Sunday, February 12, 2012

Avoid Obesity and Let Babies Eat With Their Hands

Babies who feed themselves with their fingers chose less sugar and were less likely to become obese than spoon fed babies, according to a study in the British Medical Journal Open.  It was a small study based on recollection, but the findings were still interesting and give us clues about how children self regulate food.

When babies start eating solid food, parents often offer sweetened baby food or little sweet "treats", thinking babies will prefer that.  In fact, the babies who self fed chose carbohydrates like toast, pasta or potatoes and the spoon fed babies went for sweets when given a choice.

Parents worry about  providing a balanced diet and also worry if a child is eating too much of one item.  Studies show, however, that self feeding babies will actually take care of their own nutrition if all options are provided like fruits, vegetables, proteins, and iron rich foods like hard-boiled eggs or strips of meat.  Pureed baby food is often filled with added sugar and salt and processed baby food is a modern invention.   There is no need to prepare special food for toddlers and they do better just eating what the family eats.

In many parts of the world everyone uses their fingers to eat.  Allowing a baby to self feed doesn't mean she won't develop good Western table manners.   As a child develops and sees her family using utensils, she will automatically try to copy  and will learn to use a fork and spoon.

This small study should give moms and dads the freedom to let junior get messy eating.


gradydoctor said...

So interesting!

emmy said...

My oldest son refused baby food and only ever wanted table food. I ground up what we were eating in a gerry grinder until he was old enough to pick his food up himself and eat it. At the time I was scolded about it, with the doctor telling me that there was too much salt and sugar in adult food. I was also told that he should sleep on his stomach to prevent SIDS. It's amazing that everything we were told has now been replaced with the exact opposite advice.

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Emmy, you had it right.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Wonder if our restaurants should serve vittles without silverware!

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Yes for babies in highchairs. For the rest of us...forks and knives please. (unless it is Pizza...I don't understand using utensils there)

farwizadarwishadarwisha said...

Thanks a lot for this information

Coffee, Tea and Heart Disease