• Tue, Jan 7 - 12:00 pm ET

Study Claims Spoon Fed Babies Are More Likely To Be Overweight So Let Them Mash Their Bananas In Their Hair

154393279All of you spoon-wielding parents out there, say goodbye to the “Here comes the choo-choo” while you attempt to feed your baby some mushy peas. According to a new study by Swansea University found infants weaned using a baby-led approach were “significantly more” able to stop eating when they felt full and were less likely to be overweight. Compared to babies who were fed by a spoon. The study examined the eating habits of 298 babies – first looking at how they were introduced to solid foods between 6 and 12 months, and then later examined these same babies at between 18 and 24 months. The babies who self-fed weighed less than the babies who were spoon fed by their parents. From The Telegraph:

These results were independent of other factors such as mother’s background, birth weight, weaning age and breastfeeding.

She said: “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.”

This all makes sense but would any parent be willing to trust their infant with a bowl of rice cereal and no parental guidance? Plus, I’m always sort of skeptical of these studies because you know who fed us all when we were babies? Our parents. And do you know who fed our parents? Our grandparents. And basically none of them ever cared or paid any mind to studies like this because they were too busy trying to get us to eat strained carrots and go to sleep so they could not strap us into carseats and not worry about whether they were being helicopter parents or free-range parents.

I think letting your baby feed themselves is awesome and most parents, when given the opportunity, gladly do so just so they can have three minutes to scarf down their own sad cheese sandwich and throw a load of laundry in, but for the parents who insist on driving the mashed bananas into their babies mouth so they don’t make a mess? I’m sure those babies will have their weight determined by a lot of other factors later in life other than just the fact someone fed them from a spoon. I think it’s something to be mindful of, and by all means, let your baby enjoy some fistfuls of Cheerios, but I wouldn’t throw out all of your tiny flatware yet.

(Image:getty)

 

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  • Tinyfaeri

    My daughter learned to cry with her mouth shut to not eat baby food by 7 months old, no matter how cute or enthusiastic my choo choo train, spaceships, missiles or alien food-shooting ray guns were. Though eating it with her hands, or in popsicle form with juice, or with heaps of hopes and prayers because I went nuts with the bulk buying, was also a no-go. I’m sure there’s a study out there saying we’ve done her irrevocable harm, but the local food bank made out like a bandit.

  • Blueathena623

    Its hard for me to envision over feeding a baby, because my kid has never, ever, ever had a problem letting us know he wasn’t interested in eating. Its quite easy to tell when he is finished, even before he learned “all done”.

    • Kay_Sue

      I can’t really imagine that either. Both of mine developed a nice “lockjaw” technique. Good luck getting through there, they were more secure than Fort Knox…

    • Toaster

      The “spoon grab and fling” works pretty well in our house.

    • AlexMMR

      We call that “dentist face”

    • Bethany Ramos

      I’ve been an aggressive feeder with both of my sons because I get so frustrated when I make all of this food, and a baby won’t eat it! Fingers crossed that I haven’t destroyed their lives, but like you said, most of the time, they will turn their heads and refuse to eat when they’re done.

    • ChickenKira

      We have the clamp lips together and look out the window method here. Works very well.

  • Kay_Sue

    Well damn. Here I have blamed my son for being difficult, when really he was just trying to make sure that he would have a healthy weight later in life. Should have known!

  • Janok Place

    Oh they can kiss my super-tiny spoon and suck it up. Unless they are volunteering to do all my mopping, scrubbing, and laundry. Then, it’s cool.

    • Rachel Sea

      You need a dog. You never have to scrub mashed food off the floor, the high chair, or the baby when you have a dog.

    • MerlePerle

      My 7 month old was happily chomping on his banana today when we were visiting a friend. I then realized I had to clean up after him because there wasn’t a furry food-vaccuum waiting…

    • Janok Place

      Oh I have multiple dogs… and none of them will eat fruits or veggies. Cheerios? No probs ma! We got this! And my dogs are not allowed on the high chair, table (which is the same height) or kitchen chairs. We have a four on the floor policy. The one who can reach the chairs and table, with four on the floor, is far too wise to do so.

