The Pros and Cons of Allowing Babies to Feed Themselves

Once babies discover that they can feed themselves, they want to do so. Parents often discourage this. However, over the last few years, some people have begun questioning if this is right. A study in New Zealand has found an answer to this.

They recruited pregnant women and randomly assigned them to one of two groups. Both the groups received standard midwifery and child care. But, from pregnancy to the ninth month of the newborn, one group was given eight more contacts- five with a lactation consultant and three with research staffers.

The lactation consultant encouraged them to continue breast-feeding alone for 6 months, and introduce solid foods only after this period. The research staffers encouraged them to look for hunger and fullness signs from their 6+ month babies and provide them with iron- and energy- rich foods.

Throughout the second half of the first year of the baby’s life, the researchers, frequently checked for parents’ adherence to the baby-led approach, and collected results.

They found no significant differences in the B.M.I. of the kids at 12 or 24 months. The positive was that babies ate on their own. The negative is that over 10 percent of the babies fed through the baby-led approach were overweight by 2 years of age. Being overweight as a child leads to overweight in adulthood. So, this is a major concern.

This study suggests that if left to self-feeding and supplied with food in more than enough quantities, babies will overeat. So, still intervention is needed. However, they also found two good things about baby-led weaning. The first thing is that it raised kids who seemed to enjoy their food more. The second thing is, they were less fussy regarding what they ate.

But to address the issues of overweight and obese kids, going by the baby-led approach is not the way.

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