Too-early solid food could lead to problems for babies
March 25th, 2013
02:36 PM ET

Too-early solid food could lead to problems for babies

At least 40% of moms are feeding their infants solid foods far too early, according a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, and that may lead to problems for their children later in life.

Researchers wanted to know how many babies were being fed solid foods (including cereal and baby food) sooner than recommended, whether breast-feeding or formula feeding made a difference and why solids were being introduced early. When the study began in 2005,  the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which also publishes the journal Pediatrics, recommended introducing solid foods when babies were between 4 and 6 months old.

In 2012, the AAP changed those recommendations. Now it says babies shouldn't be eating solid food until they are about 6 months old.

Study and findings

As part of the two-year study, 1,334 mothers filed out monthly questionnaires about what their babies ate during the last week, says Kelley Scanlon, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the study authors. Scientists then analyzed the data reported by the mothers to determine at which age babies were being fed solid food.

They found 539 moms, or 40% of moms, gave their babies solid food early. Previous studies had put that estimate at 19% and 29%. Researchers believe based on this study, they may actually be underestimating how many moms introduce solids early because the study was more likely to have older, more educated and higher income moms participating. "Mothers of lower socioeconomic status are at a higher risk of early solid food introduction," the study says.

Giving your baby solid food too soon has been linked to a higher risk of obesity and diabetes, according to the study. Also, "starting infants on solids before 4 months can lead to allergies and eczema," says Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta pediatrician and AAP spokeswoman who was not involved in the research.

Among the 539 moms who did introduce solids early, nearly 1 in 10 gave their babies solids before they were 4 weeks old.

Researchers found formula-fed infants were about twice as likely to be introduced to solids early, compared to only breast-fed babies.

Moms were also given 12 reasons to choose from to explain why they introduced solid food early. Among the top answers:
– 90% of moms said they thought their baby was old enough to start eating solids.
– 71% said their baby seemed hungry a lot of the time.
– 55% believed their doctor or another health care professional said their baby should start eating solids.

Scanlon cautioned that this last point reflected a perception that health care professionals were recommending when to start an infant on solids; researchers couldn't actually confirm that's what a doctor or nurse actually said.

Shu says she was surprised by the findings, but notes that some doctors and nurses may have been trained at a time when babies were fed solids earlier and says it's hard to change behaviors when medical information changes so quickly.

Bottom line

"There's a lack of awareness of what the recommendations are," Scanlon says, adding babies are not developmentally ready for solid food before they are 4 months old.

Some of these moms are getting information on when to feed their babies solids "from generations (ex. grandparents, nurses, friends) who may have started their babies on solids at an earlier age," suggests Shu.

According to the latest AAP recommendations, moms are supposed to exclusively breast-feed their babies until they are about 6 months old if possible, so babies can reap all the benefits of mother's milk including extra immune protection and possible protection for future chronic illnesses like obesity and type II diabetes.

Every baby develops at a slightly different pace, but there are some signs to look for to help parents figure out if their child is ready for solids:
– Is the baby sitting up? Can she hold her head up?
– Does your baby open his mouth when food comes his way?
– Is she big enough? (Babies typically double their birth weight by 4 months)
– Can he take food off the spoon and actually swallow it?

The takeaway

Parents need clear and accurate guidance on when to introduce solid food to their babies, and pediatricians and health care professionals need to support them, says Scanlon, by explaining to the parents that crying doesn't always mean the baby is hungry - it could also be wet, sick or lonely.

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Jennifer M

    I am really rolling my eyes on this 'study'. For thousands of years, moms have parented successfully without being dictated at what phase they should or should not do something.

    For each of my three children, I've introduced solid foods before four months. None of them are obese or have diabetes. In fact, my 19 and 21 year old daughters are at the low end of average. My son is also tall and lanky.

    It's about going by your child's queues, just as we do for the other stages of development. Let me guess – next we'll be told that letting them walk before 12 months is bad for their legs or some other nonsense.

