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Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
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Spoon-Feeding Not Necessarily Safer for Infants

HealthDay News
by -- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Updated: Dec 15th 2017

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Dec. 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- When babies are ready to eat solid foods, those who feed themselves some finger foods are no more likely to choke than babies who are spoon-fed, new research found.

The British study involved more than 1,100 mothers with babies 4 to 12 months old. The women reported how they introduced solid foods to their child, what foods they gave their baby and whether the baby had ever choked while eating.

There was no difference in the frequency of choking incidents among babies who were allowed to feed themselves some finger foods and those who were strictly spoon-fed, the study found.

Babies today often are introduced to solid foods when they're about 6 months old -- a few months later than what was once common, according to the study's authors. Research has shown that waiting longer to offer solid foods can help reduce the risk for certain health issues, such as gastroenteritis. The researchers also noted that older babies are better able to sit up and swallow, and that makes choking less likely.

"Following a baby-led weaning approach where you allow your baby to simply self-feed family foods, rather than preparing special pureed or mashed foods to spoon feed, has been growing in popularity over the last 10 years in the U.K. and other countries," said study author Amy Brown. She's an associate professor of child public health at Swansea University in Wales.

"However, some people have expressed concerns over whether this is safe, and might put babies at risk of choking," Brown said in a university news release.

Despite the study's findings, Brown said it's still a good idea for parents to follow certain guidelines when offering their young children finger foods. Her research department offered this advice:

  • Let babies eat at their own pace. Also give them various foods so they'll get used to different tastes and textures. Having more control over their meals may help babies enjoy eating and encourage them to try a variety of foods.
  • Do not offer babies foods that are known choking hazards. This includes whole nuts, raw apple slices and chunks of carrots. Also do not give babies sticky or gummy foods, such as gelatin cubes or sausage. Such foods should not be given to children younger than 5 years old.
  • Always supervise babies while they're eating. Pay close attention when babies are eating slippery foods, such as bananas, melon and avocados. When cut into large chunks, these foods can be swallowed whole and become a choking hazard. Very dry, lumpy purees can also get stuck in a baby's throat.

The study was published online Dec. 5 in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more information on giving babies solid foods.