As a mom of two, I understand that every good parent just wants to give their children the best start in life and set them up for future success, especially when it comes to their diets. In order to make the right choice, I have gone to great lengths to carefully research the pros and cons of starting your baby on spoon-fed purees or allowing them to feed themselves soft but solid foods when they are ready to be weaned.

A combined approach to weaning, where both spoon-feeding purees and baby-led weaning are used, can be an effective way to introduce solids. This allows you to be truly baby-led and respond to the needs of your baby, whether offering them finger foods or purees.


The Pros and Cons of Baby Led Weaning Vs Purees

While many parents strongly advocate for sticking to one approach or the other, sometimes what’s best for your baby is to find a middle ground. The combined method is one way of doing this.

The Puree Method The Baby-led Weaning approach
Cons Pros
Purees can have concentrated proteins and nutrients. Whilst you can ensure that you are offering nutrient-rich foods, your baby may not have the ability to actually eat the food when first starting out.
The act of spoon-feeding can be more time-effective. Self-feeding can be slow and require some patience from the parent.
Purees are less likely to cause choking or gagging. Finger foods, if not chewed enough, are more likely to cause choking or gagging.
Spoon-feeding is less messy as you are handling the food. Self-feeding can be very messy. Not only does your baby lack your level of coordination to feed themselves easily, but this is a multi sensory experience. Babies are encouraged not just to explore different textures with their mouths but also their hands, creating even more mess in the process.
The Puree Method The Baby-led Weaning approach
Cons Pros
Spoon-feeding is more likely to result in over-feeding as parents often have the tendency to sneak in a few extra spoonfuls after the baby is full. Self-feeding teaches babies to understand their own hunger and satiation cues and strengthens their abilities to self-regulate.
Routinely over-eating teaches the baby to eat more than is necessary and can lead to poor eating habits later on in life. Self-feeding promotes healthy eating habits later on in life.
Spoon-feeding does not promote coordination or dexterity and does not promote chewing skills to the same degree as baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning promotes hand-eye coordination, coordination, chewing skills and dexterity.
Spoon-feeding does not promote independence. Self-feeding promotes independence.
An additional meal has to be created especially for the baby. The baby shares in the family’s food and mealtimes. This saves time that may be spent making, freezing and defrosting homemade purees.
The eating of purees and limited exposure to other textures can enable kids to become picky eaters. Baby-led weaning enables babies to explore different tastes and textures on their own and encourages kids to become more adventurous eaters later on in life.
Purees are less likely to contain allergens than finger foods. (Some studies show that exposing babies to allergens earlier on in life may prevent them from developing a food allergy later on.) Finger foods are more likely to contain allergens than purees and reduce your baby’s risk of developing an allergy.


What are the nutritional differences between baby-led weaning and purees?

Most parents aim to offer their babies nutritionally rich foods, whether they be pureed or served as finger foods.

However, the nutritional differences are not necessarily in the foods themselves, but in the baby’s ability to actually eat those foods.

In the first few months of baby-led weaning, your baby will do a lot of licking, feeling and exploring, and possibly not that much eating. Presenting both purees and finger foods in the same meal may help it to be more filling and nutritious.


How do you transition from purees to baby-led weaning?

If you have only ever offered your baby pureed foods, you may be wondering how to progress to baby-led weaning. In fact, this is exactly what happened with my daughter – I started her on purees before transitioning over to a more baby-led weaning approach.

Begin offering your baby finger soft and squishy finger foods at their next meal. You can offer them some purees or a milk feed before offering finger foods. This will take the edge off of their hunger and allow them to explore the finger foods without getting too hangry or frustrated.

At this early stage, allow your baby to play and explore the finger foods in front of them. Don’t give in to the temptation to feed them or bring the food to their mouths – allow them to feed themselves.

One word of caution – it can be very confusing for your little one if you offer finger foods and purees at the same time during meals. Think of it as two courses in the meal. So start with either finger foods or pureed foods as one “course” and then move on to the second course.


Can you Combine Purees and Baby Led Weaning?

While many parents strongly advocate for sticking to one approach or the other, sometimes what’s best for your baby is to find a middle ground. The combined method is one way of doing this.

The combined method allows babies to lead the way and sample finger foods. However, it also acknowledges that due to factors like time, availability, and in some cases the child’s resistance, finger foods can be complemented with purees and more liquid forms of nutrition.

When you consider that soups, porridges, and yogurts are part of the average adult’s diet, if you want your child to eat what you eat, you are probably using the combined method to some extent anyway.

