Put That Baby Spoon Down: Doctors Say Infants Fed Solid Food Too Soon

Forty percent of mothers surveyed reported giving their baby solid food before the baby was four months old. (Andy Peters/Flickr)

Forty percent of mothers surveyed reported giving their baby solid food before the baby was four months old. (Andy Peters/Flickr)

A new survey from the Centers for Disease Control finds that mothers (the CDC surveyed only mothers) are giving their babies solid food too early, despite guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the survey, or more than 1,334 women, just over 40 percent of mothers gave their babies solid food before they were four months old.

For years, the AAP had recommended that babies be at least four months old before being given solid food. But last year, it recommended that babies be breastfed — exclusively — for six months, before “complementary” foods are given. Now we see that many mothers are not even waiting the full four months.

From USA Today:

Understanding parents’ motivations is important, because a number of health problems are associated with the early introduction of solid foods, says study co-author Kelley Scanlon, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These findings “don’t offer a full understanding why, but they give us some insight,” she says.

The moms cited reasons such as, “My baby was old enough,” and, “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the head and neck control and overall coordination that infants need to safely eat solids does not develop until around 4 months. In addition, the early introduction of solids may increase the risk of some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, eczema and celiac disease, the study notes.

Giving solids too soon also ends exclusive breast-feeding, which the AAP recommends for about the first 6 months because of numerous health benefits for infants, including reduced risk of respiratory and ear infections, diarrhea, diabetes, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome.

A bit of cereal added to a bottle of formula is sometimes recommended by physicians for babies with reflux, says Lana Gagin, a pediatrician at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. She was not involved in the study. From a medical standpoint, however, “There is no good, solid evidence that it helps a baby sleep,” she says. …

“We didn’t expect to see so many (give solids) before 4 months,” says Scanlon. She says the finding in this study that 40.4% do so is higher than previous findings that range from 19% to 29%. Unlike most past studies, which surveyed mothers two or three years after they first introduced solids, the new study asked moms to recall what was fed during the previous seven days.

 

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