Pureed Baby Food Is 'Unnatural'
Spoon-feeding babies pureed food is unnatural
and unnecessary, a childcare expert has warned.
Gill Rapley, deputy director of Unicef's UK Baby
Friendly Initiative said feeding babies in this way could cause
health problems later in life.
She said children should be fed only with breast
or formula milk for six months, then weaned onto solids to improve
control over how much they ate.
This could prevent babies becoming picky about
Mrs Rapley has spent 25 years as a health visitor,
and she said: "I found so many parents were coming to me with
the same problems - 'my child is constipated, my child is really
picky' - and they couldn't get them on to second stage baby food."
From these observations and her own studies she
developed her feeding programme, called Baby-Led Weaning.
According to this programme, during the first
six months babies should receive milk only.
She said: "In 2002 the World Health Organisation
backed research that found breast or formula milk provided all
the nutrition a baby needs up to the age of six months.
"That research said feeding a baby any other
food during the first six months would dilute the nutritional
value of the milk and might even be harmful to the baby's health."
These findings have been incorporated into government
recommendations on baby feeding.
After six months, Mrs Rapley said babies were
capable of taking food into their mouths and chewing it.
Therefore, feeding them pureed food at this time
could delay the development of chewing skills.
Instead, she said, they should be given milk
and solid pieces of food which they could chew.
Mrs Rapley argued that babies fed pureed food
had little control over how much food they ate, thus rendering
them vulnerable to constipation, and running a risk that they
would react by becoming fussy eaters later in life.
She blamed the food industry for convincing parents
that they should give children pureed food.
She said: "Sound scientific research and government
advice now agree that there is no longer any window of a baby's
development in which they need something more than milk and less
Professor David Candy, a paediatric gastroenterologist
with the Royal West Sussex NHS Trust, said this programme could
be a good idea.
But he warned that it was difficult to set an
exact age at which babies should be given solids, as individuals
develop eating skills at different rates.
Purees could help some babies make the transition
between liquid and solid foods more easily.
He said: "Some babies could manage this, but
others may not have the oromotor skills necessary to chew the
food - they would just push it out of their mouths."
Roger Clarke, director-general of the Infant
and Dietetic Foods Association which represents members of the
food industry, said the research needed to be looked at carefully.
But he agreed a "one size fits all" policy on
baby-feeding was not appropriate.
He added generations of parents had relied on
baby foods to provide a "safe, sound nutrition" for their babies.
A Unicef spokesperson said that Gill Rapley was
speaking in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the charity.