When your baby starts eating solids, parents need to be the ones deciding how much they eat and when ... right? Maybe not! A new study shows that spoon-fed babies are more likely to be overweight than babies who are allowed to feed themselves. The latter are more able to tell when they're full, and they're also less likely to be picky eaters. Baby-led weaning helps babies form a healthier relationship with food.
Dr. Amy Brown, from Swansea University, says:
Our 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. 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.
Allowing the child to regulate their own appetite and not pressuring them to eat more than they need is a really important step in encouraging children to develop healthy eating patterns for life.
Keep in mind, this is a study from the U.K. In the U.S., baby-led weaning is when you let your baby decide when to stop breastfeeding rather than choosing that date yourself. (Not an option for some moms, we know!) In the U.K., baby-led weaning means adding complementary foods to a baby's diet, letting them handle the food themselves and decide how much of what they want to eat. It's this second definition that the study focused on.
But wow, who knew baby-led weaning could have such a direct impact on your baby's health? It's almost like you're setting up your child's entire relationship with food and eating -- no pressure! But seriously, if you're not already familiar with the concept of baby-led weaning, it's clearly something worth considering.
Of course, many of us have spoon-fed a baby and seen them turn their faces away, lips pursed, refusing to have another bite. Babies have ways of saying no to food even if they're spoon-fed. But the idea is that you're giving them more ownership over their eating.
The website Baby Led Weaning is a good source of information on everything from how to get started with the process to recipes for babies' first foods.
The advantage of baby-led weaning is that babies learn to self-regulate. You have to trust that they're going to eat as much as they need to -- it takes a leap of faith for some parents. The down side is that it's messier, of course. And parents need to be extra careful about making sure the food they hand their babies is safe, and not a choking hazard. (This also means you need to watch closely while your baby is eating.) But if letting go of some control means giving your child a healthier start on life, I think it's worth it.
Have you tried baby-led weaning?
Image via Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr