Trying to decide how to start introducing solid food to your baby after months of nothing but breast milk or formula can feel like a big decision. Is there is a right or wrong way to go about it? And if you start with purees, can you do baby led weaning after?
Not only is it fine for you to do baby led weaning after purees, it is the natural progression for introducing your baby to solid food. You will usually start with purees, then let them hold the spoon, and then hold finger foods to explore food and learn to feed themselves, aka baby led weaning.
You may not know this, but our parents and their parents did not know anything about baby led weaning. They simply started on purees and worked their way up to finger food as they saw fit to meet their child’s needs; let us take a closer look.
Can You Do Baby Led Weaning After Purees?
You can definitely choose to do baby led weaning after you have already started your baby on purees. In fact, this is often the easiest way to introduce your baby to solid foods.
When all that your baby has ever known has been milk, whether breast milk or formula, solid chunks of food in your baby’s mouth were always going to feel weird to them, and often babies do not care for it at first.
Starting on purees is an easier transition from milk to solids for your baby, as it is still fairly runny but also solid. A perfect mix between the texture of milk and the texture of finger foods.
This means that whether it was your plan all along or maybe you simply changed your mind about your process, starting your baby on purees and then swapping them over to baby led weaning with finger foods is a perfectly fine option.
Can You Do Baby Led Weaning With Purees?
As odd as it may seem, you can, in fact, do baby led weaning using purees instead of, or before using, solid finger foods.
Baby led weaning is the process where you let your baby explore food and begin to learn how to feed themself, and they can very easily do this with purees.
You can do this one of two ways: you can use a baby spoon designed to let babies feed themselves or let them go straight in with their hands.
Using A Baby Spoon
There are spoons that have been specifically designed to perfectly fit a baby’s hand, with the intention of a baby holding onto the spoon and feeding themselves.
These spoons are usually made of food-grade silicone, as it is an easy material to hold onto properly, as well as still being soft enough to not hurt your baby’s gums as they chew on it.
One of the great things about these spoons is that they have a stop on them. it is usually about two inches away from the tip of the spoon, and is there to prevent your baby from putting the spoon too deep in their mouth.
This will also prevent your baby from putting too much food on their spoon at once, which can be a choking hazard.
Using Their Hands
Letting your baby use their hands to eat their pureed food is a great way of mixing baby led weaning with pureed baby food.
Your baby will have the chance to explore their food and have fun figuring how to put food in their mouth while still using pureed food in an effort to ease your baby into eating solid food.
You can either hold the bowl in front of your baby and allow them to stick their fingers in the bowl as you hold it, or you could invest in a baby bowl that has a suction cup at the bottom so that you can simply suction your baby’s bowl onto their feeding chair and allow them to explore this side of food all on their own.
This way is far more messy for the parent but far more fun for your baby.
You can always choose to do both of these methods and let your baby explore using a spoon and using their hands at separate meals.
Can You Mix Purees And Baby Led Weaning At The Same Time?
You can always mix and match different ways of introducing solid food to your baby in order to find what will work best for you and your baby.
You can offer them purees at one meal and then offer them finger foods at their next meal.
See what they enjoy more and what works best for your baby, and you can then either offer that type of food more or exclusively for a while.
There are no defined rules as to how you can give your baby purees or finger food when introducing solids.
This means that you can give one or the other or both at the same time. There are many ways for you to start giving your baby solids, and as long as it works for you and your baby is happy, go ahead and mix and match as much as you want to.
What To Do If Your Baby Refuses Finger Food After Purees
If your baby is not interested in eating finger food yet and wants to stick to purees, there are a few ways to go around getting them to eat finger foods.
If your baby is not ready yet for a complete swap from purees to finger food, try working your way up in the consistency of one type of food at a time.
For example, if you have been giving your baby butternut puree, the next time that you puree the butternut, stop blending it before it is as smooth as it usually gets and add less milk/water to mix in it.