    March 25, 2013 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patty

      "For thousands of years, moms have parented successfully without being dictated at what phase they should or should not do something. " Ya mean thousands of years of a high mortality rate for children? Are those the thousands of years you talking about. First off there are plenty of young mothers who DO NOT know what to do and need guidence. Just because you think your mom of the year, doesn't mean this information is not helpful to others. Get over your eye rolling and remember there are more people in the besides yourself. Thanks :)

      March 25, 2013 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
    • ladyliza

      I breast fed my first child until 6 months and she is very healthy. But my second I was working more and breast fed 3 months instead. And I introduced food earlier than 4 months. He developed food allergies and excema and at the age of 22 was very ill until we discovered he was allergic to milk products. I wouldn't worry as much about the obeisity factor as I would the other possibilities.

      March 25, 2013 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
    • jg

      Why is it parents always like to try to make themselves feel better for their uninformed, incorrect decisions. Jennifer, you didn't know any better. Quit making excuses for yourself and get over it. Learn, and help your kids do things better than you did. Isn't that the goal of parenting?

      March 26, 2013 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
    • Quincy Brown

      That is a good point, there is always going to be something that is determined to be not good for you. Every person is different and just because something bad happen toone kids does not mean al kids are in danger. This stuff gets published beause someone hasto do it in order to keep a job.

      May 7, 2013 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
    • Kathryn

      Jennifer, you're absolutely correct. Everyone, read up on the "benefits of mother's milk". You're brainwashed. Look into the actual scientific research. There isn't any of value. End of story.

      December 31, 2013 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Why do people like you, Jennifer M, think your anecdotes matter? Who cares what you and your kids did? This is a STUDY, and the results suggest that your experience is an "outlier." Look it up. Just because YOUR experience doesn't match up doesn't mean the study is flawed or that the possible conclusions are wrong.

      Learn something. Oh, yeah, and it's "cue" in this case, not "queue."

      January 1, 2014 at 10:39 | Report abuse |
  2. Blueangel

    How can obesity be effected by what a person did 20 years ago? So, being fed applesauce at 3 months old is making my son eat an entire large pizza by himself at age 14? Does not make a lick of sense. They are looking for excuses for obese people. Oh, it's not because you eat too much, it's because you were fed solid food to early. Nothing you can do about it now, so just enjoy your pizza!

    March 25, 2013 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jg

      Actually it makes a ton of sense if you know anything at all about how human brains are programmed at at what stages of their lives certain habits form, which, apparently, you don't.

      March 26, 2013 at 22:53 | Report abuse |
    • another Jennifer

      Actually, Blueangel, what you do while pregnant can influence your child's health as an adult and determine their chances of being obese or getting heart didease. Lots long term studies prove this. That crazy "science" –it's full of surprises.

      April 1, 2013 at 00:43 | Report abuse |
    • Evelyn

      It blows my mind how people that have NO clue about developmental science and don't realize that EVERYTHING that happens to you in the first years of life affect the rest of your life can spew their ignorance all over these forums. Just because you are completely ignorant about it doesn't mean these recommendations aren't relevant or accurate.

      April 5, 2013 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
  3. John Doe

    My Dad feed me rice when I was before 6 months every night before I went to sleep, and I have no problems. Healthiest person you will ever meet.

    March 25, 2013 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Barney Style

      Based on your language skills he should have been reading to you.

      March 25, 2013 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
    • jg


      March 26, 2013 at 22:54 | Report abuse |
    • Icansniff ignorance*

      Look, there's no need to act like an ass "Barney Style". Picking on how someone types a comment only makes you look like more of an Ass! As for those commenting on this study claiming its correct, remember, those same scientific studies that said smoking was good for your health. Mind you, they did a study as well!!! Don't believe all that you read and hear. Live it and then tell me it's true. I and all my siblings were fed rice at 1 month, slept on our bellies etc. we aren't obese, didn't die of SIDS nor suffer from allergies. Studies vary so much and are frought with errors etc. that they can only be taken with a grain of salt. I see studies one minute promoting a lifestyle only to be told years later it's dangerous. Again, I think those that follow their child's needs and use motherly instinct are doing the right thing.

      March 29, 2014 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
  4. larry

    Does this surprise anyone around the world. U.S. women are a major fail in any category. Except benefits and independence.

