There are many health dangers to introducing solid foods to infants too early. They include a higher risk of food allergies, and according to a newly released study, a higher risk of becoming obese later in life too. US guidelines already advise parents to wait until between four and six months to introduce solids, and the study's research team from Children's Hospital Boston support this.
"Adhering to those guidelines could reduce the risk of obesity in childhood," lead author Dr Susanna Huh said. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, followed around 850 babies for a period of three years. Researchers questioned their mothers about breastfeeding and the introduction of solid foods when they were six months old, also asking which solids were introduced when. The participating children were then measured and weighed at three years old. Those in the highest five percent for their age and sex for BMI were classed as obese.
When babies nursed for a minimum of four months, the age at which solids were first given did not impact obesity rates at three years old, and had a one in 14 chance of being obese. But those who were breastfed for less than four months had a whopping one in four chance of being obese at age three if they also started solids before they reached four months. The babies who were not breastfed for a minimum of four months, but who did not start solids until between four and five months old, had a one in 20 chance of becoming obese by age three.
Is this really a warning against starting solids too early? Of course and the guidelines about starting solids do exist for a reason. But it is also a reminder of the importance of breastfeeding. There are also guidelines about that though. The World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding for six months no solids! Other recent news items include Breastfed children have fewer seizures? and One in eight women get breast cancer?