TUESDAY, Feb. 7, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Allowing babies who are being weaned to feed themselves with finger foods rather than spoon-feeding the baby with pureed foods may reduce their risk for obesity later on, according to new research.
The study, which included 155 children aged 20 months to 6.5 years, found that those who were allowed to feed themselves were more likely to eat a healthier diet and maintain a normal weight as they got older.
The researchers questioned parents about their children's weaning style and food preferences. Of the children followed, 63 were spoon-fed and 92 were allowed to feed themselves ("baby-led" weaning).
According to the results, published online Feb. 7 in BMJ Open, the spoon-fed babies were more likely to become overweight than the babies who had fed themselves. These findings did not appear to be due to other factors that play a role in children's weight, such as birth weight, parents' weight or economic status, the researchers noted.
The study also revealed that children in the baby-led group liked carbohydrates best, while the spoon-fed babies preferred sweet foods. The researchers said, however, the babies who ate spoon-fed purees were offered carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, proteins and whole meals, such as lasagna, more often than the other children.
"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," Ellen Townsend of the school of psychology at the University of Nottingham in England, and her colleague wrote in their report. "This has implications for combating the well-documented rise of obesity in contemporary societies."
The texture and presentation of finger foods, particularly carbohydrates, probably played a role in the study results, the investigators noted in a journal news release.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about getting started with solid foods.