Babies who are spoon-fed by their parents during weaning have a higher chance of becoming overweight, according to a new study.
Instead, infants should be allowed to feed themselves during the transition from liquid to solid foods to prevent them from overeating, and becoming overweight toddlers.
Researchers from Swansea University also concluded that children who lead feeding are less likely to be “fussy” eaters because they are exposed to more tastes.
The study found in favour of so-called baby-led, weaning where infants chose from food that the rest of their family eats from the start of the weaning process, instead of being spoon-fed puree by a carer.
Self-fed babies had better appetite control, because they could hold foods, control their intake, and eat at their own pace.
The study assessed 298 babies and how they were introduced to solid foods between the ages of 6 and 12 months, followed by a comparison of the weight and eating behaviour of the same children between 18 and 24 months.
Dr Amy Brown, a researcher who worked on the project, said: “The study indicates that taking a baby-led approach to weaning may reduce a baby’s risk of being overweight as they are in control of their food intake."
She added: “This results in the baby being better able to control his or her appetite which could have a long-term impact upon weight gain and eating style that may continue into childhood.”
Dr Brown also stressed how childhood obesity is a concern in the UK that has “many negative health and social implications” and that “while there are many factors that contribute to this,” feeding style plays an important role in the development of a child’s appetite and eating habits.
“Responsive feeding, which means allowing the child to regulate their own appetite and not pressurising them to eat more than they need, is a really important step in encouraging children to develop healthy eating patterns for life,” she said.