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Feeding Infants Solid Food Too Soon

April 1, 2013
Plain English Version

What is the right age to start giving solid food to your infant? For years doctors said babies should be at least 4 months old before they got solid food. Now they say babies should get only breast milk until they are 6 months old. If that is not possible, they should get only formula.

A new study says 40 percent of mothers are giving their baby solid food before they are four months old, with 9 percent starting as early as 4 weeks.

Many mothers say they give their infants solid food because, “my baby is old enough,” “my baby seemed hungry,” and/or “I wanted my baby to sleep longer at night.” What alarms experts the most is when mothers say a “doctor or health care worker said my baby should begin eating solid food.”

Money plays a role in feeding. Formula is expensive, especially for 4-to-6 month olds. It may be too costly for some lower income women.

Younger unmarried women with less education were more likely to use solid food earlier. Women in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program also started feeding solid foods too early.

A pediatrician said, “When a baby is ready to start eating food, he will put his hand in his mouth, and you will see him actually making chewing motions. At 2, 3 months babies cannot even hold their heads up well, and they cannot sit.” This makes it difficult, maybe even dangerous to put solid foods in their mouths.

It is best for babies to be breast fed or given formula until they are 6 months old.

Source: The New York Times

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