Baby-led weaning not recommended by ministry despite rising popularity

Baby-led weaning - where babies are given finger foods to feed themselves from around six months old - is gaining in popularity as an alternative to spoon-feeding puree foods, but it is still not recommended by the Ministry of Health.

Proponents of the movement claim this method has benefits over current advice, Plunket's chief nurse Jane O'Malley told Newshub.


"One benefit could be it prevents obesity as it lets the baby choose how much they eat, which could make them more aware of how hungry or full they are," O'Malley says.

"If this leads to better eating habits it could help to address the growing obesity problem currently facing New Zealand," she says.

Current advice from Plunket is that parents are encouraged to follow their baby's cues - including hunger cues and signs when they are full.

"Some babies are more interested in feeding themselves than others so we support parents to be guided by this.

"As babies start on solids, offering a variety of healthy, age-appropriate foods in different forms can help them learn about different tastes and textures," O'Malley says.

However, the Ministry of Health doesn't recommend baby-led weaning, stating more research is needed.

"The Ministry of Health requires evidence that this is a safe practice before recommending it for New Zealand babies as an alternative to current weaning advice.

"Further work is underway in this area," the ministry says.

O'Malley says research is underway by Dr Anne-Louise Heath at the University of Otago.

"We look forward to there being relevant research results on which to keep our practice advice to families current."

Findings from Heath's BLISS (Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS) trial into what infants eat when they follow baby-led weaning are that baby-led weaned infants consumed more sodium and fat at seven months and less saturated fat at one year of age.

No differences were apparent at two years of age, but the majority of infants from both the controlled (puree-fed) and baby-led weaning groups had excessive intakes of sodium and added sugars.

"Overall, BLISS appears to result in a diet that is as nutritionally adequate as traditional spoon-feeding," the study says.

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