Baby-Led Weaning Not A Choking Risk, Study Finds

Baby-Led Weaning Not A Choking Risk, Study Finds

As reported in the media last month, researchers have concluded baby-led weaning is not a choking risk in young children.

The study, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, found baby-led weaning had no effect on the number of times babies choked on food.

The researchers from Swansea University set out to investigate baby-led weaning, and whether babies were likely to choke on food more or less frequently if introduced to solids in that way.

Baby-Led Weaning Not A Choking Risk, Study Finds

Baby-led weaning allows babies to explore food for themselves and, most importantly, to control what and how much they eat. Unlike so-called ‘traditional’ spoon-feeding, this method trusts babies to learn about food for themselves.

Babies learn using their senses. Baby-led weaning gives your baby the chance to explore his food in every way. He will want to hold it, squeeze it, lick it and chew it and, if you’re lucky, maybe even eat some of it.

Over 1,000 mothers with babies aged between 4 and 12 months were asked to describe their weaning method – strict baby-led weaning, loose baby-led weaning or parent-led weaning – as well as the frequency of using purees and spoon-feeding.

They were then asked whether their babies had ever choked and, if so, how many times, and on which types of food.

The results of the study will help to ease the minds of any parents who might be feeling anxious about introducing their babies to finger foods.

13.6% of the babies included in the study had choked on their food, but weaning style was not found to influence the risk of choking overall.

However, babies who had been weaned on purees were more likely to choke on finger foods and lumpy purees.

The results suggest babies who are introduced to finger foods early learn to navigate these foods safely at a younger age.

Dr Amy Brown, who led the study, explained: “Baby-led weaning … has been growing in popularity over the last 10 years in the UK and other countries. However, some people have expressed concerns over whether this is safe, and might put babies at risk of choking.

“This study adds to previous research conducted in smaller sample groups that also showed this approach does not increase the risk of a baby choking, and indeed in the UK, supports the Department of Health recommendation that babies can have finger foods from six months old”.

For fans of baby-led weaning, the research provides more reassurance. This approach is not only safe, but might even pose less risk than traditional weaning methods.

Not only is baby-led weaning not associated with an increased risk of choking, there is also plenty of anecdotal evidence to show encouraging your baby to take control of eating can encourage him to try, and enjoy, a variety of foods.

One study found spoon-fed babies were more likely to be overweight as toddlers; this can put children at risk of obesity in later life.

Baby-led weaning allows your baby to decide how much to eat, which reduces the risk of overeating.

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Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.

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