Turns out, many parents are spooning up the first mouthfuls of baby food to a growing infant too soon. The first study of a nationally-representative group of U.S. infants reported that many parents started feeding their babies foods or drinks other than breast milk or formula sooner than they should.
Babies, who were never breastfed or breastfed for less than four months, were most likely to be introduced to foods too early. “Introducing babies to complementary foods too early can cause them to miss out on important nutrients that come from breast milk and infant formula. Conversely, introducing them to complementary foods too late has been associated with micronutrient deficiencies, allergies, and poorer diets later in life,” explained lead investigator Chloe M Barrera.
Current recommendations stipulated that infants should be introduced to complementary foods at around six months of age. Analysing data from the 2009-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), investigators assessed the food intake of 1482 children aged six to 36 months, gathered during household interviews with the child’s proxy, typically a parent.
The survey asked how old infants were when they were first fed anything other than breast milk or formula. This included juice, cow’s milk, sugar water, baby food, or anything else that the infant might have been given, even water.
The findings underlined the need to introduce foods at the proper time to get the most benefit from breast milk or formula. “Efforts to support caregivers, families, and healthcare providers may be needed to ensure that U.S. children are achieving recommendations on the timing of food introduction,” said the researchers.