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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 09:57 GMT
Weaning late develops fussy eaters
Baby feeding
Delaying the introduction of chewy foods can lead to fussy eating
Parents who delay introducing their babies to chewy food could find they grow up developing food fads, according to researchers.

Scientists from Bristol University found that babies should be introduced to a more varied diet between the ages of six to nine months to prevent them becoming fussy eaters.

They discovered that delaying the introduction of more chewy foods with lumps in it could make children much more choosy about the foods they would eat later.

Pauline Emmett, senior nutritionist on the "Children of the 90's project" based in Bristol, said problems could arise if parents missed this window of opportunity to expand their child's taste buds.

Children will spit things out but parents must not be worried about it and should keep trying

Pauline Emmett, senior nutritionist, in Bristol

She said: "Previous research has suggested babies are ready to learn to chew food at between six and nine months of age and problems might arise if this ideal time was missed."

The group, which monitors the health and development of more than 10,000 children, found most children were introduced to lumpy food by the age of six months.

About 10 per cent were introduced before the age of six months.

Fussy eaters

But Mrs Emmett said that 20% of the children were not introduced to lumpy food until they were ten months and that this group went on to eat less varied foods.

She said: "By 15 months more than half of these children were said to be difficult to feed at times compared to a third of the other children.

"They were also twice as likely as the other children to have definite likes and dislikes."

Babies who had been introduced to solid foods earlier then moved on to eat more of the staple foods like eggs, cheese, meat, fish and vegetables.

The others tended to continue to keep "baby foods" in their diet up to and even beyond their first birthday.

The study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics suggested that mothers of six-month-old babies should not delay too long from moving from a semi-liquid diet to introducing more lumpy food.

Weaning babies

Mrs Emmett said it was important that parents do not give up too easily when weaning their babies.

She said: "Children will spit things out but parents must not be worried about it and should keep trying."

Collette Kelly, a nutrition scientist, with the British Nutrition Foundation, said they believed introducing babies earlier will help them develop varied tastes.

She said: "We do believe this. A lot of mothers do introduce weaning foods earlier, but we believe six months is a good time.

"The children become accustomed to different foods and that is important for later life."

Ms Kelly added that good foods to start with included toast, whole meal bread, fruits and vegetables and hard boiled eggs, which could be eaten as finger foods.

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