    March 25, 2013 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patty

      Ah an mra in the comment section about child care, how lovely. No articles about dead beat dads you can complain about? Unless you know every single woman in america, zip it. Take your butthurt comments elsewhere.

      March 25, 2013 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
  5. Justin

    A 2009 CDC study indicated that 49% of pregnancies are unwanted. I'm not surprised by the fact that people who don't understand how children are conceived feed their babies solid food.

    March 25, 2013 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. becca

    The "Signs to look for" they listed here are just basic common sense. I think this study is a bunch of HORSE SHI*......who funded it, a baby formula company?

    March 25, 2013 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BillRubin

      They are recommending breast feeding, so I don't see how that benefits baby formula companies.

      March 25, 2013 at 17:01 | Report abuse |
    • jg

      Looks like Becca's dealing with some guilt issues. It's okay. You didn't know better. Now you do. Live well and teach your kids to be smarter than you were.

      March 26, 2013 at 23:00 | Report abuse |
  7. rabgem

    The study has been sponsored by makers of similac, enfamil, gerber and others. Please help these corporations to further their cause to promote their brands and increase their bottom line by not feeding your kids any solid food and only baby food until their wisdom teeth has grown fully!

    March 25, 2013 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BillRubin

      The data appears to promote exclusive breastfeeding, not formula. Why would the formula-makers want to sponsor this study?

      March 25, 2013 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
  8. rabgem

    "Giving your baby solid food too soon has been linked to a higher risk of obesity and diabetes, according to the study."
    Come on.. You got to be kidding.
    Obesity and diabetes is caused even if you dont feed them solid food.
    Next time you buy a processed food check the ingredients full of Modified food starch, artificial colors, artificial flavors.. basically artificial food.

    March 25, 2013 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. shekoi

    I am a child protection caseworker. I can't even recall how many mothers (usually young, uneducated, high school drop outs) have told me that they started giving cereal at four or five WEEKS just so the baby would sleep through the night. Unfortunately, the mother's convenience and desire to have a full night's sleep often trumps what might be best for the child. Parenthood means putting your child's needs above your own.

    March 25, 2013 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amanda

      Did those single mothers have somebody there to help them out so that they could get through the day on no sleep? Did they all know from experience that parents are supposed to make sacrifices like that? I bet you a bunch of them were babies - not too long ago - who needed the same kind of protection your agency tries to provide, and didn't necessarily get it.

      April 16, 2013 at 19:18 | Report abuse |
  10. missheather

    I gave mine a tiny bit of rice in their bottles at bedtime at two months. baby food at 5months. my doctor told me it was ok. my kids are ok. but if i had another child i'd follow the new research.

    March 25, 2013 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jg

      You, missheather, are everything that's right with this country. Thank you for trying your best with what information you were given and learning as you go, as we all should, instead of just trying to prove your past mistakes are still correct in the face of new information. Seriously, you're a good mom.

      March 26, 2013 at 23:03 | Report abuse |
    • Evelyn

      I'm glad you have this way of thinking. Health is an ever evolving science and it's helpful to keep up and make changes when we learn new things about nutrition :)

      April 5, 2013 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
  11. Bonny A

    My boys are in their 40's. One of them had a tad of cereal in his bottle at 6 weeks, suggested by the doctor. The other was older when he received cereal in his bottle. First, they were not on a process belt, they were humans who develop individually. So there is not one rule fits all. Next, I have a problem with obesity that my boys do not. Both were bo

    March 26, 2013 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bonny A

    Both were bottle babies. Breast feeding was not an option since there were blood rh factors.
    Bottom line: besides my being unable to control the submit of my comments, is that studies are fine but remember that when it comes to these observations, there is always a pre-disposed bias at work.

    March 26, 2013 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Stacy

    I'm "rolling my eyes" at the fact that this is completely the fault of "moms". Seriously, do dads not have any kind of responsibilty here? I guess all the dads are just out to work while the mom stays home and screws up the kids.

    I completely agree that babies shouldn't be given solids until they're ready – usually after 6 months. However, let's do a survey of PARENTS! Not just moms. This article doesn't bring fathers into the discussion until the last paragraph. It's insulting.

