Feeding babies solids too early may make fat toddlers
February 7th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Feeding babies solids too early may make fat toddlers

Feeding a baby solid foods too early in life may increase his risk of becoming obese before reaching preschool, according to a new study in Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that new mothers breast-feed their babies for at least six months and introduce solid foods between 4 and 6 months. This new study finds that among formula-fed babies, those who were given solid foods before age 4 months had a higher risk of becoming obese.

The study compared obesity rates among 847 3-year-olds. Researchers found that among children who were breast-fed for at least four months, the timing of solid-food introduction did not affect their odds of becoming obese at age 3. But among babies who were formula fed or who stopped breast-feeding before the age of 4 months, introducing solid food before 4 months was linked to a sixfold increase in the odds of that child becoming obese by age 3.

"Our data support the existing American Academy of Pediatric Guidelines that suggest waiting until an infant is at least 4 months old before introducing solids. And what our study suggests is that increasing adherence to those guidelines across the U.S. population has the potential to reduce the risk of obesity in childhood," says study author Dr. Susanna Huh with Children's Hospital Boston.

The more moms work, the heavier kids get

Researchers aren't exactly sure why introducing solids early may be linked to obesity. Their best guess is that formula-fed infants are consuming more milk than breast-fed children and therefore getting more calories.

But Dr. Frank Greer, former chairperson of the AAP Committee on Nutrition, is puzzled by the fact that the researchers didn't find an increase in weight gain in the children who were introduced to solids early.

"They didn't show that there was any increase in rate of growth in the formula-fed babies before that {age 3}. It makes me wonder if this is just a marker for people that introduced solid foods between 2 – 4 months, that their overall diet is poor in general," suggests Greer.

Poor eating may have led to the weight gain by age 3, the doctor theorizes,  not the timing of the introduction of solids into the diets of babies.

More research may offer clarification, but in the meantime, it's important to remember to breast-feed your infant as long as possible and to introduce solids later rather than sooner.

soundoff (178 Responses)
  1. momof4

    I have 4 kids, and I cannot imagine why anyone would give a baby less than 4 months old any solid food without the fear of choking. They just push the food back out of their mouth anyway. None of my children ate solid food until around six months. 7 month old (breast fed), started solids around 5 1/2 months....the earliest of all of them.

    February 7, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Hthr31

    Comments like the one George made, saying that Mary was young and didn't know squat about babies, are completely inappropriate and need to stop. You all need to quit putting each other down! EVERY child is different. The fact is that unless children in this trial were all treated the same (same type and amount of food, same exercise, etc.) its difficult to believe the results. There will probably be another trial with results next year that say something totally different. Read these kinds of stories/trial results and take what you can from them but do not obsess over them.
    Just like every child is different, every parent is different so respect each other and learn from each others stories rather than putting each other down. It's not like Mary was abusing her child. Parents of larger babies or more advanced babies (sitting up early, etc.) are often told to start solids earlier. While I do not agree with putting cereal in your childs bottle I do know people who have done this.
    Part of being a good parent is being a good example so think about that when you're talking to or writing to others, please.

    February 7, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Lauren

    My son is now considered obese. He is 11 years old and does not like to eat chips or cookies or junk food at that. He gets fed home cooked meal daily. I think a lot of people are not aware that kids these days do not get Physical Education daily like decades ago when I was in school. PE was an everyday thing. Now a day it is on rotation, Yellow or Orange or Green Day, meaning music, art, or PE. As the majority of the parents are working parents and after school activities are harder to manage, if our children do not get PE daily at school the exercise is now in our hands. It is tough to work, go home, cook a home cook meal, do homework, and now we have to add exercise at night since the school no longer provides 1 hr of PE. I think all schools should require to give children 1 hr of PE a day. We all as parents used to have this growing up. Why not our children?

