baby

An expert wants parents to stop spoon-feeding. Her argument makes a lot of sense.

The idea of baby-led weaning is nothing new, but now a UK expert is claiming that babies who feed themselves, rather than being spoon-fed by their parents, are only half as likely to end up overweight.

Amy Brown, an associate professor at Swansea University, is the author of a new book, Why Starting Solids Matters. She believes babies who are allowed to feed themselves a range of finger foods from the age of six months turn out to be trim, healthy and adventurous eaters.

She quotes a UK study of 300 babies that showed that only eight per cent of those who fed themselves solid food were overweight by the time they were two, compared to 19 per cent of those who were spoon-fed by their parents.

Brown explains that babies allowed to feed themselves are more likely to stop eating when they’re full. She says parents who do spoon-feed their kids have to be careful not to force them to overeat.

“A jar of baby food is too big for what a little baby needs,” she tells The Times. “When you are waving the spoon around and saying, ‘Here comes the big aeroplane – let’s finish it,’ if they clamp their mouth shut, forget about it. They will not starve.”

risks of spoodfeeding babies
Babies who feed themselves from the age of six months turn out to be trim, healthy and adventurous eaters, the expert says. (Image: iStock)
ADVERTISEMENT

Nicole Dynan, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians’ Association of Australia, says this way of thinking has been around for a while.

“Being guided by your child and their appetite is a good way, not force-feeding, because it does set up those bad relationships with food,” she tells Mamamia.

But Dynan says parents who spoon-feed their children too much food are doing it out of love.

“I myself am a mum, and I remember when I had my first child, she’d come home from daycare, and she’d not be hungry because they’d give her a hot meal in the middle of the day,” she explains. “But I was desperate to have her eat, because I thought that’s what I had to do.

“It takes the control away from the child and then they don’t get that innate development of appetite management.”

Listen: Monique Bowley and Bec Judd talk all things baby budgeting on Hello Bump (post continues after audio...)

Brown says parents should avoid giving their babies finger food such as carrot sticks, apple slices, grapes or cherry tomatoes, which could get stuck in their throat.

Dynan agrees, adding that food needs to be the right texture. Carrots, she says, should be cooked until they’re “soft enough so that they can gum it”. Food should be given in stick shapes.

While some parents might worry that babies are more likely to choke if they feed themselves, the opposite is actually true.

“What they’ve found with the research is that choking is more of a risk when you’re spoon-feeding, because it’s a sucking action to eat off a spoon, so it’s almost inhaling it. As well, they can be distracted. They’re moving around and you’re trying to shove a spoon in their mouth.”

most popular baby names 2017
Brown says parents should avoid giving their babies finger food such as carrot sticks, apple slices, grapes or cherry tomatoes, which could get stuck in their throat. (Image: iStock)

Dynan points out that not all babies are ready to feed themselves at six months. Those who were born premature or underweight, or those who have weaknesses of the mouth or hand, might need to be older.

As for parents who did spoon-feed their babies, Dynan says they shouldn’t panic that their children will end up overweight.

“At the end of the day, it’s the parents that are still in charge of what food choices are made.”

Are you worried about spoon-feeding your baby?

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???