It’s important to remember, as I said in a previous post, the World Health Organisation and the UK Department of Health recommend that you introduce finger foods when you introduce solids in general. So while I agree that it’s important to introduce finger foods from the start of the weaning process, there is no reason why you cannot supplement their nutrition with softer spoon-fed foods.


A Baby-Led Weaning Approach to Purees

One of the ways that you can approach offering purees to your baby is to use one of the main principles of baby-led weaning – self-feeding.

By allowing your little one to self-feed, you are allowing them to lead the way in the feeding experience. One option is to preload the spoon and allow your little one to feed themselves.

If you do spoon-feed them, make sure to stop at the first signs that your baby may be full to avoid over-feeding. Not looking at you, not moving towards the spoon, keeping their mouths closed when food approaches and turning away, can all be signs that your baby has had enough.


When might Purees be Better than Baby Led Weaning?

Time Considerations

As a mom myself, I know that things can get busy and stressful with a little one. Sometimes, offering pureed foods AND feeding your little one is quicker and easier. If you are in a rush to get out the door, and if spoon feeding feels right, then feel free to do that without feeling guilty or worried.


Your Baby’s Needs

If your baby was born prematurely or has any medical needs that involve difficulties with swallowing, baby-led weaning may not be appropriate for them as it may increase the risk of choking.

If you feel concerned at all or if you would like to try baby-led weaning with your little, please be sure to speak to their doctor or speech and language therapist.

In addition to this, iron stores accumulate in the last trimester of pregnancy. They begin to drop around the age of 6 months. If a baby is born prematurely it may not have sufficient iron stores and therefore have higher iron needs.

With this in mind, it may be preferred to follow a more traditional weaning approach, using purees to ensure that baby receives sufficient iron in their diet (1).

While the baby-led weaning approach clearly seems to have some advantages over the spoon-fed puree method, every child and situation is different. Some babies take to finger foods like ducks to water, others remain disinterested or struggle with it (babies born prematurely, for example, often have oral motor delays), so it’s okay to remain flexible.


How do I know if my baby is getting enough nutrition with baby-led weaning?

This is a difficult question and one that many baby-led weaning moms ask themselves frequently. If your baby still seems hungry or frustrated after self-feeding, purees or spoon-feeding may be useful to satiate them. Either way, your baby will derive most of their nutrients from breast milk or formula up until the age of one.

What if my baby doesn’t like specific foods whether it is finger foods or purees?

If your baby turns away, shakes their head, or refuses a second mouthful don’t force-feed them. Wait a week and try the same food again. Sometimes it takes a number of experiences of sampling the same food for your baby to become accustomed to the taste and texture and to start to enjoy it.

It is important to keep offering a variety of foods at every mealtime, exposing your little one to different flavors and textures.


Should I do Baby Led Weaning or Purees?

Introducing your little one to solids is an important and exciting milestone. I clearly remember the thought and deliberation that went into making the decision as to how we were going to introduce solids – purees or baby-led weaning.

There are a number of factors that need to be considered and there ultimately is no right or wrong answer – just what is best for you and your baby at the time.

Some factors that you should consider when deciding on baby-led weaning vs purees include:

  • Your current time constraints and stress levels – pureeing food for your little one can be time-consuming and even stressful. Sometimes you need to take a step back and think about if there is a different way of doing things that is not going to add to the stress. If you decide to do pureed foods, there are some options like store-bought baby food or infant cereals that can alleviate some of the stress.

But, if you choose the baby-led weaning option, you can serve wholesome, nutritious foods that your family is eating already, without adding to the busy-ness of life.

  • Eating together as a family – every family is different and has different rhythms. Eating your meals as a family may be important for you and if that is the case, baby-led weaning is a wonderful option for you.

On the other hand, your husband or partner may get home late after work, and family dinners may not be a viable option for you. Then perhaps, purees will work better so that you can feed your little one and get them to bed so that you can have an evening with your husband.

  • Your Preferences and Parenting Style – It can be helpful to be self-aware and acknowledge your own preferences and parenting style. If you tend to be more anxious and worried about how much your child is eating, whether they are gaining weight, etc, then a baby-led weaning approach may not work particularly well for you. It may actually add to your anxiety and prove unhelpful.


Making the decision on how to introduce solids to your little one is a big decision but it is important to recognize that you know your baby best. They will develop the skills that they need to eat independently whether you follow the baby-led weaning approach or do purees.

Trust your intuition (you know your baby best) and follow your gut even if it means breaking ‘the rules’ a little. Keep in mind that your baby will get most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula until the age of one.



I’m Tarryn Poulton, a former pediatric Occupational Therapist, qualified nutrition coach and mom to 2 kids. I did baby-led weaning with both of my children and I loved the experience and aim to share my knowledge with the rest of the world.

Write A Comment