Do you tend to feed your baby with tasty snacks simply to soothe his or her tantrums? Beware, it can result in quick, rapid weight-gain which may increase the risk of developing cardiometabolic disease later, researchers have warned.
"In many ways, the baby's behaviour is influencing the parents' behaviour. If a parent wants to stop their child from crying, and they know that food will do that, they may use that strategy, particularly if other methods are not working," said Cynthia Stifter, Professor at the Pennsylvania State University in US.
The study found that the kids with surgent temperament -- characterised by being more outgoing, active and drawn to new things and people -- are more likely to be effected.
These kids tend to get bored easily because they are always looking for something new to capture their attention.
Parents may be tempted to use food to calm a crying baby because it is effective. But using food as a reward can ultimately lead to overeating, especially in surgent children, and be a risk for developing obesity later on, the researchers noted in a paper published in the International Journal of Obesity.
"Surgent children tend to have greater reward sensitivity than other kids -- and thus greater sensitivity in the dopamine area of the brain," Stifter said.
"So if food, which is highly rewarding, lights up that area quickly and intensely, they may make a stronger connection between food and feeling good, causing them to seek out food more often in the future," she stated.
Researchers asked 160 mothers to keep a diary about how often their babies cried and what they did to calm them when the babies were six months old.
The effect was not seen in non-surgent babies whose parents used food to soothe.