There are a lot of ways to feed a baby…and one of the more popular approaches is modeled on the philosophy called baby-led weaning. With baby-led weaning, you bypass spoon-feeding of pureed food and encourage babies to self-feed age appropriate foods.
Although the practice of allowing a baby to self-feed has been around for generations, the term was only recently coined by British feeding expert and author of the Baby-Led Weaning Book, Gill Rapley, PhD. Proponents of this approach say it encourages independence, helps babies respond to their hunger and fullness cues and decreases picky eating later in life.
But as with any claim you want to make in the health and wellbeing space…you better have some data to back it up!
A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding resulted in children who had less food fussiness (i.e., picky eating) – a finding also replicated in previous studies. This new study also found that these self-fed babies also did not exhibit any signs of growth faltering – meaning that a baby-led approach to feeding can likely meet a healthy baby’s nutrition needs.
Some proponents of the baby-led approach to feeding maintain that it leads to healthier weight and can help prevent overweight and obesity down the line (compared to spoon-feeding). This particular study indicated that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding does not appear to reduce risk for overweight compared with traditional feeding practices (although it didn’t increase risk of underweight either!)
The study was part of the 2-year Baby-Led Introduction to Solids (BLISS) randomized clinical trial and it included 206 women followed from pregnancy in New Zealand. Although this particular study was small, it is an important contribution to the growing body of literature that supports a baby-led approach to feeding as a viable and safe alternative to spoon-feeding.