    February 7, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Young Parent

      I agree Lauren! We used to have daily PE, in addition to walking to school and playing outside a bunch. Now I see fewer kids walking to school, fewer kids just playing outside, kids have more homework, and PE has been cut. I wish the schools would have more physical activities and maybe dial the homework back a llittle bit.

      February 7, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • brighid

      couldn't agree more. why can't policymakers get it through their heads that kids are getting fat because they have so fewer opportunities for physical exercise than we did when we were little? it's like the schools care so much more about test scores than physical well-being and so have way too little exercise (gym & recess). also, if kids aren't going to be allowed to play outside without grown-ups, organizing more physical exercise has to be done if obesity is to be avoided. every grown-up seems to know that diet PLUS EXERCISE is necessary for avoiding obesity but every policymaker, pto, principal etc seems to ignore that fact.

      February 7, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • Kyle Kyle

      You mean being an active parent has been transferred from the school system back to the parents? It's the schools fault? Open up your cabinet and look at the junk your shoveling into your kids piehole.

      February 7, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse |


    February 7, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jack Russel

    I like my kids obese. There is just more of them to love. Plus, when we go shopping at walmart, we like all of the extra attentioin we recieve. I think my kids really enjoy it too. Why bake a chicken when I can got to KFC and feed the whole family for less money and time than if i did it in my own kitchen. I love the double crisp bucket. mmmmm!!!!!!

    February 7, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • S.

      your dumb and a huge hick

      February 7, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
  6. S.

    Plan and simple every mother should breastfeed. STOP making excuses. Start encouraging each other to do better for our kids. My kid did infant led weening. He nursed until he was 2, and he is better for it. The article should have been about breastfeeding. FORMULA is full of bug parts and other crap that is not food.

    February 7, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristina

      yeah every mother should breast feed, but some cant stupid. so dont harp on those who cant.

      February 7, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      I have PCOS and my supply started failing around 3 weeks. I pumped 9-12 times a day (after each nursing) to try and up supply. After 3 more weeks of almost non-stop nursing (poor hungry baby) I finally began supplementing after nursing sessions. Although baby was still nursing more than other babies, by 4 months she was exclusively formula fed. As was mentioned, not all mothers can breastfeed. You should probably educate yourself before you make an absolute statement. Some mothers agonize over their choice to formula feed and you have no idea. I think it is important that we do what we can to be good parents which includes making good food choices for our family and putting all the time we can into helping them be healthy and active.

      February 26, 2013 at 10:37 | Report abuse |
  7. KDW

    This study did not say it was a bad idea to use formula. Choosing to breast feed or not is a very personal decision and many factors come into play with why someone would do one or the other. I personally breast fed but I see nothing wrong with using formula if that is what works best for your family.
    Doctors have recommended waiting until after 4 months to feed solids for a long time. If you are feeding your child solids before 4 months you aren't following the advice of your doctor. Just because your baby is fussy does not mean you should give them solids. Consulting a doctor to see if there is a medical cause is a good idea. Sometimes babies are just fussy.
    Sometimes it is recommended to thicken a bottle with a small amount of rice cereal, for children with reflux or swallowing disorders. I'm not sure if this counted as introduction of solids for this particular study. If it did then doctors may need to rethink thickening for reflux. For swallowing disorders there is already a thickening agent that is used in hospitals and can be purchased for home use (thick-it). It's basically corn starch and adds no calories to the item being thickened. Babies it's recommended to use cereal because it is easier and less expensive. I'm also not sure if these thickeners have been tested for safety in infants. But it could be an alternative for children with GI and swallowing disorders. Which would be the only two groups of infants who actually need something solid before the age of 4 months.

    February 7, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. niles

    kids are not getting obese because of introducing solid food... but because of high rate of junk and fatty fried food... video games....television....less exercise....!!!!!

