Weaning on finger foods stops obesity
Weaning babies on finger foods rather than spoon-fed purees could prevent them becoming obese in later childhood, according to new research.
Allowing babies to feed themselves from a selection of foods, including bread, means they learn to regulate their own food intake.
Babies who self-feed with solids are also more likely to prefer carbohydrates than spoon-fed babies, who tend to favour sweet things, the study found.
Researchers analysed two methods of weaning -- baby-led weaning with finger foods, versus traditional spoon-feeding by parents.
The sample included 92 children who had been weaned on finger foods and 63 who were traditionally spoon-fed.
Parents filled in questionnaires on how their children had been weaned, including how often they ate certain foods.
They noted their child's preference for 151 foods broken down into categories such as carbohydrates, proteins, fruit, savoury snacks, dairy and 'whole meals' such as lasagne.
The results showed no difference in picky eating between the groups but slightly less obesity in the baby-led group, even after controlling for factors likely to influence the results.
These children also had a "significantly increased liking for carbohydrates", which was their favourite food, compared to those who had been spoon-fed, who favoured sweet things.
The baby-led group was also more likely to have handled food from the moment solid food was introduced, and fewer in this group had been given pureed foods at all.
The authors, writing in the journal BMJ Open, concluded: "Our results suggest that infants weaned through the baby-led approach learn to regulate their food intake in a manner which leads to a lower BMI (body mass index) and a preference for healthy foods like carbohydrates.
"This has implications for combating the well-documented rise of obesity in contemporary societies."
The experts, from the University of Nottingham, said understanding the factors that contribute to healthy nutrition in early childhood "is crucial as this could be the optimal time to modify food preferences so as to foster healthy diets in obesogenic food environments".