing, as this is the first I’ve heard about it. 🙂 I let the ped tell me when to do everything and she based it on his weight. We did the “tried and true” (or is it??) oatmeal first, then veggies going in order of color (I forget the color order) and then fruit until eventually giving Ev whatever we are eating. For me, it was easy. Ev has always been an excellent eater so he gobbled up everything and didn’t show signs that it wasn’t working. As soon as he was able to feed himself, we let him. We gave him food that was his digestible size and that he could pick-up. I like the idea of baby-led feeding because we have based most all other decisions on the timing that worked for him. Maybe there is way to do both. Allowing Miss E to eat what she wants but helping with a manageable size. I don’t know. So when you figure it out- let me know. For my next little nugget.

  2. I’ve been doing baby-led-weaning with my son. And, while it is really scary when they gag, I’ve come to realize that it’s a normal part of the process. And, what they say in the book is true, that the gag relflex in babies is much farther forward than it is in adults, and when my son is gagging on something, I can see the piece of food in his mouth and I know he isn’t in danger.
    I’ve only done BLW with him. And I love it. He’s eating whatever we are eating and it just makes things so much simpler all around. I don’t have to carve out extra time to feed him, he just sits with us at the dinner table and enjoys his dinner when we enjoy ours. I’d say that if you hate spoon feeding, go back to BLW.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! We’re doing a mix right now and that’s working a little better for us (and I made all of this delish baby food, so somebody’s got to eat it), but I think after I take my infant CPR class in a few weeks, I’ll feel more confident to handle the scary situations!

  3. In an ideal world, I think baby-led weaning makes a whole lot of sense. But, as with all things kid-related, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice. I think doing a mix of both methods is a great solution for you. Introducing solids is always so interesting to me because of the crazy differences across cultures and generations. Hope you can enjoy the process as you figure out what is best for you and Miss E.

    • Thank you! And I agree. The way we feed our children is endlessly complicated and nuanced… when you’d think it would be simple!

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