Current UK Department of Health guidelines recommend that infants are introduced to complementary foods at around 6 months of age. Intake of complementary foods should be gradual, should incorporate a range of tastes and should be based around family foods. The infant should be 'developmentally ready', able to sit up, grasp objects and chew. Introduction to complementary foods in the UK is typically via purée and spoon-feeding although an alternative approach is growing in popularity. The baby-led weaning approach advocates bypassing purées and allowing infants to self-feed foods in their solid form from the start of weaning. Research surrounding this method is sparse, and it is not advocated in Department of Health literature but understanding, if not advocacy of the method, is needed for health professionals faced with questions from parents. Here, 36 mothers of an infant aged 12-18 months who followed baby-led weaning completed a semi-structured interview examining their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours towards the approach. Key themes included following infant cues of readiness, hunger and satiety, exposure to textures and tastes and experiences, both positive and negative of following the method. The findings are considered in relation to Department of Health weaning guidelines and literature pertaining to the development of eating styles and weight gain in young children. Overall, the study offers an insight into this emerging method for child health practitioners raising questions as to the use or potential adaptation of key principles of the methods.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.