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.”
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.