Babies Eat with their Hands

Tuesday, April 9, 2013, Just Add Light and Stir, I posted:

Children reach for food

Because of La Leche League and natural weaning, and the idea that children will reach for food when they want some, so you don't have to schedule and spoon it into them, it was easy for me to see the smallest seedling-root beginnings of how our culture creates the eating disorders they bemoan. Letting kids decide what THEY think is good and bad, instead of labelling things good and bad in advance for them, allows a child to think spinach is wonderful but donuts are kinda yucky. (footnote)

Without choices, they can't make choices. Without choices they can't make good choices OR bad choices. In too many people's minds, "good" is eating what parents say when parents say (where and how and why parents say). That doesn't promote thought, self awareness, good judgment or any other good thing.

Food is for health and sustenance. Eating with other people can be a social situation, ranging (on the good end) from ceremonial to obligatory to courtesy. There's no sense making it hostile or punitive.
photo by Sandra Dodd

After the post above went out, I got an e-mail, and left this comment (which is still there):

Someone sent me a note about this post that said:

A health visitor's visit whilst my baby was eating weetabix. The health visitor told her to use a spoon to eat and not her fingers. I was surprised, but too intimidated to say that I wanted my child to enjoy eating, and what difference did it make how she ate it as long as she enjoyed it?

For that person and anyone else who needs the info, here's an article about a study that says to let babies eat with their hands, and not spoonfeed them:

Avoid obesity and let Babies Eat with their Hands

It makes sense. How can a baby learn about his food if he doesn't get to smell it, see it, touch it?

But the study wasn't about learning. It was about healthy choices in a natural way, and about avoidance of obesity.

That blog is entirely gone, and I can't bring a working link, but was able to gather this from what I could see:

The study to which she refers is summarized here: Weaning on finger foods rather than spoon-fed purees may help children stay slim

The full published report is Baby knows best? The impact of weaning style on food preferences and body mass index in early childhood in a case–controlled sample
Ellen Townsend, Nicola J Pitchford under "Nutrition & metabolism

Dr. Toni Brayer has a newer blog, but that article wasn't carried over.

Follow-up on spinach vs. donut

Logically, that spinach and donut thing is true; without choice, one can't choose, and pressure creates aversion, and so forth. As to biology and human development, though, a baby is very unlikely to like spinach, because it's bitter. Babies need more sugar than people at other stages. Breast milk is very sweet. The donut will win, the child will be thrilled, entertained, fed, and milk will taste GREAT with or after that donut.

Live lightly; live lovingly.


References, thoughts, facts about the realities of sugar, with new writing by Brie Jontry, 2022

The Full Plate Club