    March 26, 2013 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jg

      I think if anything, American doctors are to blame most of all. One of our pediatricians kept insisting we give our 3/4 month old solid food and when we pointed out studies that showed that wasn't the best he got mad at us and said we were doing her harm. So, we found another pediatrician who didn't live in the medical dark ages and didn't feed her solids until later on..

      March 26, 2013 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  14. RS

    So...giving a baby rice cereal or other baby food before 6 months is going to make them obese and diabetic when they are older? It has nothing to do with all the supersized fast food meals, boxed and convenience food in the grocery stores, the fact that lots of people don't bother cooking at home from scratch anymore, the internet and computer games that people sit in front of for hours, hundreds of television channels to choose from at any time of day or night, and the fact that people don't move more than they absolutely have to.

    March 29, 2013 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amanda

      The article is talking about a relative likelihood, not an absolute rule that affects 100 percent of people surveyed. If the kids who DIDN'T get solid foods at that age but grew up in the same society you describe became obese at a significantly smaller rate, it's worth making a recommendation over, don't you think? That's assuming that they controlled for parental wealth/education, which the article isn't clear about, but you'd think they wouldn't ignore it.

      April 16, 2013 at 19:26 | Report abuse |
  15. Kathy

    My boys are in their 40's. One of them had a tad of cereal in his bottle at 6 weeks, suggested by the doctor. The other was older when he received cereal in his bottle. First, they were not on a process belt, they were humans who develop individually. So there is not one rule fits all. Next, I have a problem with obesity that my boys do not.

    March 30, 2013 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. elle

    I was pregnant with my daughter last year and all that my nutritionist pushed was to breastfeed for at least a year after giving birth, no solid food. Now my mother in law on the other hand would jus fuss about how that doesn't make sense, because her boys were raised fine while she fed them porridge through a bottle. Like really?! It only makes sense that your child is going to get the most nutrition out of breast feeding from their own mother. I firmly believe in breastfeeding for the first year, and wouldn't think to put porridge in a bottle for them even after the year.

    March 30, 2013 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • another Jennifer

      Good instincts, mama. Keep it up!

      Cereal/porridge is not real food, just filler. We don't live in an impoverished place in history that requires filler, starchy foods as a staple. At a year old, babies are ready for real food.

      April 1, 2013 at 00:53 | Report abuse |
  17. Odalice Feliz

    help your baby eat right.

    March 31, 2013 at 02:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Alex

    No grains for baby! no grains for anyone!

    April 20, 2013 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Pam

    Recommendatios change all the time depending on which studies are done when and where. You will find differing opinions and advice on just about everything. From a personal perspective... All 3 of my kids were minimally BF (I had problems with milk production) and were mostly formula fed. We introduced rice or oatmeal ceral at 3-4 months because they had those 4 signs mentioned above and my pediatrician supported us; baby foods followed shortly thereafter. I also introduced common allergy-inducing foods earlier than recommended becasue I (and my pediatrician) had seen some studies showing that withholding allergens or preventing exposure is actually making the problems worse, not better. And since we have no family history of food allergies, we had no worries. Apparently it worked for us. They are all perfectly healthy with no allergies or skin problems. Not obese either, in fact, are on the skinny side. My germophobe, all-allergen avoiding friend however did the opposite and waited until 1 year of age for anythin other tham BM/formula for her kids... they have so many allergies and skin issues they can barely function or eat anything. Hmmmmm, reallly makes me think!!

    May 20, 2013 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. sitters4charities

    You can introduce solids any time between 4 and 6 months if your baby is ready. Until then, breast milk or formula provides all the calories and nourishment your baby needs and can handle.

    May 20, 2013 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. sitters4charities

    Parents should wait until their little ones are at least 6 months old before offering them solid foods, say many child-nutrition experts

    May 20, 2013 at 06:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Elmira Harell

    Children represent the future, and ensuring their healthy growth and development ought to be a prime concern of all societies. Newborns are particularly vulnerable and children are vulnerable to malnutrition and infectious diseases, many of which can be effectively prevented or treated. ..^:'

    Our new internet site

    June 16, 2013 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Janna Moulder

    I fed my three children table food at different ages, depending on how their eating habits dictated. I have to tell you, my children have no allergies, no health problems, no food issues. They are healthy, happy individuals. My oldest has a daughter who is six and she is teaching her to be an adventurous eater. My kids eat everything. All veggies, seafood, sushi, all cuisines. I think that a Mom should listen to her instincts and her babies. She will ALWAYS know what is best.

