Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) vs. Purees- Or a Combination Approach

Welcome to the world of introducing solid foods to your little one! As a mommy blogger and experienced parent, I understand the joy and occasional challenges that come with this milestone. If you’re looking at baby-led weaning (BLW) vs. purees, or thinking of doing a combined approach, I’m here to help. Both methods have their merits, and I use a combination of these approaches with my children. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and considerations of baby-led weaning versus purees. The good news is, there’s no one right way to do it – it’s all about finding what works best for your child and creating a positive and enjoyable feeding experience for the whole family.

Baby smiling in high chair with bib and food on face
Feeding Himself Purees

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Understanding Baby-Led Weaning

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) is all about letting your little one take charge of their eating adventure. It involves offering soft finger foods for babies to self-feed starting around six months of age. The underlying belief is that babies can naturally regulate their own hunger and fullness cues.

Gill Rapley popularized baby led weaning with her book “Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods–and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater.” 

Baby eating baby led weaning on the top and spoon fed on the bottom. Baby led weaning vs. purees. Or a combination approach?
Baby Led Weaning Vs. Purees Or A Combined Approach?

The BLW approach has several benefits: 

  • It encourages the baby to self-feed and allows babies to be more independent and explore food at their own pace. 
  • It also helps develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they grasp different textures.
  • BLW promotes a positive relationship with food by exposing babies to a wide variety of tastes and flavors from family meals. 

There are also some drawbacks to baby-led weaning: 

  • More difficult to eat on the go (see how I tackle this here). 
  • Messy (check out my favorite bibs and mats). 
  • Not everyone understands. Grandparents or older caregivers who haven’t done BLW may not feel comfortable feeding your baby or understand the choking hazards when you are away. 

Traditional Purees and Spoon-Feeding

When it comes to introducing solid foods, the traditional feeding method involves feeding babies pureed foods with a spoon. Purees are made by blending or mashing fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients into a smooth consistency that babies can easily eat. You can make homemade baby food purees (read how I did it here), or buy them at the store. 

Spoon-feeding purees have their advantages: 

  • You know how much the baby is eating. 
  • It’s less messy. 
  • Easy to eat on the go. 
  • Less food waste. 

Some cons to purees: 

  • The baby gets fewer varieties of foods (especially if you are store-buying). 
  • This can lead to picky eating/difficulty accepting new textures. 
  • Not involved in family meal time (since the parent usually has to spoon-feed the baby first before they eat). 
  • A lack of developed oral motor skills can make transitioning to finger foods harder. 

Signs of Readiness for Solid Foods

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast milk or formula feeding until the baby is 6 months old.  After 6 months, solid foods can be introduced, although breastfeeding should continue until 2 years of age or longer. Read about my experience with extended breastfeeding with my son, which I did along with the blw method and purees. 

Starting solid foods will be a decision you make with your pediatrician when your baby is showing signs of readiness. These signs include: 

  1. Sitting with support: Your baby should be able to sit upright with minimal assistance. This position helps them safely swallow and digest solid foods.
  2. Good head control: Your baby should be able to hold their head steady, showing increased neck strength and control.
  3. Loss of tongue thrust reflex: Babies instinctively push food out of their mouth with their tongue, which typically starts to disappear around six months of age.
  4. Curiosity about food: Your baby may start reaching for and showing interest in the food you’re eating, or they may mimic chewing motions.
  5. Growth: Your baby should double their birth weight before adding solids. 

It’s essential to consult with your child’s pediatrician before starting the weaning process. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure that you’re making informed decisions based on your baby’s specific needs and health.

First Foods 

Regardless of the weaning methods that you use, you’ll want to make sure that the first foods that you give your baby are easy to eat and easy to digest. Some common foods (pureed or cooked until they are soft) are apples, bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and rice cereals

​The AAP recommends waiting 3-5 days before offering a new food so that you notice any signs of allergic reactions. 

Once you’ve mastered the basic foods, you can start introducing different baby-led weaning foods by age.

Ensuring Safety

Ensuring the safety of your baby during the weaning process is of utmost importance. Let’s discuss some key measures to keep in mind:

  • Choking hazards are a common concern when introducing solid foods. With baby-led weaning, it’s essential to offer appropriately sized foods that are easy for your baby to handle and manage.

    Pieces of food should be large enough for them to hold but small enough to prevent choking. Avoid hard, round, or sticky foods that pose a higher choking risk. Staying informed about which foods are safe and gradually introducing new textures can help minimize the risk.

Pro-Tip: It’s impossible–even for veteran BLW parents like myself–to recognize every choking hazard and to know the best ways to prepare every single food and how to serve it for any given age. Find a resource like “Big Book of Organic Baby Food,” or my personal favorite: the Solid Starts app to ensure you are using the best and safest BLW practices. 

