Four in ten new parents start
feeding their babies solid foods before their four-month birthday, according to
a new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Physician groups including the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommend against parents
introducing solid foods until infants are about six months
In part, that's because early
solids have been tied to obesity and other chronic conditions and because public
health experts agree it's best if mothers can breast feed exclusively for six
"Introducing solid foods early
means that the baby gets less breast milk over the course of their infancy, and
that decreases the ability to get optimal benefits, like protection against
infection," said Dr Alice Kuo, from the UCLA Center for Healthier Children,
Families and Communities.
Kuo, who wasn't involved in the new
study, told Reuters Health there's been less research on when babies are
developmentally ready to chew and swallow solid foods without choking - another
"Infants should be able to sit up
(and) take food off the spoon," said the CDC's Kelley Scanlon, who worked on the
"Sometimes if they're not ready, if
they get presented with the food, they might not open their mouth or they might
spit it back up."
Babies eating solids too early
Her team's research included 1 334
new moms who filled out questionnaires each month about what their baby had
eaten in the past week. The surveys were conducted between 2005 and 2007, when
AAP recommendations called for starting solid foods no earlier than four months
Just over 40% of parents reported
their babies were eating solids, such as cereals and purees, before that
Those parents said they thought
their babies were old enough to eat solid foods, infants seemed hungry or - in
the case of more than half of early solid feeders - doctors or nurses had
recommended they start introducing those foods.
"There's not clear communication of
the recommendations or the potential health impacts of early introduction,"
Scanlon told Reuters Health.
9% of early introducers gave their
baby solid food before one month, according to findings published Monday in
Women who reported exclusive breast
feeding during their baby's first couple of months were less likely to introduce
solid foods earlier than recommended compared to formula-feeding mothers, the
CDC researchers found.
Kuo said the new findings are
further evidence that paediatricians should tailor their messages about breast
feeding and solid foods to each particular parent and child - rather than always
giving "the same spiel" about introducing solids at the four-month
"The decision to start solid foods
in babies has to be a compromise between what makes sense for the baby and what
makes sense for the mom, who most likely is working," she