With the number of obese infants increasing across Asia Pacific, it has been suggested a baby-led approach to feeding - where infants control their food intake by feeding themselves solid foods, instead of traditional spoon-feeding - may help tackle the problem.
To assess this, researchers at the University of Otago conducted a randomised clinical trial with 206 women. One-hundred-and-five of them were assigned to an intervention that included support from a lactation consultant to extend exclusive breastfeeding and delay the introduction of complementary foods until six months of age, when the infants were considered ready to self-feed.
The researchers then measured BMI scores at 12 and 24 months. Secondary outcomes included energy self-regulation and eating behaviours assessed with via questionnaires at six, 12, and 24 months, and energy intake assessed through three-day weighed diet records at seven, 12, and 24 months.
They found the differences between the two groups were not statistically significant.
At 24 months, five of 78 infants (6.4%) were overweight in the control group compared with nine out of 87 (10.3%) in the intervention group.
The researchers pointed out that despite high interest in baby-led approaches, very few studies had directly evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of this alternative approach to complementary feeding.
"Our results are in direct contrast with the only other study that has examined energy self-regulation, in which higher satiety responsiveness was reported in young children using [a baby-led approach]," they wrote.
"Moreover, whereas previous research has suggested that [these] infants are less likely to be overweight, and more likely to be underweight... our data does not exclude a potentially important increase in the risk for overweight."
The study concluded: "A baby-led approach to complementary feeding does not appear to improve energy self-regulation or body weight when compared with more traditional feeding practices, although some benefits may accrue in attitudes to food, including reduced food fussiness."
Source: Jama Paediatrics
“Effect of a Baby-Led Approach to Complementary Feeding on Infant Growth and Overweight - A Randomized Clinical Trial”
Authors: Rachael W. Taylor, et al