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Many infants fed solid foods earlier than recommended

Monday March 25, 2013
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A new study examines why many mothers introduce solid foods into infants’ diets earlier than 4 to 6 months of age, which is the widely recommended time frame.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from about 1,300 mothers who introduced solid food to their infants during the first year and reported their reasons for introducing solid food.

Overall, 40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before four months, with the highest percentage among formula-fed infants (52.7%) and the lowest percentage among breast-fed infants (24.3%).

Reasons commonly cited for introducing solid food earlier than recommended included: "My baby was old enough," "My baby seemed hungry," and "It would help my baby sleep longer at night." Many of the mothers said their healthcare provider gave them the go-ahead, with those who formula-fed their babies more likely to report receiving such advice from a provider.

Mothers who introduced solid food earlier than recommended were more likely to be younger, unmarried, have a lower level of education or be participating in the Women, Infants and Children federal nutrition program.

Early introduction of solid foods is concerning because babies’ bodies are not yet prepared for these foods, the researchers said, and early introduction may increase the risk of chronic diseases such as childhood obesity, diabetes and eczema. It also can mean that the many benefits of breast-feeding are cut short.

The study was published March 25 on the website of the journal Pediatrics. The study abstract is available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/18/peds.2012-2265.

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