Comparing Methods & Benefits of Complementary Feeding

Comparing Complementary Feeding Methods

Quick summary

All complementary feeding methods share some common benefits that are not exclusive to one method. Examples of benefits across methods are dietary variety and the opportunity for parents and caregivers to practice responsive feeding. Below are highlighted select benefits that have been documented in the literature for each type of method. Note that if a benefit is not listed, it is likely due to lack of data or absence from the literature and the need for further research.


Spoon-Feeding has many benefits such as

  • food and nutrient intake (Pearce 2022, Rowan 2022),
  • food group exposure (Pearce 2022, Rowan 2019), and
  • more complex gut microbiota due to ingestion of a more varied diet (Leong 2014).

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)

BLW is a relatively recent approach with primarily self-reported benefits and associations in the literature:

  • exposure to a varied diet (Bialek-Dratwa 2022),
  • food preferences (Townsend 2012),
  • estimated energy intake similar to spoon-feeding based upon diet diaries (Rowan 2022),
  • more involved in family mealtimes (Webber 2021), greater satiety responsiveness (Brown 2015),
  • positive family dynamics and practices (Brown 2011),
  • less food fussiness (Fu 2018),
  • increased vegetable exposure (Rowan 2019),
  • and caregivers can follow a responsive feeding approach (Bergamini 2022, Bocquet 2022).

Baby-Led Feeding

  • Baby-led feeding brings together many of the benefits of both methods above (Daniels 2018a, Daniels 2018b, D’Auria 2018, Dogan 2018, Fangupo 2016, Morison 2018, Rowan 2021, Taylor 2017).
  • In addition, some studies have found infants being fed with a variety of methods have lower exposure to some foods higher in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar (Moreira 2022, Fuhr 2023)
  • This approach may also be potentially lower in cost (Bacchus 2020, Bocquet 2022), and one in which caregivers follow a responsive feeding approach (Bergamini 2022, Bocquet 2022).

No matter how your patients choose to feed your child, the most important element is to practice responsive feeding.