Think you're giving your baby the best start in life by making your own homemade baby food? Think again, moms and dads — those organic, whole food purees might not be as beneficial as you've been led to believe.

Study Shows Spoon-Feeding Leads to Sugary Preferences

According to a new study in the BMJ Open medical journal, the method parents use to introduce solid foods can have a significant impact on a child's future food preferences. Psychologists from the University of Nottingham determined that the traditional method of introducing solids — which involves spoon-feeding purees (whether homemade or store-bought) into the mouths of infants — may lead to a preference for sweet foods later in life.

By contrast, babies who are offered solid finger foods of their own choosing, a method referred to as baby-led weaning, tend to prefer healthy carbohydrates over sugary foods. They also learn to regulate their own food intake, which leads to a healthier BMI (body mass index). The authors of the study conclude:

"Our results suggest that baby-led weaning promotes healthy food preferences in early childhood that could protect against obesity. This finding is of note given the serious problems with childhood obesity facing many modern societies."

The Basics of Baby-Led Weaning

There are literally hundreds of books and websites devoted to teaching parents how to make their own baby food purees, and don't worry — they aren't completely useless. The idea of preparing real food for your baby, instead of buying the prepared jars that are often loaded with sugar and other unnecessary ingredients, is definitely a step in the right direction.

But baby-led weaning makes all that mashing and grinding and extra work unnecessary. Instead of spending hours in your kitchen making special purees, just offer baby soft pieces or strips of age-appropriate foods. You can still cook for your baby, and fresh, seasonal foods are still the best choices, but your focus should be on foods baby can feed himself, rather than foods you have to feed him with a spoon. The basics of baby-led weaning include:

  • waiting until baby is developmentally ready for solid foods, which typically occurs when he is about 6 months old.
  • skipping purees completely and starting instead with pieces of soft foods, such as banana or avocado.
  • offering food to baby, but letting her decide if she wants to play with it or eat it.

Should We Skip Spoon-Feeding Completely?

Confused? You're not alone. Many parents find themselves frustrated by the conflicting information they receive about how and when to start solids, and advice still varies from doctor to doctor. As with just about every other aspect of parenting, this is one where we're all going to have to do our homework, and then make our own decisions about what works best for our families and our babies.

More Resources for Starting Solids

Who knew baby food was such a hot topic? Do you make your own, or is that a waste of time? And what do you think of baby-led weaning? Come on… we know you have opinions, tell us what you think!