    • Rachel Sea

      Ah, then you need less picky dogs. I put the high chair tray on the floor, and let the dogs go to town. Dog spit is easier to clean up than dried oatmeal. I also stripped the baby down to his diaper to save on laundry. I don’t think he ate while dressed (with me) until he was 2.

    • Janok Place

      Hahaha this I totally employ in the warmer months. Infact, naked running around the screened in porch with a bowl of whatever on a coffee table is my summer practice. However, Canada, old drafty farm house… layers… many layers. Makes me so sad when we pull out spaghetti :(

    • Bethany Ramos

      I’m going to be 100% honest. More often than not, we don’t even try to clean up the dog spit off the high chair tray. It’s an immune booster, right??

    • Rachel Sea

      Totally. Plus, odds are the dog licks the baby’s mouth so often, a little more from the high chair try doesn’t matter.

    • Betty

      Ha ha!!! I do this after EVERY meal as well!! The dogs have come to expect it and wait for the tray!!! I LOVE DOGS!!!

    • ChickenKira

      My daughter is a great lover of baked salmon at the moment. My cat has developed this possessed look of sitting under the high chair looking up with her eyes open wide and mouth open. Like a possessed statue of a demon cat.

  • Diana

    I know plenty of parents who did this and it seems to work well. Their kids are healthy and eat almost anything anyway. It can get a bit messy however. I don’t understand your argument for skepticism. Most of us were fed this way so the study must be wrong? I know that Mommyish hates anything that smacks of hippies but I swear these aren’t crusty, new age people, they’re middle class and square like the rest of us.

    • Janok Place

      Hey hey now, that’s not true. I’m a bonafide hippy, grow my own food, milk my own cow type and everyone’s nice. I think maybe it’s the excess cleaning and guilt-finger-pointing that poses an issue. Totally cool if parents want to let the mash up begin, but telling the spoon users they’re contributing to a lifelong battle of obesity is a bit of a stretch.

    • Blueathena623

      Well, the telegraph article that Mommyish is linking too is a bit on the sketchy side in that the picture shows a grossly overweight baby/toddler that is not associated with the study. Its also a little odd to read things about how such and such can contribute to obesity in life when the oldest participants are two.

  • Emily Wight

    Since mine refuses to eat anything but peanut butter on toast, which I do not feed him with a spoon, I am going to take this study to mean that I am doing an awesome job.

    • SusannahJoy

      Yay! Go you!

    • pineapplegrasss

      Oh lol. Mine refused anything but pnut butter for a while too. He would lick it right off the toast then want me to spread more on. People still look at me strange when they see me get the pnut butter out of the cabinet and give him a big spoonful and send him on his way, then he’ll bring his spoon back for a refill. At least its healthy :)

    • Emily Wight

      Right? Fat and protein. We’re nailing this.

  • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

    Huh. My mom read something to that effect back in 1980 or so, because she always talks about how one should just let a baby feed itself and not hold the spoon for it. I have no idea what she did about messes, though. That part of the equation has been amnesiaed away.

  • Rachel Sea

    It does make sense. Only the baby knows when they are sated, and it isn’t terribly hard to learn to overeat (I’m sure I’m not the only person here who is recovering from a clean-plate upbringing). It’s not like they’re saying spoon feeding equals obesity, just that it adds a risk factor. We’re such an overweight country, it’s good to know about any risk for obesity so you can make an informed decision about whether to avoid it or not.

  • ted3553

    when my guy was 6 months, I wouldn’t have left him to feed solely with a spoon as he wasn’t coordinated enough. He always let me know he was full though when he closed him mouth and turned away. Not sure how you overfeed that. By the time he was 8-12 months, we stuck a spoon in his hand and sometimes he used it, some times he used his hands.

  • SusannahJoy

    I find it really hard to believe that the fact that I use a spoon is going to have a greater influence on my baby’s weight than the fact that I cook healthy dinners, go for a walk and a run everyday, and spend all weekend hiking.

    • zeisel

      Exactly. My mom used all the tricks in the book with spoon feeding and I think at times was stubborn with us, which I think might have developed a food adversion to beets. Anyway, back to what you stated… My brother and I were fed the same way and he is overweight- he eats his lunches from convenience stores and dinners from buffets and he’s very sedentary . I have a completely different lifestyle/food choices and I’m a healthy weight. I’ve noticed my mom trying to feed my toddler (have stopped her in the process) with the same determination she’s described using with us and I think that is not good; however just plain old spoon feeding at a slow pace and following their cues is not going to do anything damaging. Seriously.