    July 8, 2013 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mama

    I have three kids with the last having a 15 year age difference and my first baby I started feeding solids at 8 weeks, he was taking a full bottle from birth and was born big and was a very hungry and advanced boy, all this crap about feeding solids at 6 months is a joke, if your baby is ready for solids and is hungry feed them, when us late 30/40 something people were babies our parents all gave us solids way before 6 months and even 4 months and as for the moron that stated "thousands of years of high mortality rate for children" maybe immunisations have a lot to do with the now "lower mortality rate for children" and those mothers that need guidance would be better helped by having more guidance and help in the community -face to face

    August 19, 2013 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. hahaha

    Ha I can't even stand it. All you people do is put other people down for grammar and what have you. Why not help people? Anyways my son just turn four months a couple of days ago. I've been giving him solids for over two weeks now. I don't believe any of the stuff this site says. My grandmother fed her kids really young. All of her five kids are healthy. Not one of them are obesit nor do they have diabetes, eczema, etc. Same thing with my grandmother of my fathers side. Everyone is healthy and what have you. She had 10 kids. My son also has cystic fibrosis he lacks enzymes which helps you absorb the nurturance from food. He's been getting apple sauce since he was three weeks old to take an enzyme pill (instructions given by a specialist) every child is different, my son has been holding his bottle for the last week. Most sites you read says they won't do that until their about six months. Just saying.

    October 16, 2013 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. AFRICA


    October 30, 2013 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. syeda

    While it's debatable if you need anything more than a simple cleanser and washcloth for the face, if you love the idea of an electronic skin brush (created by the makers of Sonicare), then this is the tool for you. It gently exfoliates while it deep cleanses, making it a great product for women who wear a lot of makeup. According to the product Website

    November 3, 2013 at 05:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Worried Father

    Guys, just to point out, it says " COULD LEAD" come on the lot of you specialists, I now have read a whole load of crap and am very disappointed in the fact that no one read the article first before commenting.
    Absolutely no where in the article did it say "WILL" OR even "CAN" and you know why! because there is no conclusive studies done anywhere around the world on the feeding of newborns or early months of infancy.
    By the By lady, anyone out there willing to allow their child to placed in a study on this subject???

    December 27, 2013 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      I agree with you. I believe that our lack of emphasis on reading comprehension and science education is to blame. That, and the abject ignorance that some of the folks here demonstrate on a regular basis. What's worse is that some of them seem to be proud of their ignorance.

      January 1, 2014 at 10:42 | Report abuse |
  29. kim

    My goodness, Funny how you ladies get you panties is a bunch. This study if laughable, indicative of how professionals know best for society. You all must have missed the studies regarding coffee, tea, fruit, oatmeal, wheat. The ones where they change every other year. If your child is not satisfied with liquids only feed them solids. Insulting that parents who don't follow your advice are uneducated. It cant just be that we choose not to follow it based on our own knowledge and experience. All three of my children drank from a bottle, ate solid food at 8 weeks old, and yes I even let them ride their bikes without helmets!!!!!!!!!!

    January 20, 2014 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Another one who can't read. Your anecdotal evidence is not a study. You obviously don't understand the difference, and couldn't care less. Why bother reading about studies if you don't comprehend what you're reading?

      January 20, 2014 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
  30. Kat

    I was raised in a different country, and babies were breastfed for as long as possible but table food was introduced early ( probably 4 months). Mothers were not dictated on how to raise their babies. As I was growing up I've never even heard of babies having allergies to this and that. I don't know what is on our food nowadays, but most moms follow doctors instructions on everything and many babies still grow up having allergies and disorders that supposedly should be prevented, if you but follow your ediatrocoans recommendations. I say mothers have instinct for a reason and we should use that once in a while.

    January 31, 2014 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply

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