    February 7, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jdolbilzile

    Try getting your kids to Play more, Run around more, and get Outside more.. Stay away from junk (sugars) food, processed food, and the TV. ( More – Play, Run, Outside , Less – Sugars, Processed food, TV. )

    February 7, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Rabia

    Bottom line...breast feeeding is he best. The formulas all have corn syrup as a primary ingredient. Maybe that's what's causing all this infant obesity. I love the ppl that say they don't give their children any sugar but then say theie babies were formula fed. Their first sip was sugar!

    February 7, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yep

      Interesting, my formula doesn't have any form of corn syrup listed as an ingredient (I checked this when I first started buying and again just now). And, I buy a pretty common brand.
      I agree, breast is best, but unfortunately for us it didn't work out. I didn't have a million dollars to keep paying lactation consultants to create new and ingenious methods to convince my daughter to try to latch on (and, they were the ones who wound up convincing me to start on formula).

      I believe there are a lot of factors linked to childhood obesity. I'm willing to bet that my formula-fed baby who is being raised in a household without television or modern video games (unless she becomes hooked to Atari) and with parents who eat healthy won't end up obese. But, maybe that breastfed baby who is eventually placed in front of a t.v. half the day and is fed mostly processed foods will.

      February 7, 2011 at 16:39 | Report abuse |
    • DesertFusion

      I don't agree.
      My son was a heavy eater – and I couldn't keep up. Within his first few weeks, he was on formula to supplement the breast feeding. I can guarantee you that your assessment of the baby formula is dead wrong.
      It was low calorie, and nutritionally balanced.
      He continues to thrive to this day (and is skinny as a rail, with good eating habits).

      February 21, 2011 at 04:59 | Report abuse |
  11. Kristina

    okay so parents have nothing to do with this? ive seen parents give their babies and toddlers horrible things to eat, like fast foods! hello! thats bad even for adults. I was a breastfed baby and i was over weight. i know a few bottle fed babies that were perfectly healthy. the thing is, parents need to get their children MOVING and not let them eat things that are bad for them ALL the time.

    February 7, 2011 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Daniela

    Ok folks -we get that breast feeding is best. Sometimes though it just doesn't work out and you have to do what you have to do.

    I am adopted and was fed formula back in the early 70's and turned out just fine -and so did my brother who was also adopted. My son was not able to breast feed and was fed formula and is amazing.

    Yes, it would have been super to have had this advantage in life, but people -GET OVER YOURSELVES.

    There is such anger and evil in this world. People can be such jerks!!! UGH UGH UGH!

    And while you are at it, quit asking people if they only have "one" kid. The next person that asks me this is going to get the full on drama of how many miscarriages I have had. And never ever ever ask someone if they are "expecting"....even if you are pretty sure they are ready to deliver. Let them tell you!

    Ok, that is all for today!

    February 7, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robert

      There are some situations that require the use of formula and its understandable! The major point is that the formula should be made from more natural items and use no chemicals! It is sad when chemicals are cheaper then the natural ingredients! Companies only care about your money not how healthy you are.

      February 7, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
  13. Kyle Kyle

    I pray to little black baby Jesus every day that the fat people will all just get do hungry that they start to eat eachother.

    Then it will just be us skinny people and Black Baby Jesus to live on this earth!!!

    February 7, 2011 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Robert

    This Dr. Greer must be afraid to tell the truth or works for the Government. "Poor eating may have led to the weight gain by age 3, the doctor theorizes, not the timing of the introduction of solids into the diets of babies." It has nothing to do with timing. That is a whole bunch of BS! The truth is that the Hormones in Milk, Chemical Sugars, and all of those Nasty chemicals in the formula are making the kids fat. Since when have you found a jar of Soy Lecithin, mortierella alpina oil (oil from a fungus), corn syrup solids or reduced minerals whey in your cabinet. Just reading those chemicals from the label makes me fat! JUST READ THE LABELS of those cans of formula (48 additives)! Then you will know! What did we humans do without all of those chemicals? The companies are not out there to help us but to make a profit. If you have any compassion for your child, breastfeed!

