Reggie is approaching 6 months (far quicker than I like) so I’m starting to think about weaning. He’s started watching intently and has had plenty of opportunity to gawp whilst I’ve piled Christmas food into my mouth.

Having weaned two babies before I took a very different approach with them both. As a first time, unconfident mum baby number 1 of course had a ‘guide book’ involved. Annabelle Karmel’s Baby and Toddler Meal Planner was my weaning bible.

By baby number 2 I was far more confident and decided cooking one family tea was enough. I sure as hell wasn’t going to be making a special ‘baby tea’ too.

Purees

This doesn’t need much explanation, food blended up into a mush.

Pros
Batch cooking makes it so easy at meal times. Just pop one of your special weaning ice cubes into the microwave (a normal ice tray wouldn’t have done. I needed to have the actual one the book said because otherwise I wasn’t doing it properly – eye roll to me as a first time mum).
The planner takes away all that indecisive ‘what am I doing for tea’ dilemma.
Your baby will try things you may not usually buy. I’d never cooked a sweet potato or butternut squash before (both now frequent our plates).
Some recipes are quite literally two ingredients pureed together, easy!

Cons
Batch cook day is an epic one. It always takes three times as long as you think it will.
There are really strange combinations, things like orange in fish pie and pear and butternut squash. This in itself isn’t an issue. My issue was more how do you then omit these things when they start eating what you eat? Most recipes seem to have an ingredient that sweetens the dish whether it be fruit or actual sugar.

Baby Led Weaning

In a nutshell, put food onto baby’s high chair (no need for bowl, it’ll only end up on the floor) and let baby get on with it themselves.

Pros

SO much easier, especially if you have meal times together as a family. One meal for everyone. Cooking meals can be stressful enough when you have toddler critics at the table. At least this way there is only one tea rejected and not a possible two.
Your baby is instantly exposed to the things you want them to eat.
They learn the skills to feed themselves so much quicker and can decide when they’ve had enough which I totally believe leads to less a fussy eater.

Cons
The mess. My god, the mess. So, originally I had this beautiful 1940s vintage high chair. I had to give this back to my mum in favour of the easy clean Ikea model (which occasionally ended up outside for a hose down).
If you’re going to be obsessive about how much your baby eats, this may not be the method for you. Who knows how much is in their hair, nappy or on the floor!?
Because of the mess, eating out is a bit of a sticking point. If your favourite restaurant is lasagne decoration friendly then great but you may need to curb your order to more finger food-able options.
If you have an older child, baby will most definitely be introduced to the delight of fish fingers earlier than you’d probably plan.
Some parents I’ve spoken with at work are filled with fear of their child choking.

What have I learnt? 
Purée baby is fussy, so unbelievably fussy. At seven, I have only managed to get her to try a morsel of a carrot stick. I was so overwhelmed when she actually did, we did a carrot dance around the kitchen! Her diet is mostly beige. As the years go by I try to tell myself she’s a little better but truth be told it’s a constant fight to get goodness into her. I hide it, sneak it, use bribes, all of which we both hate. It didn’t start this way, she used to like squash and pear but gradually the list of things she’d eat grew smaller and smaller. And as a desperate mother who just wants her child to eat something, I’ve probably cemented bad habits.

BLW baby LOVES food. Gets excited about trying new things. Will eat the remains of a raw onion and a whole pepper (including the seeds) when it preparing tea. Has been known to raid the fridge for raw mushrooms. Whinges because I won’t peel her a carrot quick enough.

On the choking point, babies have incredibly strong gag reflexes. I’ve never had to dangle them upside down to remove food from their mouth. I always advise parents to attend a childhood first aid course to familiarise yourself with the correct first aid procedures regardless of the way you choose to wean your child. Contact your local Sure Start Centre, some run them for free or if there’s enough interest they may put one on.

So, the argument is ‘does it make a difference’? There is no real way of telling. It could be circumstantial, different characters, different situations. However, my opinion is yes. In my experience, baby led weaning takes the pressure off the baby, allows them to be a part of tea time without the focus being a spoon and bowl. Leading by example and modelling family meal times has a huge part to play.

Ultimately you need to find what works best for you. You won’t break your child if you don’t follow one particular technique. I will use a mix with Reggie. The odd purée or mashed avocado for out and about. Allowing your child free reign on a bowl of porridge takes guts so I’ll probably intervene with a spoon to begin with for breakfast. Mostly though, he will be eating what I make for the rest of the family.

Rachel