Baby Led Weaning - Revisited May 09 2022
Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
Author Allison Cress
UGA FACS Intern &
Human Development Major
Today we are talking about different approaches to feeding your baby once it is time to introduce food other than milk! I will be sharing some of the benefits that I have found of baby-led weaning! When beginning to introduce infants to foods other than milk, parents and guardians may choose different feeding approaches. They may choose to spoon-feed their baby purées or introduce the infant to solid foods with a baby-led weaning approach. While each family must make the decision that makes the most sense for them, research supports that there can be numerous benefits to introducing infants to solids with a baby-led approach. It has even been found that mothers who choose the baby-led weaning approach are happy to encourage other parents and guardians to do the same with their infant (Brown et al., 2017). Some of the most significant benefits of baby-led weaning can include allowing the baby to learn appetite control, exploration of a variety of food with differing textures, and practicing both oral and motor skills while self-feeding (Bower, 2022; Brown et al., 2017). “Proponents of baby-led weaning have always suggested that the method offers a range of benefits to babies, from better appetite control to a wider diet and even motor skill development” (Brown et al., 2017).
Benefit 1: Learned Appetite Control
Baby-led weaning allows infants to self-feed, which allows them to control the pace and intake of the meal (Brown et al., 2017). This encourages the shared belief of many that the approach encourages healthy eating behavior and weight outcomes (Brown et al., 2017). Appetite control is developed in baby-led weaning as the baby is in charge of how much to eat, learns how to recognize feeling full, and when to stop eating (Bower, 2022). A longitudinal study conducted by Brown et al. (2017) examined mothers’ reports of infant food responsivity, which is eating in response to food being present, and satiety responsiveness, which is the ability to stop eating when full. The results revealed that at 18-24 months, the infants who followed a baby-led approach were less food responsive and more satiety responsive, which indicates better appetite control (Brown et al., 2017). There is also a correlation between appetite control, which is believed to be positively influenced in baby-led weaning, and healthy weight levels. In a longitudinal study with controlled levels of birth weight, maternal weight, and breastfeeding duration, at 18-24 months, infants who followed a traditional weaning approach were found to be significantly heavier when compared to infants who followed a baby-led weaning approach (Brown et al., 2017). The study found that of infants who followed a baby-led approach only 8.1% were overweight, while of those who followed a traditional approach, 19.2% were overweight (Brown et al., 2017). Overall, research supports that allowing an infant to control the amount and pace of eating through baby-led weaning can encourage the development of appetite control and promote a healthy weight trajectory for the infant.
Benefit 2: Variety of Foods/ Family Foods
Baby-led weaning can allow the infant to explore a wide variety of foods as they eat with the family at mealtime. As the infant is introduced to numerous textures of foods and flavors, they can see that the family is enjoying the same food that is on their plate. This can encourage them to try, eat, and even like the food if they see trusted guardians doing the same. This early exposure to a wide variety of foods may reduce picky eating habits later (Bower, 2022). It has been found that mothers believe that following a baby-led approach does increase both the variety of foods and nutrients that babies consume (Brown et al., 2017). Studies have also shown that “infants following a baby-led diet are reported to be more likely to eat family foods rather than specially prepared infant foods and join in family mealtimes” (Brown et al., 2017). Additionally, it has been found that exposure to a wide range of foods is one of the key benefits of baby-led weaning and is also a building block of developing healthy eating behavior, which can impact one’s nutritional outcomes in life (Brown et al., 2017).
Benefit 3: Further Development of Motor and Oral Skills
Baby-led weaning allows infants to continue developing motor and oral skills as opposed to being spoon-fed (Bower, 2022). Prior to the introduction of solids, infants must develop the skills needed to self-feed, which occurs normally around 6 months of age (Bower, 2022; Brown et al., 2017). The skills an infant needs to self-feed are independent sitting, reach and grab, head control, and clear interest in food (Bower, 2022). Infants can practice and better develop both fine (skills involving smaller muscles) and gross motor skills (skills involving larger muscle movements) while self-feeding. They must hold the food with their hands, potentially break food apart, learn to judge how much to put in their mouth and carry the food from their plate to their mouth (Bower, 2022). Babies also get to further develop oral skills (movements pertaining to the mouth) while they bite, chew, and swallow solid foods of different textures (Bower, 2022). Babies may even have fun gaining independence while eating and exploring food as they get to touch, feel, and taste different flavors and textures (Bower, 2022).
To conclude, baby-led weaning is accompanied by numerous significant benefits for infants. Research supports that baby-led weaning can positively influence appetite control, which is believed to contribute to healthy eating behavior and weight outcomes throughout life (Brown et al., 2017). Baby-led weaning also expands the variety of foods that infants are exposed to early on which can be associated with a decreased chance of developing picky eating habits in the future (Bower, 2022). Allowing infants to self-feed has been noted to encourage babies to eat with the family at mealtime (Bower, 2022; Brown et al., 2017). Lastly, baby-led weaning is beneficial for infants because self-feeding allows them to further develop both motor and oral skills (Bower, 2022; Brown et al., 2017). I would also like to link @solidstarts. This account has great guides and information for pediatric feeding!