A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found many mothers are feeding babies solid foods earlier than the recommended age of six months, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends solid foods are introduced to infants no earlier than six months of age.
“Solid foods were being started before 4 months in about half of those kids,” said Dr. Deb Lonzer, a pediatrician from the Cleveland Clinic, who did not participate in the study. “And in about 10 percent of them, it was actually being started in the first four weeks of life.”
CDC researchers questioned more than 1,300 mothers, and found 40 percent were introducing solid foods before 4 months old.
The top three reasons for doing so included “My baby was old enough;” “My baby seemed hungry,” and “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula.”
“They get information from so many sources, from friends, to relatives, to the Internet, that they’re not exactly sure what to do,” Lonzer said. “And they figure, “Hey I may as well try some solid foods. Maybe the baby will sleep better and be happier that way.”
The AAP recommends holding off on solid foods until at least six months of age to be sure the baby is developed enough to handle them.
Babies may have trouble swallowing solid food before 6 months old, and researchers said introducing solid foods any earlier could increase the risk of some chronic diseases – as well as cut short the benefits of breastfeeding.
Lonzer said she agrees with the AAP.
“Solid foods are going to be lower in the good nutrition, and may be higher in calories,” she said. “So there’s a chance we’re causing more obesity in babies; it can cause allergies or eczema; there may be a link to diabetes.”
Lonzer said if you have a fussy baby who never seems satisfied, don’t turn to solid foods – call your pediatrician.
“So, if you have a baby who is under 6 months and is taking in enormous quantities of breast milk or formula or really seems unsatisfied with feeding or who is fussy all of the time, it may have nothing to do with feeding,” she added. “It may be a variety of other behavioral or even medical issues.”
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.