    February 7, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PDXdeej

      Not everyone can breastfeed there bub...get off your high horse breastfeeding nazi.

      February 8, 2011 at 01:09 | Report abuse |
  15. eufauxria

    ^^ lol up there

    February 7, 2011 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Katie

    My son needed that mushy cereal at about six weeks. The pediatrician said it was too early, but he was also the one who told me not to feed my son more often than four hours apart or he would just be a lifelong "snacker." I started with just a little cereal in a lot of milk (breast milk) and gradually added more. He's nineteen now, nearly six feet tall and 140 pounds. Does that sound like a kid with a weight problem?

    I hate articles like these.

    February 7, 2011 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Karen

    Solid foods early fattens toddlers.....AND?????
    HOW MANY TAX DOLLARS WERE SPENT ON THIS PROJECT? I think with every report like this we should have the total budget spent...of OUR money...to come up with this idiocy. So, it fattens toddlers. End of story? Do they end up as fat adults? Or, does that depend on the individual. Of COURSE, it depends on the individual. Another meaningless study. Another wasted research grant. Another empty story.

    February 7, 2011 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Nita

    and the next generation will be yelling for food because everyone is anorexic!!!

    February 7, 2011 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sandy

    It's not WHEN you feed your kids, it's WHAT you feed them! Keep it to organic, whole foods – the way nature intended foods to be – not the overprocessed, boxed, pre-made crap.

    February 7, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PDXdeej

      Not that I disagree with you but not everyone has the budget ffor whole Foods nor the time and of course you gotta hope your kid likes those veggies.

      Funny how they have to try so hard to make things grow "the way nature intended", which is not necessarily in a nice tended plowed field, and most are imported from other cultures/geographies (not so nature imo)

      February 8, 2011 at 01:06 | Report abuse |
    • tom

      PDXdeej... your a loser!

      February 8, 2011 at 06:53 | Report abuse |
  20. jyo

    I think babies should be exclusively given breast milk untill 6 months. I also wanted to address another person 'KESHAV' here who seems to talk for all Indians making an 'incorrect' general statement that Indians feed solid food at young age...I am an Indian and its so not true. Most Indians moms on contrary breast feed their child. As far as I know only incompetent busy moms feed their children solid food as breast feeding is tiring and a difficult job. I am a scientist and college faculty and I breastfed my child for 1.5 years, I had to quit my job to concentrate on my child and its common norm for many asians and I think that what makes them better at studies as they have better immunity and share closer bond to moms and this probably leads to better performance. I think its no brainer.All mammals feed their young ones then why should be any different? I can understand allergies and lack of help may prevent breastfeeding and kick start introducing solid food. But its still no excuse as parents we still have to try very hard.

    February 7, 2011 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Kelsie Meadows

    I think parents who are ignorant enough to feed their child solid foods so early on are probably ignorant in the choices of the kind of foods they are feeding them as well. These are most likely the same parents who give their children processed juices, cereals, snacks, etc – which will inevitably lead to obesity. I don't have any children of my own, but nothing upsets me more than women who don't educate themselves on prenatal care or early child development!

    February 7, 2011 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Susan

    Pretty sure this is a case of correlation does not imply causation. I wouldn't worry too much about breast vs. bottle, there will be tons of other ways you will influence your kid, and they will have greater impact than this.

    February 7, 2011 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Blessed Geek

    This is crap. As far as I have observed in my ancestry, our babies have been fed solids early and even then we struggle to make our babies put on weight. And by the time we were adults, we still struggle to put on weight. No matter how much we eat.

    February 7, 2011 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. PDXdeej

    How about this...too much junk food and too little exercise makes kids fat.....people get big bucks to figure out this crap, and I'm here doing it for free.