  • Supervision is crucial during feeding times. Always be present and attentive when your baby is exploring and self-feeding. It’s important to create a safe feeding environment free from distractions, ensuring that your baby is seated in an appropriate high chair or booster seat.
  • Additionally, being knowledgeable about infant CPR and choking first aid techniques can provide peace of mind and enable you to respond effectively in case of an emergency. Consider taking a child and baby CPR class through the American Red Cross. If you can’t my favorite site–Solid Starts–also has FREE resources for infant choking and CPR that you can download.  

Creating a Positive Feeding Experience

Baby playing with food in high chair, baby led weaning.
“Mixing” His Own Food

Whether you choose BLW, purees, or a combination of both, creating a positive experience is key to successfully getting your baby to eat solids.

I quickly learned that you cannot make a baby eat… Despite your best efforts, songs, dances, etc ?. So it is up to you to give them the tools and motivation. 

Here are some key aspects to consider: 

  1. Let your baby make the rules. 

    Super hard to actually do this and follow through–especially when your baby turns into a boundary-pushing toddler–but as much as you can, let your baby have independence on their feeding journey.

    They don’t want to eat? Fine. They only want two bites? Ok. We’re only eating bananas this week? Great. 

    Healthy babies will eat when they are hungry. Their little bodies aren’t trained like ours to eat 3-5 meals a day at specific times. They might not be hungry when you present food. Try again in an hour and see if things have changed. 

    You have a lifetime to introduce foods and flavors to your baby. We all have a friend whose baby is eating whipped goat cheese and berries for breakfast and lentils with curried mango chutney for lunch, while you are serving the same bowl of cereal and bananas for the 365th day. Either way, both babies are getting fiber, sugar, fat, and carbs. 
  1. Encourage exploration and adventure with food.

    Make mealtimes exciting by introducing a variety of flavors, textures, and colors. Let your baby touch, smell, and taste different foods to spark their curiosity and sense of discovery. Embrace the messiness, buy yourself a good bib, and let go of the notion that you “can’t play with your food.

Parent-to-Parent: When my son was 18 months, he would eat double the amount of food if we allowed him to play with it. Sometimes he would pretend to play with his dino nuggets. Other times he would use his fork to “vacuum” the spaghetti on his plate. As long as he isn’t being disruptive or disrespectful (like throwing food on the floor or spitting it out), there is no harm. In fact, if they are playing with their food and really enjoying mealtime, they are creating positive food associations that will last a lifetime. 

  1. Eat as a family.

    Family meals are not just about eating together; they also contribute to fostering healthy eating habits. When your baby sees the rest of the family enjoying a wide variety of foods, it can inspire them to be more adventurous eaters. Aim to have regular family meals where everyone can bond and share in the joy of eating together.

    Sometimes I can convince one of my children to eat something, just because I am enjoying it so much. Other times, I can encourage them to eat their veggies by having a “crunching contest” to see who can crunch their carrots the loudest. 

    If nothing else, I can distract them with positive dinner chatter at the table and hope they will stick around long enough to pop a few blueberries in their mouths and grab a bite or two of the main course. 
  1. Practice responsive feeding.

    Observe your baby’s cues for hunger and fullness, allowing them to guide their own intake.

    My son often asks if he “can be done” eating.

    Instead of me telling him yes or no, I ask him “What does your body say?” or “Is your tummy full?” Especially as they get older, you have to accept whatever they tell you. 
  1. Offer safe foods.

    Safe foods are foods that you know your child likes. I usually aim to have 1 or 2 safe foods for my children at each meal and 1 or 2 new foods or foods that I am re-introducing.

    I know that my baby will eat something, but I am offering them new flavors and textures as well. It also saves me from making a separate meal for my kids. 

    One family I know offers bread and fruit at every meal. If the children don’t like the other foods, they don’t have to eat them. This is particularly helpful for big families where the “safe foods” might be different for different kids. 

Caution: All of these statements assume your child is healthy, has no nutritional deficits, and is gaining weight appropriately according to your pediatrician. 

Baby-Led Weaning and Purees: The Combined Approach

Smiling baby in high chair wearing a bib. Baby-led weaning or spoon feeding. What's right for your baby?
Baby-Led Weaning Or Spoon Feeding: What’s Right For Your Baby?

​A no-plan combination approach is what I did with both kids. I researched the best practices for BLW and made my own homemade baby foods. After that, I let my kids dictate the journey.

Ironically, my oldest started off with cereals and thin purees and transitioned to table foods a few months later. Once he started table foods, he no longer wanted purees. 

