How Spoon-Feeding Could Set Your Baby Up for Weight Issues

An expert suggests feeding your baby with a spoon may make him or her more likely to become overweight. Is this something you should stop doing?

Spoonfeeding baby Nina Buday/Shutterstock
If you've begun feeding your baby solids, chances are you're using a plate and spoon during mealtimes. Spoon-feeding is, after all, a way for you to ensure your baby is getting his or her fill—and let's not forget that it's also far less messy than allowing your baby to take the reins during mealtime.

But according to one expert, it could be setting your baby up for a weight issue down the line. Amy Brown, PhD, an associate professor at Swansea University, covered this topic in her book, Why Starting Solids Matters. Her take? When parents spoon-feed their babies, the children aren't as likely to stop when they've had enough. We've all seen this scene before: A parent shoots a spoon airplane-style towards her baby's closed mouth and persists even when the little one tries to resist. According to Dr. Brown's theory, this sort of scenario sets your baby up to overeat—he or she knows how much food is really needed, and there's no need to push beyond that amount.

"I think when babies are spoon-fed there is more temptation to try to encourage them to eat just that little bit more, whereas when they feed themselves they are more able to stop as soon as they are full," Dr. Brown told Fit Pregnancy. "It's also about what is on the spoon—purees are easier to swallow and babies will eat them faster than if they are self feeding whole foods. Slow is good—adults who eat more slowly are [also] less likely to be overweight."

Dr. Brown suggests that baby-led weaning is the way to go for this reason: It allows children to control the amount they eat, and while it's definitely the messier option, it helps them learn about food.

Obviously, you'll need to watch your baby carefully during mealtime if you go with baby-led weaning (and you should avoid giving him or her foods that pose choking risks, like carrot sticks and grapes.)

But your baby's risk of becoming overweight isn't just about whether or not you spoon-feed, and Dr. Brown made it clear that parents who are spoon-feeding shouldn't feel discouraged by this idea.

"The message certainly isn't never spoon-feed your baby or that a spoon will make your baby overweight," she said. "The key is to take some of the lessons from baby-led weaning and apply them to spoon-feeding. Don't try to persuade your baby to finish a portion if they are full. Go slowly. Give them finger foods as well. Let them join in with meal times with you. Offer lots of different tastes and textures and let them explore. That's how healthy eating habits are formed, not simply whether they're on a spoon or not."