This will make the butternut slightly thicker and more chunky than usual, but it will still be more familiar to your baby than finger foods are.
You can then slowly work your way up to mashing your boiled/steamed butternut with a fork instead of blending it, then slowly leave bigger chunks in the mix until your baby is now used to the new texture, and you can give them a piece of steamed butternut to hold.
The gradual change in texture will give them time to get used to the new way their food feels in their mouth without it being a quick and overwhelming change to them.
Offer Them Finger Food As Snacks Instead Of Meals
To avoid a hungry baby who is not interested in this new food that they are not used to getting overwhelmed and refusing to eat because it is not what they are used to, you can start offering them finger foods when they are just wanting a snack instead of a full meal.
For example, if your baby has recently nursed or had a bottle of milk, but could probably use a top-up feed soon, try offering them a safely sliced piece of avo or papaya or any other starter finger food for your baby to explore.
They will be hungry enough to try and nibble on the finger food, but not so hungry, and they get frustrated when they can not eat it fast enough to satisfy their hunger quickly.
Once your baby has the hang of eating finger foods as snacks, you can then slowly start integrating other finger foods into their mealtimes as well.
This way, this weird new type of food that they are not completely used to yet will not feel entirely foreign to them, and they will know exactly what to do with it.
You can then slowly start adding more solid finger foods to their meal times and gradually edging out any other cereals or purees that you may have been giving them, as they will eventually be fine with only eating the finger foods that you offer them.
When Should Babies Stop Eating Purees?
It is recommended that babies stop eating purees by the time they are one year old. By this point, their digestive systems will be mature enough to be able to be eating the same food as the rest of their family members.
They will also be needing a wider range of food groups per meal than pureed food can offer them.
They will need to be having proteins, grains, fats, and vegetables included in most of their meals, and even homemade purees will not be able to include all of these food groups into one puree while making the puree still taste good.
This is one important reason why it is better to start allowing your baby to start eating mostly finger foods by the time they are one year old.
However, you can start weaning your baby off of purees sooner than one year old if you would like to, especially if your baby is handling eating more solid food and finger foods well.
It is also crucial for your baby to be eating finger foods at least by the time they turn one because it is incredibly important for developing their chewing skills and jaw muscles.
How Do I Transition From Purees To Baby-Led Weaning?
The best way to help your baby make the transition from purees to finger foods is by introducing finger foods into their diet as early as is possible.
Once your baby is on purees for a while, and they are now used to eating solid food, try introducing finger food into their diet as soon as you can.
This will help your baby adjust to finger food and start figuring out how to feed themself and explore food from very early on in their solid food journey.
Baby led weaning is all about introducing the necessary food that your baby needs into their diet but allowing them to do it and learn how to feed themselves.
The sooner they can explore food, the sooner they will be comfortable with it, and the sooner they will get the hang of feeding themselves.
Thus leading to an easy transition from purees to baby led weaning. Babies simply need time to adjust to most new things, including food, before feeling comfortable with it. So the sooner that you start the introduction, the sooner they will get the hang of it, and the easier the transition will be.
The key with feeding babies is patience patience patience. Babies take their time when exploring new things, and this means that it will often take a little time for them to feel comfortable with something they’re not used to, including new types of food.
Since it takes babies some time to adjust to most new things, make sure that you start introducing new foods to your baby as soon as you are able to in order to give them a lot of time to get used to it.
Remember, babies are in no way a “one size fits all” when it comes to any aspect of their lives. There are no two babies that are the same, which means that there is no cookie-cutter way for how you are supposed to feed your little one.
Each baby is different, which means each food journey will be different, so play around with different ways of feeding your baby until you find a way that peaks their interest.
Cut the food in stars and shapes, or put different colored food options on the plate, or only one color at a time.
What matters the most is that your baby is being fed and is happy and healthy, so even if the journey takes a while and your baby takes their time adjusting to baby led weaning from purees, just remember that you have never met an adult who will only eat purees, so it will happen in the end, just give it time.