Baby DIY

Researchers find that baby-led weaning can lead to nutritional problems for a small number of babies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new study by researchers from the United Kingdom reveals that a practice called baby-led weaning can result in nutritional complications for a small number of babies.

The study's findings appear in the January issue of the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition.

Rather than feeding soft purees to babies, baby-led weaning prescribes allowing babies to feed themselves solid foods. According to a team of researchers led by child health specialist Professor Charlotte M. Wright from the Pediatric, Epidemiology, and Community Health Unit at the University of Glasgow, most babies develop the ability to feed themselves finger food by six to eight months of age. The researchers found, however, that baby-led weaning can predispose late-developers to nutritional problems.

Wright and her team studied records detailing the developments of 602 children. The records specify when the children first reached for food, when they walked without help, and when they began meaningful speech. Researchers also used food diaries from 447 children identifying the first five times they reached for food.

From this data, researchers found that 56 percent of the babies by six months were reaching for food. By the same age, 40 percent of the babies were reaching out for and eating the food. By eight months of age, 94 percent of the babies were reaching for food and 90 percent were eating it. All of the babies involved, with the exception of one, were eating finger foods on their own by one year of age.

As the ability to feed oneself often coincides with other key developmental milestones, some parents believe that the practice of baby-led weaning will affect the speed at which their babies reach those other milestones. This belief is not true, says Professor Wright. That reaching for food might occur parallel to a baby's first steps merely shows that different babies reach different developmental milestones at different times. If parents always insist on baby-led weaning, says Wright, then a minority of children who develop more slowly will experience nutritional problems. To avoid such issues, Wright recommends that parents encourage self-feeding with solid foods while still continuing to feed their infants the soft purees.

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Review Date: 
January 13, 2011
Last Updated:
January 13, 2011