    • Rachel Sea

      Who said greater influence? It’s just one of many risk factors.

  • JL

    How do you explain my twins then?? The one that was spoon-fed longer is skinny as a rail and the one who moved to finger foods first is a chunky monkey?

    • Rachel Sea

      Easy, statistics don’t apply to individuals, they apply to populations. Your sample size is too small.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    When my son is done eating, not even an act of God can get him to take another bite. So meh.

  • Drstephaniedvm

    I did the no spoon thing with my twins and skipped the whole puréed food. Chunks of food make less mess than a bowl of mush. I did it mostly out of laziness though, spoon feeding two babies didn’t seem like an improvement over bottles. Throwing food in front if them and letting them have at it on the other hand was entertaining and gave me a break :-) as I bonus I now have two 2yos that eat anything.

    • Hyperbolme

      No spoon for mine either until they were around 18 months and could use it themselves. I’m way too lazy. I still remember hand vacuuming up couscous and lentils and cheerios though, so it wasn’t all wine and roses.

    • Drstephaniedvm

      Two dogs :-) plus they ate outside a lot in the begining!

    • Hyperbolme

      Okay, I’m mostly on board with the whole “lazy parenting” method, but I just have to point out that you have to walk the dogs, right? I’d much, much rather walk a dog than spoon-feed a wiggly baby, but still. We’re gonna work our ass off at motherhood one way or another. Pick your poison.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    ok but what the hell am I supposed to do about my 2.5 year old who still prefers me to feed her? We did baby-led weaning mostly, but at some point we started insisting on cutlery for some things, and she knows how to work a fork and a spoon but halfway through a meal she asks for help. am I dooming her if I help? ugh.

    • Drstephaniedvm

      We put the food on the utensil then hand it over when this happens.

    • Jayamama

      Of course you’re not dooming her. BLW is supposed to be about less stress, so just take a deep breath. :) We still often feed my (just turned) two-year-old certain foods on a spoon if we don’t have time to clean up a mess, such as yogurt. It’s all part of a process. Encourage her to do it herself, but I wouldn’t make it into a fight. The point is that mealtime be enjoyable. I agree with Drstephaniedvm. Just make her do half, if you need to.

    • Rachel Sea

      I don’t think her desire to be fed is problematic as long as she is asking for help because her hunger is greater than her coordination. Some kids do exaggerate helplessness for attention, in which case it’s worth trying to figure out whether she really wants more spoonfuls because she is hungry, or if it’s just for the interaction. Regardless, this is is just one out of countless risk factors, so even if sometimes more food does go into her than she needs, this one thing won’t doom her.

  • Jayamama

    I followed baby-led weaning with my now two-year-old, and she did great. The idea that babies must be fed by a spoon originated when babies were becoming malnourished because of low-quality formula years ago. Babies’ diets were being supplemented with rice cereal at four months or earlier, when they didn’t have the coordination to feed themselves and they still had the protective reflex of thrusting everything out of their mouths with their tongues, so they needed to be fed with a spoon. (Rice cereal has basically no nutritional value, it turns out.)

    Now that breastfeeding is making a comeback and formula is much higher quality, most babies don’t need any sort of solids until 6 months, when they’re better able to handle more textures and their tongue-thrust reflex is gone. So it makes sense to let them try to feed themselves little bits of whatever the rest of the family is eating. I like to compare it to nature. A mama cow, for example, doesn’t force the calf to eat the grass. She simply leads him to the grass that she wants to eat and lets him nibble it at his leisure. When he’s ready, he’ll start to eat more grass and less milk, until he’s weaned. Why do we decide to forcefeed our children instead?

    The benefits in the long term, such as being able to decide when they’re full, being open to trying more things later, and less choking, are totally worth a little bit more mess in the short term. And since breastmilk or formula is supposed to still make up the majority of their diet until they’re a year old, you can just offer whatever you’re eating and not worry about whether they’re eating or just playing. It’s a less-stress, less-hassle, healthier way to wean, and we loved it.