What is the BLISS (Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS) study and what does it say about baby led weaning? Learn about the BLISS approach, how it differs from baby led weaning, and why it's important to know about if you're considering a BLW approach.
If you're a health care provider (like me - a dietitian!), or if you're simply a mom who has done a good amount of research on baby led weaning before beginning, it is likely that you've heard of the BLISS study. You may be wondering if BLISS is the same thing as baby led weaning (BLW). Not to worry, I'm here to clear up the confusion! Here's a rundown of what the BLISS study is, what it says, and why it's important for health professionals and parents alike.
New to BLW? Read: What is Baby Led Weaning
What is BLISS?
BLISS stands for Baby Led Introduction to SolidS. It is a research study (a randomized control trial, or RCT, which is the gold standard for studies!) out of New Zealand that looked at the baby led weaning approach of starting solids versus traditional spoon feeding with a focus on the following:
- Weight (BMI)
- Energy Self Regulation
- Iron and Zinc Status
- Diet Quality
- Growth Faltering
This study is important because it was really the first RCT to specifically look at health outcomes of baby led weaning and address the main concerns that many health professionals have with this feeding approach. It gives us a solid foundation to say, "YES - baby led weaning is safe and healthy!" It also gives us evidence on the benefits of the BLW approach vs purees.
How is the BLISS method different from Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning and BLISS are very similar in that they both prioritize a baby-led, self-feeding approach to introducing solid foods to infants where: babies are exclusively breast fed or formula fed for 6 months, parents refrain from spoon-feeding purees, and babies participate in family mealtimes and generally are offered family foods.
However, in order to address the key concerns of health professionals about baby led weaning, mainly iron deficiency, growth faltering, and risk of choking, the BLISS study includes a few modifications to the BLW method. In addition to the typical BLW guidelines, parents were specifically coached on:
- High iron foods
- High energy foods
- Choking hazards
In addition, families were encouraged to provide all three of the following at each meal:
- An iron-rich food
- An energy-rich food
- A fruit or vegetable
What Did We Learn From the BLISS study?
Overall, the BLISS study suggests that introducing solids to infants using a baby-led approach may have beneficial effects on their development and eating habits.
The results of the BLISS study found the baby-led weaning group had a lower rate of overweight or obesity compared to the spoon-feeding group. Additionally, the baby-led weaning group was found to have better fine motor skills and less food fussiness than the spoon-feeding group.
The BLISS study was is also helpful because it gives us evidence that:
- BLW babies are at no more risk of choking than spoon-fed babies.
- Iron and zinc levels are similar in both BLW and spoon-fed babies.
- Proper growth is not an issue with BLW
It is also helpful because it gives us clear guidance on what to focus on in order to maximize nutrient intake and minimize choking risk when either practicing baby led weaning or educating parents on BLW (if you're a health professional).
Advantages of BLISS Over Unmodified Baby Led Weaning
- Higher iron intake (read more: Why Iron is Important for Babies)
- Focus on more varied diet, leading to increased essential nutrient intake
- Lower risk of choking due to extra attention on texture and shape of food
Summary of BLISS Modifications to BLW
In a nutshell, the BLISS method uses the framework of baby led weaning with 3 key modifications:
This is the foundation of all my baby led weaning recommendations (and part of how this website got it's name!). If you're ready to dive in to safe, stress-free baby led weaning, I'm here to walk you through it!
Download your handout for Maximizing Baby's Iron, or grab my Baby's First 100 Foods Chart & Allergen Checklist Bundle!