Your health:

Is spoon-feeding really so unhealthy?

By Baby Blogger Kate Richards  
I recently read about a new study comparing the two main methods of weaning: "baby led weaning" (i.e. finger foods) and traditional spoon feeding. Ok, I have to admit a vested interest here, as I spoon fed Ben when he started on solids. Although I'd heard about the baby led approach, his weight gain was slowing and I was keen to fill him up as much as possible.

Anyway, the study compared 92 babies who were weaned with the baby led approach and 63 who were spoon fed. When tested once at the age of 20 to 78 months, those who were baby led had a tendency to prefer carbohydrates and those given purees tended to prefer sweet foods.

The researchers inferred that baby-led weaning is therefore healthier. But I question this conclusion.

Firstly, a sweet preference is innate in all babies, to ensure enough calories are eaten. I wonder if the baby led group were just less familiar with sweet foods and more familiar with carbs? After all, many of the finger foods parents use (in my experience) are carbs such as rice cakes, biscuits or toast. And I believe children tend to prefer food they're familiar with.

The study also found that the baby led group were more likely to be underweight - which the researchers describe as having "learned to regulate their food intake in a manner which leads to a lower body mass index". Sounds to me like some of them just weren't getting enough calories!

But again, maybe I'm biased. Ben was very active at six months and I think he benefitted from his bowls of banana and yoghurt. For one thing, he wouldn't have kept still long enough to feed himself the equivalent amount, or he might have choked. Plus on a personal level, I was rather nervous of the impact on the new carpet!

More on this study

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