A study published in BMJ Open reveals that infants tend to eat healthier and be a healthy weight as they get older if they are allowed to feed themselves with finger foods from the start of weaning (baby led weaning), compared to infants who are spoon fed.

According to the researchers, findings from the study indicate that baby led weaning may help prevent childhood obesity. Findings from the study were based on 155 children aged between 20 months and 6.5 years, whose parents filled out a survey regarding their children’s food preferences and weaning style.

The researchers found that 63 parents spoon-fed their children pureed foods throughout weaning while 92 parents allowed their children to feed themselves with finger foods (baby led group). Considerable differences in preferences for the foods included in the questionnaire were found in only one food group.

Results from the survey showed carbohydrates were the favorite foods and were liked more among children in the baby led weaning group, while sweet foods were liked more by children in the spoon-fed group.

Spoon-fed children had been offered sweet foods, carbohydrates, proteins, whole meals, such as lasagne, and fruits and vegetables, more frequently that children in the baby led weaning group.

Children in the baby led group tended to be a healthy weight for their age, height and gender, while more children in the spoon-fed group were overweight or obese than their peers.

These findings were not explained by parental weight, socioeconomic factors, and birthweight, all of which are likely to influence a child’s body mass index (BMI).

According to the authors, carbohydrates such as toast, may improve a child’s awareness of textures, which are destroyed when food is pureed. Prior studies have demonstrated that presentation is an important factor in food preferences.

The researchers explain that the preference for carbohydrates among children in the baby led group may simply be because they are easier to chew than meat or other solids. They highlight that few children in the baby led group choked on their food.

They concluded:

“Our study suggests that baby-led weaning has a positive impact on the liking for foods that form the building blocks of healthy nutrition, such as carbohydrates. This has implications for combating the well documented rise of obesity in contemporary societies.”

Written by Grace Rattue