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Self-feeding babies are no less likely to be overweight

 
  • The finding contradicts the claim that self-feeding helps appetite regulation
  • It also debunks the concern that self-fed babies may have hindered growth 
  • Self-fed babies are less likely to be fussy eaters than those who are spoon-fed
  • Experts stress there is no right way to introduce solid foods to a baby’s diet
  • Look for signs of hunger and fullness, and do not force them to finish their food 

Alexandra Thompson Health Reporter For Mailonline

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Six-month-old babies who are allowed to pick up their own food and put it in their mouths themselves are just as likely to be overweight, new research reveals.

This is compared to youngsters who are spoon-fed by their parents.  

The finding contradicts previous claims that youngsters who control how much they eat are better at self-regulating their appetite and are consequently more likely to be a healthy weight.  

Study authors Anne-Louise Heath and Rachael Taylor from the University of Otago in Dunedin, said: ‘It has always been assumed that if babies are allowed to control their own food intake then they will be better at judging when they have “had enough”.

‘So we were surprised that letting babies feed themselves their solids from the start, rather than being spoon-fed by someone else, didn’t seem to improve their ability to stop eating when they were full. 

‘And that they were just as likely to become overweight as babies who had been spoon-fed.’

Having babies feed themselves does not prevent them from becoming overweight (stock)

Having babies feed themselves does not prevent them from becoming overweight (stock)

Having babies feed themselves does not prevent them from becoming overweight (stock)

IVF BABIES ARE MORE LIKELY TO GROW UP OVERWEIGHT 

Children born through IVF are more likely to be overweight, a study found earlier this month.

Experts revealed ‘test tube babies’ have their genes altered, with those born through fertility treatment weighing 1½lb more on average by the age of nine.

Starting out in a laboratory dish instead of their mother’s body may cause children to store up more fat – meaning they could become heavier even when they eat as much as their naturally conceived peers. 

Lead researcher Dr Heleen Zandstra, from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said: ‘This is enough of a weight difference to be concerning, because overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults. 

‘We think IVF children may be predisposed to cardiovascular problems, including heart problems, in later life. 

‘They may be programmed wrongly by IVF to store food as fat throughout their lives.’ 

How the study was carried out  

Researchers from the University of Otago analysed 206 mothers and their infants.

The mothers were recruited into the study during their pregnancy and divided into two groups.

Those in the first group allowed their babies to feed themselves at six months old – the generally recommended time to introduce solid foods into youngsters’ diets.

The remaining mothers spoon-fed their babies.

Most of the mothers in the study exclusively breastfed for the first five-to-six months.

Key findings

Results revealed no difference in the rates of being overweight between babies in the self-feeding or spoon-fed group.

Yet, the study did find that babies who self-feed are less likely to be fussy eaters.

Ms Heath and Ms Taylor said: ‘It has always been assumed that if babies are allowed to control their own food intake then they will be better at judging when they have “had enough”.

‘So we were surprised that letting babies feed themselves their solids from the start, rather than being spoon-fed by someone else, didn’t seem to improve their ability to stop eating when they were full. 

‘And that they were just as likely to become overweight as babies who had been spoon-fed.

‘We were very interested to find that babies following this baby-led approach to introducing solids enjoyed their food more and were less likely to be picky eaters as one-year-olds than babies who had been spoon-fed. 

‘This is particularly interesting because the difference in picky eating was fairly large, even though the families had been randomly assigned to follow this feeding approach with their baby.’

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Self-feeding babies are less likely to be fussy eaters than those given food off of a spoon

Self-feeding babies are less likely to be fussy eaters than those given food off of a spoon

Self-feeding babies are less likely to be fussy eaters than those given food off of a spoon

Why the research is important  

The study finding contradicts previous claims that youngsters who control how much they eat are better at self-regulating their appetite and are consequently more likely to be a healthy weight.

They also debunk a common concern that self-feeding infants may not eat enough to sustain their growth. 

Amy Brown from Swansea University, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘There is no one right way to introduce solids to a baby [however] this data shows that babies who follow a baby-led approach are consuming sufficient energy and are not at increased risk of underweight which should be reassuring.

‘What is of central importance is feeding your baby responsively; looking to them for signs of hunger and fullness, and not trying to get them to finish a portion if they do not want to. 

‘This applies whether you are spoon-feeding or letting babies self-feed, and indeed is important during milk feeding and for older children, too.’ 

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