    February 8, 2011 at 01:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Maria

    3 kids – none breasfed. All three were starving at 3 months and the formula alone just wasn't filling them up. With each child I started solid foods at 3 months, and now they are all skinny as a rail, just as I was growing up. They were always well below the 50% mark on weight, too. I am still thin to this day, and my mother said she started me on solids very very young. I personally don't think it matters when you start the solids. But if you push too much solid on the baby, instead of balancing it properly with formula, then I could see that being a problem. I've also seen little babies being fed fattening table food meant for an adult. Basically, poor nutrition choices lead to obesity, whether the person is an adult or a baby.

    February 8, 2011 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Momofthree

    Rediculous! Many toddlers are "chubby" until they start crawling/walking. All three of mine were and I started them on rice cereal around 4 mo. and slowly introduced other foods. Once they were "on the go" they slimmed right down and to this day are slim and healthy. It pretty much depends on the parent! If you are going to feed them junk and make them into a couch potato, then they will end up obese. And THAT is the parents fault. My kids are active, hardly watch TV, use their imaginations, and are happy and healthy. Toddlers can't/won't make healthy decisions. It is up to the parent!

    February 8, 2011 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Canadian mom

    As a new mother of a 4 month old girl who was born and weighed a tiny 4 pounds 13 oz, and has only been fed breast milk now weighs 12 pounds. Realistically that's all they need. With saying that, I also live in a country that grants us a year parental leave (paid) to mom's and 5 weeks off to dad's (paid) which allows us mothers to breast feed our babies for a year without having to worry about going back to work. As a Canadian citizen, our government also provides us with a lactation nurse to visit your home to help with feedings at a cost of $0.00, 7 dollar a day daycare services, along with child tax benefits and free health care including prescriptions. Personally, now this is just an new mom's opinion, I believe that natures milk is best and mom's should do their best to try and breast feed, but I also understand that not all mom's are able to given the fact that especially American mom's get next to no time off to care for their newborns. Where's the support system? If this study show's the importance of breast milk in a child's development and how formula and early solids result in obesity, something should be done to help parents make and give them the opportunity to make the right choices that benefit their children instead of leaving them high and dry without options.

    February 10, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. mclj2011

    I think it's interesting that with all the advances in medicine and science that have taken place over the last hundred years (we can sequence the human genome by the way), that Americans are still trying to figure out what to eat as a society, and how much is a good amount to eat. It seems like very often another "expert" publishes a contradictory diet scheme, and then everyone jumps on it. Where is factual, honest, and correct dietary advice for people?

    February 20, 2011 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. DesertFusion

    I don't buy this. I'd guess that poor diet might cause the weight gain, but not the early introduction of solid foods.
    My son was an "eater". He was breast fed and formula fed because my body couldn't keep up.
    At 3 months on the dot we gave him cereal. He wolfed it down.
    Then it was baby food, breast feeding, and formula.
    He was, and still is, skinny as a rail.
    He was energetic, and most baby food is fairly low calorie (single ingredients, with no added sugar).

    February 21, 2011 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Joana

    Great post,
    but you have got it wrong with feeding kids too early
    because my daughter ate solids a little early and she is still just perfect:)

    February 21, 2011 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. PT

    I agree, unless the baby isn't gaining weight or has issues where he is throwing up (sometimes the added weight of cereal helps) or isn't satisfied food should NOT be added to their diet until 4 to 6 months. I started my baby on a very small amount of cereal at 4 months only once a day. I did that for almost an entire month before adding pureed foods at 5 months. I breastfed and supplemented with formula. I think babies definitely get more calories from breastmilk plus they tend to eat more out of a bottle in general. If you are formula feeding you should take this article into consideration and possibly start them on solids more towards the 6 month mark. It makes sense. Also mothers that breastfeed in general really care about nutrition...that is one of main reasons why they do it. It's a lot of work but they want the best for their baby. I'm not saying formula fed parents don't want the best for their baby but it is easier to mix a bottle than breastfeed. I know cause I do both. McDonald's is also easier than cooking a nutritious meal also.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PT

      I meant they get more calories from formula. Sorry.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:46 | Report abuse |
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