Baby Food and Weaning: Are Finger-Foods Better Than Purees?

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Is baby-led weaning right for you? Ask your pediatrician for advice. Image by lenscap

Interview with Dr. Ellen Townsend

Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview Dr. Townsend about this study, which was published today in the British Medical Journal.

Our first question was about the best age to begin baby-led weaning.

According to Dr. Townsend, “Parents should follow NHS guidelines and begin weaning from 6 months. Research shows that most infants are ready to reach out and grasp finger foods at this age.”

We also asked Dr. Townsend, “Based on the results of this research, what recommendations do you have for parents?”

“Our results suggest that a baby-led approach to weaning may lead to a preference for healthy foods like carbohydrates and help maintain a healthy BMI. Therefore trying a baby-led approach to weaning may be beneficial. 

Dr. Townsend also provided the following comments and recommendations:

“- If … worried about choking, parents should complete a training course on infant and child first aid (e.g. the Red Cross runs such courses over two evenings which is ideal for busy parents). Health visiting teams commonly offer ‘Weaning workshops’ for parents when their child is approaching weaning age –choking may also be covered in these.

– There is a debate about whether offering foods on a ‘preloaded spoon’ (that the infant feeds themselves with) is truly baby-led. Our feeling that the paramount issue is to hand over control to your baby – let them be in charge of what they eat as long as you provide them with a range of healthy nutritious foods.

– Current NHS guidelines suggest that finger foods should be offered in tandem with purees from 6 months – so a baby-led approach to weaning is compatible with this (you just don’t spoon feed your baby with puree).”

Finger Foods and Weaning: A Parent’s Decision

This study shows that children who were allowed to chose which foods they ate, and how much they consumed, were less likely to be obese than children who were spoon fed. Children who were weaned using the baby-led method also had a preference for bread products, possibly due to the differences in textures and ease of handling for foods such as breadsticks.

If you have an infant, this baby-led weaning method is an option you may be interested in. Just remember, as with all other aspects of your baby’s health, you should seek the advice of your baby’s pediatrician before making any major decisions.

Resources:

NHS. Introducing solid foods: the first steps. (2011). Accessed on February 6, 2012.

Baby Led Weaning. Getting Started. Accessed on February 6, 2012.

Townsend, E. and Pitchford, N. Baby knows best? The impact of weaning style on food preferences and body mass index in early childhood in case-controlled sample. (2012). BMJ Open. Accessed on February 6, 2012.

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