- Some spoon-fed babies who are being forced to overeat by their parents tend to become overweight or obese.
- Almost 20% of the spoon-fed babies were overweight by the time they were two, compared with just eight percent of self-fed babies.
- Babies allowed to feed themselves stopped eating when they became full, meaning they were less likely to overeat.
Babies who are spoon-fed by their parents tend to become overweight or obese compared to babies who are allowed to feed themselves, according to a study.
Research found more than twice as many babies spoon-fed from six months were overweight by the time they were toddlers compared with tots who fed themselves "finger foods".
‘Spoon-fed babies are more likely to end up overweight or obese than babies who are allowed to feed themselves.’
Almost 20 percent of the spoon-fed sample group were overweight by the time they were two, compared with just eight percent of self-fed babies.
This led to an average difference in weight between the two groups of 2lbs, independent of other factors like birth weight, weaning age, breastfeeding and mother's background.
Professor Brown suggests babies allowed to feed themselves stopped eating when they became full, meaning they were less likely to overeat.
The study also found that babies allowed a range of solid foods from the age of six months - a process known as "baby-led weaning" - were often trim, healthy and adventurous eaters.
In contrast, she said parents could be overfeeding their babies by making them finish a meal, despite them rejecting the food
Professor Brown, an associate professor at Swansea University, said: "Let them eat as little as they want. A jar of baby food is too big for what a little baby needs.
"When you are waving the spoon around and saying 'here comes the big aeroplane - let's finish it', if they clamp their mouth shut, forget about it. They will not starve."
And addressing the issue of messy mealtimes, she added: "Kids need to learn about food. "They need to find out, for instance, what happens if they squash it or drop it on the floor."
Let Your Baby Feed Themselves
Professor Brown's advice is similar to that of doctor Benjamin Spock, who recommended in the 1960s that babies should be allowed to feed themselves from as young as possible.
In the early 2000s, the Department of Health released advice suggesting that babies should be fed a mixture of purees and finger foods from the age of six months
That advice remains today, with current NHS weaning guidelines suggesting babies should be offered soft finger foods that they can feed to themselves, alongside spoon-fed purees from six months old.
Finger foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables.
Parents can then introduce more advanced foods later, including small pieces of meat and rice.
A statement on the NHS website explained: "It's a really important step in their development and it can be great fun to explore new flavors and textures together.
Babies don't need three meals a day to start with - so you can begin by offering foods at a time that suits you both."