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How should you wean your baby? HEALTH.

Byline: AMY PACKER

NEW parents are constantly having to decide the best way to bring up their baby - and many of these choices come with a side serving of peer pressure, guilt and the desire to be seen to do the right thing.

One debate that doesn't look like it will be settled any time soon is over baby-led weaning, a method of feeding endorsed by the NHS which involves giving babies as young as six months old chunks of solid food such as banana, fish and pasta to feed themselves, rather than the more traditional method of spoonfeeding them with purees.

"When it comes time to weaning babies at six months, the advice facing new mums can be daunting," says Emily Leary, author of Get Your Kids to Eat Anything (Mitchell Beazley, out in March).

"Parents often split into two camps - those who swear by purees versus those who believe in offering pieces of various foods and letting baby lead the way.

"Fears of choking and a desire to get plenty of vitamins into their baby may sway a parent towards purees, whereas concerns about chewing development or fussy eating steer others towards babyled weaning."

The contentious topic is one that has caught the attention of Susannah Taylor, founder of Get The Gloss, Grazia columnist andtextures. and mum of three, since she began to wean her third child, Willow, now 11 months.

"I feel there's this big pressure right now to do baby-led weaning and, while it gives a child independence, it's very hard to know if they're eating anything, plus the mess is unreal.

"They don't have teeth to break down food yet - is that not telling us something? And we all know how scary it is when a baby chokes.

"It's insane that I'm seeing mums on Instagram stressed out because they are 'resorting' to purees. Children all start to eat proper food eventually. I think the key is not to rush it."

The conversation has been playing out on online forums for some time. Katie Massie-Taylor, co-founder of the Mush app for mothers, says: "Weaning can lead to confusion and uncertainty among parents during a time when so much is new and overwhelming.

"There is an overall awareness of the recommended guidelines, but every mother and baby is different and some are ready for solid foods earlier than others."

It has certainly sparked much chatter among the app's users, who head online looking for advice and reassurance from others who are starting to wean.

Holly Pratt, 33, from Sheffield, started daughter, Aria, now two and a half, on finger food as soon as she turned six months and is evangelical about her decision. "Within a couple of days of starting to wean Aria I realised baby-led felt like the most natural thing to do," she says.

"It was much better value not to be buying pouches and jars, less effort than pureeing everything and I could just give her what I was eating, minus the salt."

At the other end of the spectrum, primary school teacher Sara Friend, 39, from Northampton, says, "I chose the puree route because it seemed so much more convenient.

"Ethan was always very happy and content with mashed food and he started sleeping through the night at seven months, whereas the babies I know who are feeding themselves are still waking through the night at 15 months."

However, the scientific community seems to be coming out for team baby-led. "Using the baby-led weaning approach in the introduction of solid foods often results in babies who accept a wider variety of foods," says Tori Erickson, registered dietician at Mayo Clinic, US.

"Studies have shown that babyled weaning does not increase the risk of choking, while spoon-feeding takes away the child's ability to stop eating when they feel they are done."

Perhaps, in the end, it is really a case of what works for your child.

Emily agrees: "There is no 'right way'. I combined both methods for my kids, introducing both purees and chewable foods."

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DEBATE Should tiny tots be given solid food?

CHOICE Holly fed Aria solids at six months. Sara, left, pureed
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 5, 2019
Words:694
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