What's for dinner?
Apparently too much food according to a new study published in Pediatrics showing many babies are eating rather than simply drinking their dinners. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends parents introduce solids after 6 months a few years ago when 1,334 mothers participated in a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the recommended age was 4 months. The survey found 40 percent of mothers slipped their babies real food before 4 months and 92 percent before 6 months, the latter a clear violation of today's tougher standards. Uh oh.
Cue the headlines.
A 'worrisome' risk: Most babies are fed solid food too soon, study finds, NBCNews.com
Four in 10 Babies Given Solid Foods Too Early, Study Finds, USA Today
Survey: Parents Risk Babies' Health By Feeding Them Solid Food Too Early, NPR
Get the message? Bad mommies. Bad, bad mommies.
Oh they had their reasons. Common excuses for pushing food included:
My baby seemed old enough
My baby seemed hungry
I wanted my baby to sleep longer at night
Gasp, how dare they! Hold on, it gets worse:
A doctor or health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food
Kelley Scanlon, an epidemiologist at the CDCs who just happened to co-author the study was not happy about that last bit. “It makes me want to know more about the other advice that those parents were getting on infant feeding,” Dr. Scanlon told the New York Times. I could not agree more.
So why the unhappiness? More food means less boob. The current study found only about 24 percent of mothers who breastfed gave food before 4 months compared to the 53 percent of formula feeders who did earlier than recommended. This story is more about breastfeeding than the dangers of babies eating too much rice cereal with mashed banana. In fact, the push for more breast milk was the AAP's primary motivation behind raising the recommended age at first bite so to speak from 4 to 6 months last year.
Sure, there is some rather tepid indirect evidence linking early solids to a number of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and eczema. Too much of it runs along the lines of asking women to recall what they fed their infants then pretty much ignoring what their kids ate for a decade or more. It's not much evidence to make mothers hold off on cereal for two more months. Perhaps not enough for some pediatricians to strictly enforce 6 months.
Certainly not enough evidence to make moms feel guilty.
However, there is growing evidence that delayed introduction to foods could put children at risk for some food allergies including eggs, nuts, fish and wheat. Introducing wheat before 6 months in particular appears to lower risk of wheat allergies. We'll be reading more about food allergies and timing of first exposure in the future. Some foods appear to be protective when given early, others risky. Research may soon suggest optimal time frames for when children, babies included should be first exposed to a number of certain foods as a means for reducing risk of food allergies. Yet not a single article of the many I perused on this study referred to a single risk of delayed solids though they all reported several risks of early solids.
Prevalence and Reasons for Introducing Infants Early to Solid Foods: Variations by Milk Feeding Type. Pediatrics, online March 25, 2013
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