By Brooke Strickland
A recent study published in Pediatrics found that infants are beginning a solid-food diet too soon. In prior years, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that babies could start eating cereal or baby food between four and six months old. In 2012, the recommendations were changed. It’s now suggested that babies don’t start solids until they are at least six months old. The study interviewed 1,334 moms that filled out questionnaires about their child’s eating habits. The results showed that 40% of mothers were giving their babies solid food too early, with nearly one in 10 giving solids before they were four weeks old. They also found that babies that were on a formula-only diet were twice as likely to be introduced to solids earlier than babies that were fed breast milk only. Feeding an infant solid food too early can increase their risk for obesity and diabetes, and can also lead to allergies and eczema. The top reasons why mothers fed their kids solid food too early was because they thought their baby was old enough (90%) or because their baby seemed hungry a lot (71%). Others (55%) said that their doctor or nurse said it was ok. (1)
The findings clearly demonstrated that there were mixed messages on when the right time was to start solid foods. Nevertheless, the best thing to do for an infant is to breastfeed exclusively for six months. Then, start incorporating solid foods slowly. If breastfeeding isn’t possible, formula is the next best option and should continue for six months before introducing solids. There are also some general questions you can ask to see if your baby is ready for solids. These include:
-Can he/she sit up and hold head up without assistance?
-Has your baby doubled his/her birth weight?
-Can your baby take food off the spoon and swallow it?
-Does your baby seem interested in food, such as following it with his/her eyes or opening the mouth when he/she sees food coming towards the mouth?
These signs will help you determine if it’s the right time to start introducing solid foods. Listen to the cues your baby is giving you, but also be mindful of what your doctor and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest. This is a winning formula for a healthy, happy baby.
Falco, Miriam. “Too-Early Solid Food Could Lead to Problems For Babies.” The Chart. March 25, 2013. http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/25/too-early-solid-food-could-lead-to-problems-for-babies/ Accessed April 23, 2013.