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Can infants self-regulate eating?

Current recommendations suggest that infants are introduced to complementary foods around 6 months of age using purees that are traditionally spoon-fed to the infant. Over time, the child then progresses to mashed and lumpy foods with the expectation that by the time the baby is 12 months of age, they are eating mostly family foods.

Whole foods from the start

An alternative, baby-led approach bypasses purees and introduces whole foods right from the start of complementary feeding, which the baby feeds themselves. Proposed advantages of a baby-led approach include improved energy self-regulation as the infant is more in control of what and how much they eat, greater family interaction as the baby joins in family meals, and convenience. However, concerns have also been raised regarding choking and the potential for an inadequate iron intake.

100 families will help

Very little research exists internationally, despite baby-led weaning being a popular approach anecdotally.

Our randomised controlled trial used a modified form of baby-led weaning, called Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS (BLISS). We followed 100 families that received guidance and support to follow a baby-led approach to the introduction of solids and 100 families that introduced solids in the usual manner.

We wanted to know what these children ate, how their families functioned, whether growth differed between the two groups, and what happened in terms of iron status and choking during the first two years of life.

Related publications

Heath, A.M., Haszard, J.J., Galland, B.C., Lawley, B., Rehrer, N.J., Drummond, L.N., Sims, I.M., Taylor, R.W., Otal, A., Taylor, B., Tannock, G.W. (2020) Association between the faecal short-chain fatty acid propionate and infant sleep. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Jan 22.

Bacchus, S., Taylor, R.W., Fleming, E.A., Haszard, J.J., Fangupo, L., Daniels, L., Heath, A.M. (2020) The cost of baby-led vs. parent-led approaches to introducing complementary foods in New Zealand. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Mar 17.

Leong, C., Haszard, J.J., Lawley, B., Otal, A., Taylor, R.W., Szymlek-Gay, E.A., Fleming, E.A., Daniels, L., Fangupo, L.J., Tannock, G.W., Heath, A.M. (2018) Mediation Analysis as a Means of Identifying Dietary Components That Differentially Affect the Fecal Microbiota of Infants Weaned by Modified Baby-Led and Traditional Approaches. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 84(18):e00914-18.

Daniels, L., Taylor, R.W., Williams, S.M., Gibson, R.S., Samman, S., Wheeler, B.J., Taylor, B.J., Fleming, E.A., Hartley, N.K., Heath, A.M. (2018) Modified Version of Baby-Led Weaning Does Not Result in Lower Zinc Intake or Status in Infants: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 118(6):1006-1016.e1.

Morison, B.J., Heath, A.M., Haszard, J.J., Hein, K., Fleming, E.A., Daniels, L., Erickson, E.W., Fangupo, L.J., Wheeler, B.J., Taylor, B.J., Taylor, R.W. (2018) Impact of a Modified Version of Baby-Led Weaning on Dietary Variety and Food Preferences in Infants. Nutrients 10(8):1092.

Williams Erickson, L., Taylor, R.W., Haszard, J.J., Fleming, E.A., Daniels, L., Morison, B.J., Leong, C., Fangupo, L.J., Wheeler, B.J., Taylor, B.J., Te Morenga, L., McLean, R.M., Heath, A.M. (2018) Impact of a Modified Version of Baby-Led Weaning on Infant Food and Nutrient Intakes: The BLISS Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients 10(6):740.

Daniels, L., Taylor, R.W., Williams, S.M., Gibson, R.S., Fleming, E.A., Wheeler, B.J., Taylor, B.J., Haszard, J.J., Heath, A.M. (2018) Impact of a modified version of baby-led weaning on iron intake and status: a randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open 8(6):e019036.

Fu, X., Conlon, C.A., Haszard, J.J., Beck, K.L., von Hurst, P.R., Taylor, R.W., Heath, A.M. (2018) Food fussiness and early feeding characteristics of infants following Baby-Led Weaning and traditional spoon-feeding in New Zealand: An internet survey. Appetite 130:110-116.

Daniels, L., Williams, S.M., Gibson, R.S., Taylor, R.W., Samman, S., Heath, A.M (2018). Modifiable "Predictors" of Zinc Status in Toddlers. Nutrients 10(3), 306.

Taylor, R.W., Heath, A.M., Haszard, J.J (2018). A Baby-Led Approach to Complementary Feeding-Reply.  JAMA Pediatrics 172(2):197-198.

Taylor, R.W., Williams, S.M., Fangupo, L.J., Wheeler, B.J., Taylor, B.J., Daniels, L., Fleming, E.A., McArthur, J., Morison, B., Williams Erickson, L., Davies, R.S., Bacchus, S., Cameron, S.L., Heath, A.M. (2017) Effect of a Baby-Led Approach to Complementary Feeding on Infant Growth and Overweight: A Randomized Clinical Trial.JAMA Pediatrics 171(9):838-846.

Fangupo, L.J., Heath, A.M., Williams, S.M., Williams Erickson, L., Morison, B.J., Fleming, E.A., Taylor, B.J., Wheeler, B.J., Taylor, R.W. (2016). A Baby-Led Approach to Eating Solids and Risk of Choking. Pediatrics 138 (4).

Morison, B., Taylor, R.W., Haszard, J., Schramm, C., Williams Erickson, l., Fangupo, L.J., Fleming E.A., Luciano, A., Heath, A.M. (2016). How different are baby-led weaning and conventional complementary feeding? A cross-sectional study of 6 to 8 month old infants. BMJ Open 6:e010665.

Daniels, L., Heath, A-L.M., Williams, S.M., Cameron, S.L., Fleming, E.A., Taylor, B.J., Wheeler, B.J., Gibson, R.S., Taylor, R.W. (2015) Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS (BLISS) study: a randomised controlled trial of a baby-led approach to complementary feeding. BMC Pediatrics 15:179

Cameron, S.L., Taylor, R.W., Heath, A-L.M. (2015) Development and pilot testing of Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS - a version of Baby-Led Weaning modified to address concerns about iron deficiency, growth faltering and choking.BMC Pediatrics 15:99

Cameron, S.L., Heath, A-L.M., Taylor, R.W.(2013)  Parent-led or baby-led? Associations between complementary feeding practices and health-related behaviours in a survey of New Zealand families. BMJ Open 2013;3:e003946

Cameron, S.L., Heath, A-L.M.,Taylor, R.W. (2012). How feasible is baby-led weaning as an approach to infant feeding? A review of the evidence.Nutrients 4, 575-609.

Cameron, S.L., Heath, A-L.,M., Taylor, R.W. (2012). Healthcare professionals' and mothers' knowledge of, attitudes to, and experiences with, baby-led weaning: a content analysis study.BMJ Open 2012;2:e001542

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