Does Mom Know Best? The Influence of Baby-led Weaning on Picky Eating and Sweetener Use
Jellison, Savanna Elizabeth Jean Westrom
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Baby-led weaning, the process of an infant feeding themselves at the introduction of solid foods as opposed to being spoon-fed by a caregiver, is an under-researched area of infant development. There is a significant gap in knowledge regarding how baby-led weaning influences aspects of this critical period of development including picky eating and parental use of sweeteners or additives. The purpose of this research was to better understand the influence that feeding method has on optimal infant development. The central hypotheses were (1) that infants who baby-led weaned would have greater food acceptance and be less likely to be labelled a picky eater than parent-led weaned infants, and (2) parents who utilize baby-led weaning will be less likely to utilize sweeteners or additives with their infants compared to parents who choose parent-led weaning. Participants (N = 412) were given a link to a single questionnaire through an online survey software. The survey consisted of a variety of question types including Likert-type scales, yes/no, and short answer. Results of our first study showed that infants in both groups accepted most foods at similar rates at first introduction, indicating that initially infants from the two groups were similar in their food preferences. However, infants who had experienced baby-led weaning were less likely to be considered to be picky eaters by their parents than those who were parent-led weaned. These results support the hypothesis that feeding method may influence rates of picky eating. The results of our second study showed that there were no differences between parents who baby-led weaned and those who parent-led weaned in willingness to give sugar to increase food acceptance. For most of the sweeteners and additives surveyed, parents in both groups did not differ significantly in utilization. The exceptions were ranch dressing and honey. Parents who baby-led weaned were more likely to use both ranch and honey compared to their parent-led counterparts. Together, these studies indicate that baby-led weaned infants differ from parent-led weaned infants in a variety of factors that contribute to the development of healthy eating habits.