A recent study sought to determine whether baby-led feeding results in a lower infant body mass index (BMI) than traditional spoon-feeding. Although the resultant BMI scores were similar between the two groups, researchers report that infants in the baby-led feeding group showed less food fussiness and greater enjoyment of food than those in the control group.
Baby-led feeding or baby-led weaning is a means of introducing solid foods to infants: infants feed themselves all their food starting from approximately 6 months of age, as opposed to being spoon-fed. The main purported advantages associated with baby-led feeding include improved energy self-regulation and lower obesity risk; on the other hand, some people fear that that baby-led feeding may result in children not eating enough, especially if self-feeding skills are poor. Despite a sizeable interest in this alternative feeding approach, there has been little research carried out concerning this topic; in fact, prior to this current study, no such randomized clinical trials have taken place. Thus, the aim of this recent trial published in JAMA Pediatrics was to determine whether the baby-led feeding approach results in differences in BMI, energy self-regulation, eating behaviours, and energy intake when compared with traditional spoon-feeding.
The Baby-Led Introduction to Solids (BLISS) clinical trial was carried out from December 19, 2012, through March 17, 2014, as part of a community intervention in Dunedin, New Zealand. The trial recruited 206 women in late pregnancy who were randomized to either the control or the BLISS intervention group. All families had access to government-funded mid-wifery and regular pediatric checkups. Mothers in the BLISS group received lactation consultant support to extend exclusive breastfeeding and delay the introduction of complementary foods until 6 months of age, as well as 3 additional face-to-face meetings with researchers (at 5.5, 7.0, and 9.0months).
The primary outcome studied was the BMI score at 1 and 2 years of age. Secondary outcomes included energy self-regulation and eating behaviors assessed with questionnaires at 0.5, 1, and 2 years. Additionally, energy intake was determined with the use of 3-day weighed diet records performed at 7, 12, and 24 months.Of the initial 206 participants, 166were available for analysis at 24 months. The mean BMI score did not significantly differ between the control and intervention groups at either the 1 or 2-year time-point. In fact, at 2 years old, 10.3% of the infants in the BLISS group were overweight, whereas only 6.4% of the control group presented a BMI above the 95th percentile threshold. However, BLISS infants’ parents reported less food fussiness and greater enjoyment of food at 12 months.
The results of this study refute previous concerns that infants following a baby-led feeding approach may not be eating enough food, as no children showed any growth hindrance. Interestingly, when comparing to the control group, BLISS infants showed less food fussiness and greater enjoyment of food. That is to say, while this baby-led feeding approach to complementary feeding did not prove to prevent obesity, the approach seems to have positively modified the infants’ attitudes towards food. While further research needs to be done in order to generalize these results, this study showcases some of the promising advantages of the baby-led feeding approach and can be used accordingly to inform both current and future mothers.
Written by Rebecca Yu
Taylor, R. W., Williams, S. M., Fangupo, L. J., Wheeler, B. J., Taylor, B. J., Daniels, L., … & Davies, R. S. (2017). Effect of a baby-led approach to complementary feeding on infant growth and overweight: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatrics.