Traditional Weaning vs. Baby Led Weaning: What They Mean, Food Lists, & More

A simple explanation of the two methods for introducing solids to your baby, including food lists!

homemade baby food pea puree

If you are like me, you probably have already read 1000 blogs, 500 books, and made countless searches through the archived posts in your mommy group for all things related to introducing solids to your child. It can be complicated to navigate and understand what this stage in your baby's life can mean for you, your child, and your kitchen!

The word most commonly associated with this stage of development is called "weaning". There are two ways of weaning your baby, traditional or baby led weaning. Let's go over what weaning is, discuss the two types, and give examples of what foods to introduce at each stage.

What is "Weaning"?

Generally "weaning" or “weaned” in regards to babies refers to a child at or around one year of age. Weaning babies are ready to take most of their nutrients from solid foods as opposed to breast milk or formula. Depending on when your baby is ready, which is typically around four to six months, they will enter the "weaning process", at which point you start introducing solid foods. Not sure your baby is ready for solids or don't know how to tell? Here is a helpful article on How To Know When Your Baby is Ready For Solid Foods.

Now that you know what weaning is and you are sure your baby is ready for the next step, it's time to choose what type of weaning method to follow. I know what you're thinking, there's more than one way?! Yes, there are several methods to use in successfully introducing solid foods to your child, with pros and cons for each. I will take you through the "Traditional Weaning" and "Baby Led Weaning" methods so you can make the best decision for you and your child.

Traditional Weaning

Traditional Weaning is a slower approach to introducing your baby to solid food. In this method, you start the process with smooth purees and gradually introduce soft solids and finger foods, focusing on small bites. This is a great approach to check for allergies and calculate just how much food your baby is consuming. It also allows babies to develop at their own pace.

In traditional weaning, there are several defined stages your baby will go through based on their age. At each stage, there are certain foods and methods of preparation to stick to. You begin by introducing single foods in puree form and gradually work up to combination foods in larger bites as the months progress. Below is a great diagram showing the foods you can start with based on your baby's age, plus how the food should be prepared (i.e. purees, combination purees, finger foods, bites).

Here is a great weaning food list for every stage and age:

stage 1 and 2 weaning food list by age
Stage 3 and 4 weaning food list by age

In general, traditional weaning is for the parent who wants clear guidelines to follow. By laying the process out in defined stages, it can make the process easier and less stressful by making weaning less of a guessing game and more of a known path. But before you decide to go this route, be sure to explore baby led weaning so you have all the information and can decide what's truly right for you.

Baby Led Weaning

Baby led weaning is when you encourage self feeding right from the start. In this approach, you introduce solid foods in the form of soft finger foods right at 4-6 months of age (which is typically stage 3 in traditional weaning). This allows your baby to explore solids at their own pace. It encourages independent eating and allows them to decide when they are full. This method is great for sensory development and learning developmental skills sooner.

This method is less structured, but it's just as safe and effective for introducing your child to solid foods. For a busy mom or mom of multiple children, led weaning might be best as she might not have the time to invest in making purees and food prepping all the time.

But the truth is, you don't have to pick one or the other. Both traditional and baby led weaning work great and personally, I found a combination of the two worked especially well for us. I enjoy making baby food and testing new recipes, but I also have a busy life and can appreciate the flexibility of not sticking to a single approach. More than anything, follow your instincts on what you think is best and what works for your child and family. And ALWAYS consult with your physician before starting solids and follow my only rule for baby recipes, simple and fresh!

Need advice on weaning or interested in talking to a mom going through the same thing? Download SocialMama and starting chatting with mamas near you! Available on the App Store.

About the Contributor:

Holliann Barry is a military wife currently stationed in San Francisco. She has a culinary degree and is passionate about food and health. Holliann recently enrolled into another nutrition program that will focus on pregnancy, postpartum and baby nutrition. She recently launched an Instagram page to help mamas make healthy choices, learn recipes and guide them on how to make homemade baby food. Holliann is also a MentorMama for SocialMama.


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