My youngest wouldn’t eat a puree even after months of trying. Eventually, we started giving him safe bites from our plates at the dinner table, and once he was eating finger foods he actually started wanting purees too (pointing to my older son’s applesauce, mashed potatoes, etc.). Now he usually has a puree for breakfast and a snack, and he eats finger foods the rest of the day. 

Combining baby-led weaning (BLW) and purees can offer a balanced approach to introducing solid foods.

Here are the benefits of incorporating both methods:

  • Offering a wider variety of textures and flavors: By combining BLW and purees, you can expose your baby to a diverse range of textures, from soft foods to smooth purees. This helps them develop their oral motor skills and explore different tastes, contributing to their overall sensory development.
  • Ensuring sufficient intake of certain foods: Purees can be particularly useful for ensuring your baby receives adequate nutrition, especially when introducing specific foods such as iron-rich foods. Combining purees with BLW allows you to offer a wider range of nutrients while still allowing your baby to practice self-feeding and develop their fine motor skills.

To incorporate both approaches effectively, consider these practical tips:

  1. Introduce soft finger foods alongside purees: You don’t have to do one at a time, or one before the other. When you sit down to eat, have a puree that you can spoon-feed (or let your baby self-feed), in addition to finger foods. 
  2. The transition from purees to table foods: Or vice-versa. As your baby progresses and becomes more comfortable with self-feeding, gradually introduce mashed or chopped table foods. This allows them to experience the textures and flavors of family meals while continuing to offer purees as needed.
  3. Incorporate family meals: Include your baby in family mealtimes. Even if they are doing the traditional spoon-feeding method, let them sit at or near the table during family meal time. If they need a toy or something to chew on as a distraction, offer it. They might start to express interest in what you are eating. When they do, casually give them a bite. Make a big deal if they like it! 

Let Go of the Control- You’ll Thank Me ?

You are wired (by generations of parenting) to say things like “Finish your plate,” “Take 2 more bites,” “No dessert until you eat your veggies,” “You’re not full yet,” “Don’t play with your food.”

All of these expressions can lead to tension at mealtimes. Tension is no fun for you or for your kids. The more you push, the more they will push back. 

Dinner time is usually very peaceful at my house (other than having to get up for water, juice, Ketchup, forks, napkins, etc. etc. etc. a million times). There is no crying or whining about what we are eating. No one is strapped to their chair and forced to watch everyone eat. Or worse, forced to sit there until they eat. 

​Sometimes we have grownup chat, sometimes we all talk together, sometimes we watch grown-up (age appropriate) shows, sometimes we watch Curious George or Daniel Tiger.

Every once in a while the kids eat first, or the adults do. Everything is very fluid and relaxed. 

​Trust me when I say, let yourself let go! It will be worth it! 

Common Concerns and Misconceptions

Let’s debunk some myths: 

  • BLW Increases the risk of choking. FALSE. Although it is important for parents to minimize choking hazards in their food preparation, baby-led weaning does not increase the risk of choking.

    In a study by the AAP, 35% of babies between the ages of 6 and 8 months choked at least once regardless of which type of feeding they were doing.
  • Spoon-Feeding makes picky eaters. FALSE. Spoon-feeding purees does not guarantee that a baby will be a picky eater. Picky eating tendencies can arise from various factors unrelated to the weaning method, such as personality, environment, or sensory preferences.

    Picky eating can occur with any weaning method and is not solely determined by the approach you take. The most important thing is to provide a nurturing and supportive feeding environment.

    Offer a wide variety of foods, be patient, and respect your child’s preferences. By offering a balanced and varied diet and exposing your child to different flavors and textures, you can encourage healthy eating habits and increase the likelihood of them becoming adventurous eaters.

In conclusion, when it comes to introducing solid foods to babies, the choice between baby-led weaning (BLW) and purees is not an either-or decision. A combined approach can offer the benefits of both methods.

By incorporating both BLW and purees, parents can provide a wider variety of textures and flavors to their babies, allowing them to develop oral motor skills and explore different tastes. Purees can ensure sufficient intake of certain foods and offer adequate nutrition, especially when introducing specific nutrients like iron-fortified cereals.

It’s important to create a positive feeding experience by letting babies guide their own eating journey, encouraging exploration and adventure with food, and practicing responsive feeding. Ultimately, finding what works best for each child and creating a positive and enjoyable feeding experience for the whole family is the key.

Jacqui headshot



I am the founder of Mommy Maker Teacher and a mom of two toddlers. With a degree in education, 12+ years of experience as a K-12 teacher and curriculum developer, and courses in childhood psychology and language acquisition, I share research-backed parenting tips and advice. I provide helpful content for moms on all stages of motherhood—from trying to conceive and pregnancy to postpartum, breastfeeding, and parenting.