MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Anne-Louise M. Heath and
Professor Rachael Taylor
Co-Principal Investigators for the BLISS study.
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Conventional approaches to complementary feeding generally advise parents to spoon-feed their infant pureed foods, gradually progressing to greater variety and texture so that by the time the infant is one year of age, they are eating more or less what the family does.
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is an alternative approach where the infants feeds themselves right from the start of complementary feeding. Because children of this age cannot use utensils, this means hand-held foods are necessary. Advocates of BLW suggest that children have a lower risk of obesity because they remain in control of their own food intake, but research examining this issue directly is scarce. Health professionals have also expressed concern that BLW might put the infant at increased risk of iron deficiency (parents might avoid red meat for fear of the infant choking, and iron-fortified cereals are not easy for the infant to feed themselves), growth faltering (if only low energy foods are offered) and choking (from the infant feeding themselves ‘whole’ foods).
Our study therefore examined a version of BLW that had been modified to address these issues (called BLISS – a Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS). Two hundred families took part in our 2-year intervention, with half following traditional feeding practices and half receiving guidance and support to follow our BLISS approach. We found that BLISS children were not less likely to be overweight than those following traditional feeding practices, nor was growth faltering an issue. BLISS child ate about the same amount of food as control children, and their ability to eat to appetite was not different either.
However, it seems that children following a baby-led approach to complementary feeding are less fussy about food, and have a healthier attitude to food, which might make a difference to their health long term.