BLW vs. Traditional Weaning

Your baby is approaching 6 months of age and you’re thinking about what you’ll do when the time comes to start solids. You’ve asked every friend and their pet dog for advice and everyone says something different: “baby-led weaning is the only way” or “traditional weaning is safer”. You’re confused, overwhelmed and considering breast/bottle feeding for the rest of the child’s life at this stage.

Let’s first chat about each method. There is no universal definition of what Baby-led Weaning (or ‘BLW’ as you’ve probably seen on the internet) actually is. Essentially, it promotes giving children more autonomy over what and how much they eat by offering safe pieces or chunks of whole foods to self-feed rather than being spoon fed by an adult. Whereas traditional weaning endorses first offering pureed foods and progressing through different textures (mashed/lumpy, soft finger foods etc.) until a child is able to manage typical solid food more independently.

In many countries, children are first introduced to solids through spoon feeding; however, BLW has certainly gained traction in the infant feeding world. So... the question remains – which method should be used?

Given there is no universal definition of BLW, this makes researching it really difficult. However, here’s a run-down of some of the emerging research we do have:

  • At this stage, little difference between the method of feeding used (BLW, traditional spoon-feeding, or a combined method) and children’s eating behaviour or reluctance to eat new foods as toddlers has been reported. It is interesting to note that more parents using BLW report lower food fussiness in their children, but further research is needed in this area.
  • There are no significant differences in instances of choking between children who were fed using BLW vs. traditional method (Brown, 2017), however, there are some emerging reports of less choking/gagging instances in BLW fed children (which is probably not what you were expecting)
  • There appears to be minimal difference in dietary adequacy between the two approaches; however, some concerns have been raised particularly about iron intake with BLW. We know that after 6 months, breast milk does not provide children with enough iron to satisfy requirements; therefore, an increased amount of iron is needed.
  • A study with promising results described a modified BLW approach whereby parents were instructed to focus on including high-iron foods (e.g., strips of steak, pate, hummus) and high-energy foods (e.g., avocado, cheese) at each meal, and on reducing the risk of infant choking by avoiding high-risk foods (e.g., raw apple).


My thoughts on all of this:

  1. Forget about what you see other mums doing on the internet and decide what works best for you and your child.
  2. There appears to be pros of both methods, so let’s capitalise on that – cue Hannah Montana “The best of both worlds”. I would advocate for using a combined approach.


No matter what you choose, it important to consider the following tips from Australian Feeding Therapist, Jeanne Marshall:

  • Always supervise mealtimes.
  • Offer stick-shaped foods that are generally hard enough for the baby to grasp, but soft enough for them to manage without choking risk. Think well-cooked vegetables, pieces of fruit, cheese sticks, etc.
  • Offer harder foods for mouthing/chewing experience, and dipping into iron-rich purees such as hummus.
  • Avoid putting too many foods on the baby’s tray at one time.
  • Offer a wide variety of foods and flavours, focusing on iron-rich foods as first foods, and avoiding foods high in salt or sugar.
  • In both types of weaning, provide adequate postural support at mealtimes to allow the child to do their best eating and reduce choking risk.
  • Monitor the child’s growth.

As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s transition to solids journey, please consult a paediatric Speech Pathologist or Dietician.


- Brit  




Boswell, N. (2021). Complementary feeding methods—A review of the benefits and risks. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health18(13), 7165.

D’Auria, E., Bergamini, M., Staiano, A., Banderali, G., Pendezza, E., Penagini, F., ... & Peroni, G. (2018). Baby-led weaning: what a systematic review of the literature addz Italian journal of pediatrics44(1), 1-11.

Dogan, E., Yilmaz, G., Caylan, N., Turgut, M., Gokcay, G., & Oguz, M. M. (2018). Baby‐led complementary feeding: Randomized controlled study. Pediatrics International60(12), 1073-1080.

Marshall, J (2022, March 11) Baby-led weaning or spoon feeding: Mush of a mushness? The

Watson, S., Costantini, C., & Clegg, M. E. (2020). The role of complementary feeding methods on early eating behaviors and food neophobia in toddlers. Child care in practice26(1), 94-106.

Williams Erickson, L., Taylor, R. W., Haszard, J. J., Fleming, E. A., Daniels, L., Morison, B. J., ...& Heath, A. L. M. (2018). Impact of a modified version of baby-led weaning on infant food and nutrient intakes: the BLISS randomized controlled trial. Nutrients10(6), 740.

Back to blog