Moms Serve Up Solid Food Too Soon, Study Finds

Some babies are fed solids sooner than recommended, experts say.

ByABC News
March 25, 2013, 12:45 PM

March 25, 2013— -- Many mothers in the U.S. start infants on solid foods -- including peanut butter, meat, and french fries -- earlier than experts recommend, and half of them do so with their doctor's support, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that 40.4 percent of U.S. mothers interviewed from 2005 to 2007 said they introduced solid foods to infants before they were 4 months old -- that represents an increase of about 29 percent from earlier studies, the researchers reported today in the journal Pediatrics.

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More than half of the mothers (55 percent) cited a doctor's advice as one of the reasons for introducing solids before 4 months.

"With multiple sources of information on infant feeding and care from healthcare providers, family, friends, and media, specific information on the timing of solid food introduction may be conflicting and not necessarily sensitive to the needs of mothers," the authors said.

Among mothers who introduced solid foods earlier than 4 months, the mean age of the children at introduction was 11.8 weeks, and 9.1 percent of early introducers gave solids to infants younger than 4 weeks, they added.

The authors noted that if they factored in the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) 2012 feeding recommendation to avoid giving solid foods until 6 months, 92.9 percent of their analytic sample would have been "early introducers."

Solid foods included dairy {other than milk) such as yogurt, soy foods (other than soy milk) such as tofu, infant cereals and starches, fruits and vegetables, french fries, meat and chicken, fish, peanut butter or nuts and sweets.

Introducing solids early may increase the risk of some chronic diseases, the authors noted, including diabetes, obesity, eczema, and celiac disease.

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The study used monthly 7-day food-frequency questionnaires throughout infancy to pinpoint infant age when solid food was introduced, and to classify whether the child was breastfed only, given only formula, or both at the time of solid-food incorporation.

Besides doctor's advice, other reasons cited for starting solid foods before 4 months included:

Among early introducers, 52.7 percent exclusively formula-fed their infants; 50.2 percent mixed formula with breastfeeding, and 24.3 percent only breastfed.

Younger, unmarried, less educated, and Women Infants and Children (WIC) recipients were more likely to introduce solids, the authors said. Women who had delivered more than one child comprised 70.9 percent of early introducers. Only 29.1 percent of early introducers were first-time mothers.

The AAP recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for their first 6 months and that breastfeeding be maintained throughout the first year.