Why the mix method could be best for your baby

Posted in Tips on 28 January 2017 by Laura

Whether you’re a fan of spoon feeding or baby-led weaning, experts now say there’s a new method to choose

- And it’s better than either of them

You’ve probably heard of baby led weaning. It refers to the practice of babies going straight to self-feeding using finger foods, and skipping being spoon fed.

Ever since the idea of baby led weaning was introduced in 2008, there has been much debate by parents and nutrition experts around the finger food only approach.  Strict followers of the self-feeding approach say you can’t claim to be using the baby led weaning method if you so much as wave a spoon of puree near their child’s mouth.  Those who favour spoon feeding say they prefer the certainty of knowing what their child has taken in.

The good news? Many baby led weaning experts are now saying you don’t have to choose. There’s a new way of weaning on the block – the mix method.

Put simply, it’s using a mix of finger foods and purees to introduce your child to solid foods. Here’s what you need to know:

1.The mix method can be more nourishing

There’s evidence that babies who self-feed are less likely to be overweight as they regulate their own feeding – they learn when they feel full. A big tick for baby led weaning. However, recent research from New Zealand found that babies who only self-fed ate more fat, and had lower intakes of iron, zinc and vitamin B12 than spoon-fed babies. Using the mix method, when you do make use of purees, you can ensure they’re rich in these nutrients so your baby is getting the best nourishment possible.

2. Purees teach your baby to swallow

Gagging on food is natural when a child starts eating solid chunks of food. Although it’s a normal part of weaning, parents do require nerves of steel! Babies are less likely to gag on purees, which allows for a more gradual progression to finger foods during the early part of weaning. Purees also teach your child a vital skill which would take longer with a strict baby led weaning approach – swallowing using a spoon. When a baby is spoon-fed puree, he has to close his mouth over the spoon. Try eating soup with your mouth open, and you’ll understand how important this is! If parents stick to strict baby led weaning methods, this is a skill they have to learn later.

3. Baby food has its place

Home-cooked is always best … isn’t it? Actually, the next time you use baby food, give yourself a break, because the answer to whether home-cooked is better than commercial baby food is … it depends. In one study, nutrition experts compared home-cooked meals for babies with shop-bought equivalents. Researchers found the home-made meals contained almost treble the levels of saturated fat and treble the salt. On the plus side, the meals prepared at home had a greater variety of nutrients. So, using a mixture of shop-bought baby foods and your own cooking is a pretty sound idea. It also fits in perfectly with the philosophy of the mix method – mix things up!

4. Variety is great for babies

One thing that all of the nutrition experts agree on, is that when it comes to weaning, variety is essential. Using the mix method can ensure you’re introducing your child to different textures which can be explored and enjoyed. Even with baby led weaning it’s easy to fall into the habit of serving up the same foods, but by keeping an open mind and using the mix method, this is less likely to happen.

5. Baby learns about cutlery

The mix method has the advantage that it introduces your baby to the idea of using cutlery seamlessly. If you’re using a strict baby led weaning approach, your baby has to learn to use a spoon afterwards. When spoon feeding your baby, you should allow your child the chance to grab the spoon or use his own. It’s all part of the learning experience!

6. More convenient for you

Baby led weaning has many marvellous advantages, but even its loudest cheerleaders have to admit it’s messy – and a high chair with a tray is required for safe self-feeding. There are occasions, such as if you’re out for the day, or visiting, when it may be more convenient to spoon feed your child. A rigid baby led weaning regime may not allow for such changes in routine.

7. The mix method means a relaxed mummy … and a relaxed baby!

The real beauty of the mix method? It allows for you to wean your baby in a way that works for you. No fretting if you don’t have access to a kitchen or a high chair, no over-reliance on food blenders or the expense of jars for every meal. You can relax – and that truly is the key to successfully weaning your baby on to a wholesome and delicious diet.

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