I wrote this article last semester for my infant nutrition class. This is great information about baby-led weaning (BLW). The article I critiqued has a link below. Also, please check out the official Baby-led Weaning website.
In recent years, the discussion of baby-led weaning has become a more common practice for parents of infants. Straight from the Baby Led Weaning (BLW) website, it is defined as, “letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning.” Research supports this method of weaning for infants for many reasons which is discussed in the article, “Baby Knows Best: Baby-led Weaning Promotes Healthy Food Preferences” by Dr. Ellen Townsend and researchers at The University of Nottingham.
The article gives research data which indicates that infants are less likely to become obese in the future and have a general liking towards carbohydrate foods than those infants who are spoon-fed puréed foods. Baby-led weaning may be a key factor in lowering the rate of obesity in children, a rate which is currently rising. The simple choice of allowing the infant to try real foods will benefit both the infant and the parents. Though this is not discussed in the article, parents will be able to prepare meals which their infant can try right along with them without spending more money on prepackaged puréed foods. For those parents whose social economic status (SES) is lower, BLW would be a great option for them to try. In turn, the infant will get the best, most pure nutrition directly from the food they are eating without any added sugars or sodium.
The article does not discuss the most obvious concern of choking. However, researchers have found that infants do not know how to push pieces of food to the back of their throat until they know how to chew, which is another reason for parents to try BLW. Our text does not support this method of weaning. On page 237, Brown writes “care must be taken, however, to provide a soupy texture and to avoid contamination of home-prepared baby food by bacteria on food or from unsanitary storage methods.” The text does not specifically suggest that BLW is not a good method for weaning, however the suggestion that the homemade food must be “soupy” for the infant implies that infants should not try foods which are not puréed.
Feeding infants puréed foods does not teach them how to chew food, nor how to have a taste for other foods. The article states that, “the factors thought to be most influential on early food preferences are sweetness and frequency of exposure,” which has been proven to be wrong of those children who were given more carbohydrates and, as time went on, they had a stronger liking for those types of foods than did the infants who were fed puréed foods, who were more attracted to sweeter foods.
I would certainly share this article with other parents. If there is any way to decrease the incidents of childhood obesity, I don’t see how other parents would not be willing to try baby-led weaning, especially those whose children may be at a higher risk for it later in life. The take-home message I want other parents to see is that BLW is safe and has great results for the future health of the child. I enjoyed the article, especially since I am expecting again and hoping to practice BLW with this child. I was unaware of this concept when my son was an infant, otherwise, I would have certainly tried it. I do consider this a good source of information on BLW, however it is lacking in the information that most parents would be concerned about regarding the risk of choking. It is only in my research in the past that I know that choking is not as big of a risk as it seems, but other parents who are unfamiliar with BLW would have a hard time understanding the safety of this practice without more information.
Townsend, E. Baby Knows Best: Baby-led Weaning Promotes Healthy Food Preferences. Retrieved on September 8, 2012 from: