Modified baby-led weaning has benefits for infants

12 July 2017
Baby eating

Babies who feed themselves as soon as they have started eating solids appear to be less fussy eaters, new University of Otago research has found.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at whether allowing infants to control their food intake by feeding themselves solid foods, instead of traditional spoon-feeding, would reduce the risk of becoming overweight or affect other important developmental outcomes up to age two.

The randomised clinical trial, which included 206 women, involved assigning 105 of them to an intervention that included support from a lactation consultant to extend exclusive breastfeeding and delay the introduction of complementary foods until six months of age.

Professor Rachael Taylor, a co-lead author of the study, says this age is the point at which infants are considered developmentally ready to self-feed.

The study found that a modified baby-led weaning (BLW) approach to complementary feeding does not appear to improve energy self-regulation or body weight when compared with more traditional feeding practices.

But it did provide evidence that babies who fed themselves from the start had a better attitude toward food at 12 and 24 months and were less fussy about food than the children in the study who were spoon-fed, says Professor Taylor.

“For instance, the BLW infants in our study were more likely to show they were enjoying their food and to be less picky eaters.

“We also found no evidence for previous suggestions that infants following a baby-led approach may not eat enough food, and no sign that they were underweight,” she says.

Professor Taylor and her co-authors cautioned there are some limitations to the study, including that it involved a small sample that was relatively socioeconomically advantaged, so the results may not apply to infants with lower socioeconomic status.