BC baby food purées
Should you ditch the purées? Image Credit: Shutterstock

On the 'No' side:

Kirsty Radley, British, 31, mum to twins Ella and Caleb, 19 months

Before joining the Mummy Club the only way fruit would have made it on to my face was if I was relaxing in a spa enjoying a natural scrub or facial. It is now, however, a daily occurrence. Currently, I am typing with bits of yogurt drying on my cheek and pasta sauce on my white T-shirt (you’d have thought I’d have learnt by now…).

On the positive side, my husband doesn’t need to ask what the kids have had for dinner – he can just look at me and identify the food welded on to my hair and clothes. I do think my hair has a bit more shine, though – it must be all the vitamins it is absorbing directly.

Weaning was one of those words I secretly dreaded. We had our routine, it was working well and now we would have to change it. Like most mums I did some research, but I think it was the friends with young babies here in Dubai who were my biggest influence.

I had read about baby-led weaning but felt that it just wouldn’t fit with our family situation. I believed, and still do, the more formal and traditional approach would be best. But even after making the decision, buying the books (Gina Ford and Annabel Karmel) the process of slowly introducing solids was daunting. However, the big step into the unknown actually went really smoothly.

They loved the baby rice, and by the last spoonful of organic apple purée I knew we had made the right choice. Yes, we tried organic – that’s what it said to do in all the books. But we managed that for four days before the cost, lack of choice and having to go to a separate supermarket became too much.

With twins we had a very rigid routine and this traditional method suited us. The book told us when to introduce foods, the order and how much to give and how to increase the amount slowly. It gave me confidence knowing the food they were having was a good balance of fruit and vegetables, and it did not contain any added salt or sugar (this was one of my other concerns about them eating our food).

Formal weaning and its structured approach also – at the beginning – reduced the mess. Of course, bowls ended up on the floor as we progressed on to finger foods and self-feeding. We were all covered in yogurt. The joy. But as a new mum with the constant fear of getting it wrong, this approach worked. The lists, the clear structure and the fact the twins were loving every food they tried meant that – for us – it worked.

Read Kirsty's take on how life in Dubai changes after having kids here

On the 'Yes' side:

Melanie Winship, British, 44, mum to Ella, 11 months

I first became aware of baby-led weaning (BLW) when two of my friends had babies at a similar time – one of them did BLW and the other did puréed food. My husband and I were out with the family whose baby did BLW and were impressed by how well their daughter ate at 10 months old and by the fact she was sitting in a high chair feeding herself.

I just liked the whole BLW concept – the idea of children being independent while feeding themselves at such a young age and the fact that their approach to food can be completely different to those who are fed puréed food.

To prepare us we attended a Love Parenting UAE workshop on BLW, which I highly recommend, and I then started my daughter Ella on BLW when she was six-and-a-half months (when she could sit upright by herself). Her first meal was watermelon – I textured the edges with a potato crinkler, making it easier for her to hold. We then did four weeks of breakfasts, before introducing an afternoon meal of soft foods; poached pear, roasted sweet potato, roasted carrots. Today, at 11 months old, Ella eats most foods that we eat, although we avoid if possible anything with sugar or salt. She studies her food by look, touch and taste, and always tries whatever is put in front of her without refusing it. There’s so much enjoyment to be had from seeing her feed herself (even things that we might not like such as olives!), and we get lovely comments from other diners when we eat out.

Although it takes some patience initially, I would say BLW is easier than formal weaning; you’re not spoon-feeding so all of you can eat as a family, you don’t spend hours processing food, and you don’t need to take baby food with you when you go out. You do need to stay calm when your child takes that first bite, as your biggest fear is them choking, but a baby’s gagging reflux is amazing and as long as you give them chip-shape food, they can take control of what they eat. Parents who have tried BLW are generally passionate about its benefits and say their babies will eat anything and everything. It is messy, but be prepared, keep things simple, don’t give too much choice at one time – and have fun!

Find some fab recipes even fussy eaters will love here