Many women disagree on several issues when it comes to feeding an infant. You have those die-hard supporters of breast-feeding, and then those who are fine with feeding their baby formula. But the CDC is pointing out that regardless of your choice of milk, introducing solid foods to a baby too early is a no-no.
For at least 20 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics had advised against feeding babies solid food before they turned at least 4 months old. Last year, encouraged by growing evidence of the health benefits of breast milk, the group raised that age, saying babies should be fed nothing but breast milk for six months. When breast milk is not an option, formula is an acceptable alternative, the group says.
In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, many mothers appear to be introducing solid food well before their babies’ bodies can handle it. In a national survey of 1,334 mothers, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent said they gave their baby solid food before they were 4 months old, with 9 percent starting as early as 4 weeks. Doctors now recommend waiting until a baby is at least 6 months old.
Introducing solid foods too early can cause health risks, according to the researchers, because babies’ bodies may not yet prepared for chewing and swallowing. Introducing solid foods too early may also suggest mothers are cutting short breast-feeding. Children who aren’t breast-fed are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, eczema, and tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalizations and prescriptions, according to the CDC.
“When a baby is ready to start eating food, he will put his hands in his mouth, and you will see him actually making chewing motions,” said Dr. T J Gold, a pediatrician with Tribeca Pediatrics in Brooklyn. “At 2, 3 months, they can’t even hold their heads up well, and they can’t sit,” making it difficult, if not dangerous, to put solid food in their mouths.
But many households are forced to introduce food at an earlier age because of financial difficulties, when they make the decision to solely rely on formula.
“The formula gets really expensive, especially in the 4-to-6-month window,” Dr. Gold said. “And if you have more than one child and you’re already preparing food for the whole family, it’s much easier to just start sweeping things off your plate.”