Baby weaning or spoon feeding? OK, for starters The World Health Organization recommends that all babies must be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and must be introduced to complementary foods such as cereals, porridge, fruit and vegetable purees, soups, etc starting 6 month onwards to meet the increasing nutritional demands of the growing child.
Now back to the main topic; There are two schools of thought for the method of introducing a child to complementary foods. One practice, known as traditional spoon feeding (TSF) involves frequent feeding of mashed, pureed or chopped foods to the baby using a spoon. The other approach, known as baby led weaning (BLW) encourages the babies to feed themselves finger foods, and gives the babies more control over their meals. As baby led weaning allows the infant to control how much food they eat, following BLW may allow the infant to respond better to hunger and satiety cues as compared to a spoon fed baby.
However, there are concerns regarding whether baby led weaning practice can lead to nutritional insufficiencies or choking as the baby may not adequately feed themselves and finger foods may pose a choking hazard.
A Community Based, Cross-Sectional Study Comparing Baby Led Weaning and Traditional Spoon Feeding in Infants Aged 6-8 Months
A 2016 study by Morison BJ et al evaluated the differences between baby led weaning and traditional spoon feeding of complementary foods in babies aged 6-8 months. Summarizing their key findings;
- BLW infants were more likely than TSF infants to have fed themselves all or most of their food when starting complementary feeding.
- When complementary foods were first introduced, the TSF infants were more likely to have pureed or mashed food and the BLW infants were more likely to have finger foods.
- BLW infants were introduced to iron-fortified cereal about 5 weeks later than infants in the TSF group. There was only one in five chance of a BLW infant to consume iron fortified cereal during the study period.
- More infants in the BLW group were breastfeeding. Infants in the TSF group were having both breast milk and infant formula.
- Mean intakes of total fat, saturated fat and percentage energy from fat and saturated fat were higher in the BLW group.
- Mean intakes iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin C, dietary fibre and calcium were lower in the BLW group.
Which Practice to Follow?
So, baby weaning or spoon feeding? Both choices are good approaches to introduce the child to complementary feeds.
While baby led weaning may be beneficial by allowing an infant to be in control of their meals, it is important to ensure that they do not miss out on essential nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B12 which are not abundantly found in finger foods normally offered to an infant.
Traditional spoon feeding gives the parent an opportunity to provide the child meals that are of various textures and also nutritionally adequate.
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- Morison BJ, Taylor RW, Haszard JJ, et al. How different are baby-led weaning and conventional complementary feeding? A cross-sectional study of infants aged 6–8 months. BMJ Open 2016;6:e010665. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010665
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