Swansea University researchers have found that babies who are allowed to feed themselves during weaning are less likely to overeat or be overweight as toddlers than babies who are weaned by being spoon-fed.
The aim of the study was to compare the weight and eating style of children weaned using a baby-led approach, with those using a traditional spoon-feeding style.
Baby-led weaning allows infants to feed themselves family foods from the start of weaning. Instead of the parent spoon feeding the baby pureed foods, baby-led babies are offered a range of whole foods which they pick up and eat themselves.
This two stage study looked at a sample of 298 babies. The first phase studied babies and how they were introduced to solid foods between the ages of 6 and 12 months while phase two studied the weight and eating behaviour of the same infants between 18 and 24 months.
The study results revealed that those infants weaned using a baby-led approach had a better ability to stop eating when full, were less likely to overeat and were less likely to be ‘fussy’ eaters than those who had been weaned using spoon feeding. Baby-led babies were also less likely to be overweight than their spoon-fed peers.
The study concluded that baby-led weaning is associated with better appetite control and reduced risk of being overweight. This may be explained by the baby being allowed to handle foods, control their intake and eat at their own pace, alongside being exposed to a wider variety of tastes. All of this may promote appetite regulation and healthy weight gain trajectories.