Locke, Abigail (2014) Spoon-feeding, fussy eaters and obesity’: Constructions of ‘Baby-Led Weaning’ in the Press. In: Midlands Health Psychology Network 10th Anniversary Conference, 20th February 2014, Northampton, UK. (Unpublished)

Currently the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants are not given solid food until they have reached six months of age. However, the method by which solid food is
introduced to infants is a source of debate.

This paper examines a new method called
‘baby-led weaning’ whereby the child feeds themselves instead of being spoon-fed, that came into popular parenting culture in recent years. In particular, it focuses on the representations around baby-led weaning in newspapers.

Using a critical health psychological lens, this current work presents an in-depth discursive media analysis on the depiction of ‘baby-led weaning’ in national and international newspapers. The print media database Proquest, was searched for ‘baby-led weaning’ for all newspapers. This produced an initial sample of 585 articles across a number of countries. Once duplicate and other non-related articles were removed, a final sample 78 articles was subjected to a full discursive analysis.

The key discourses that emerged from the newspapers focused around three main areas:
1. risks and benefits of baby-led weaning, in particular prospective health benefits set in a
climate of the obesity epidemic,
2. Linked to this, the infant was constructed as agentive in their eating behaviours;
3. There was an undercurrent of constructing parental identities, in particular how ‘good motherhood’ was justified by the choice of feeding
Currently there is very little known about the long-term implications and health benefits of baby
-led weaning. However, current discourses in the press presents it in positive terms, for its inclusive and easy nature and for its prospective health benefits of lower adult obesity through increasing child agency. It was also noted how the choice of infant feeding method is heavily tied in the articles to paternal identities in this age of ‘intensive parenthood’.

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