The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life, so why are so many parents in a rush to give their babies solid food earlier? A new study, published in Pediatrics, surveyed more than 1,300 mothers to find out.
Almost 93 percent of moms introduced solid food before 6 months, with more than 40 percent choosing to do so before 4 months. The most commonly cited reason was “my baby was old enough to begin eating solid food” (88.9 percent), followed by “My baby seemed hungry a lot of the time” (71.4 percent); “My baby wanted the food I ate or in other ways showed interest in solid foods” (66.8 percent); “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula” (64.8 percent); and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night” (46.4%). Those who breastfed exclusively were less likely to introduce solids too early.
Moms aren’t getting the message to wait from their family doctor, often the main source of information for new parents. A full 55.5 percent of the survey's respondents said they introduced solids at the recommendation of a doctor or health care professional.
“Pediatricians may need to spend more time helping mothers understand that an infant being fussy or crying doesn’t necessarily mean they are hungry, and that infants aren’t developmentally ready for solid foods until at least 4 months,” says study co-author Cria Perrine, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The study did not examine whether pediatricians are sharing outdated information, or just somehow not getting through to parents on the latest guidelines.
Although our parents’ generation introduced solids much earlier, experts today know that pushing solids too early can lead to a host of problems down the road. “It’s associated with shorter durations of breastfeeding, leading to many infants missing out on the benefits of breastfeeding,” says Perrine. “The AAP also advises that most infants don’t have the head and neck control to be able to eat safely until at least 4 months.” There is also some evidence to suggest that introducing solids too early increases a child's risk of obesity, diabetes and eczema.
When did you give your baby solids? What was your reason for introducing them when you did? Leave a comment.