A new trend of “baby-led weaning” gives babies control over their own diets in hopes of reducing the likelihood of future obesity.
A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that a child’s likelihood of developing Type II diabetes might be linked to his or her first introduction to solids as an infant. This has drawn attention to the question of when parents should help their child transition to eating solid foods and who should control the process.
The standard method of transitioning a baby’s diet from all liquids to including solids is to spoon-feed them smooth purees of bland food. The new trend in “baby-led weaning” rejects this method and suggests instead that parents give their child control of what goes into his or her mouth.
Those who advocate the baby-led weaning claim that this method allows for “play and exploration” and helps children develop a better self-regulation of food intake.
A study published in BMJ Open suggested that this weaning style could reduce maternal anxiety and promote healthy food preferences that could have a lasting, positive impact on children’s weight. The study found that infants who were given the opportunity to feed themselves showed more of a well-rounded liking for all food groups than spoon-fed infants did.
Skeptics note, however, that the study included a mere 155 participants and relied heavily on mothers’ memories about their childrens’ experience with early solids.
A trend that gives children more autonomy earlier on and parents a little less preparation time in the kitchen might be one worth considering. Parents should keep in mind, however, that baby-led weaning still requires parental supervision and guidance and perhaps might not be suitable for all babies.