Breastfeeding

New research published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics finds many mothers are feeding infants solid food too early, reports the New York Times.

According to the research, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of new mothers said they gave their babies solid food while 9 percent said they introduced solid food as soon as 4 weeks, well before digestive systems are capable of handling it.

The Times reports: “Doctors now recommend waiting until a baby is at least 6 months old. For at least 20 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics had advised against feeding babies solid food before they turned at least 4 months old. Last year, encouraged by growing evidence of the health benefits of breast milk, the group raised that age, saying babies should be fed nothing but breast milk for six months. When breast milk is not an option, formula is an acceptable alternative, the group says.”

Despite the recommendations, many mothers simply aren’t aware of the reasons for avoiding solid food, or find them difficult to stick to using excuses including: “my baby is old enough,” “my baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted my baby to sleep longer at night” and—the one that researchers found to be most alarming, according to the Times—“a doctor or health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food.”

Women who introduced solid foods early were more likely to be in lower economic brackets, viewing baby formula as too expensive, cited the research. Additionally, young, less educated and single mothers were also more likely to feed their babies solid foods before 6 months old.

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Image: Mothering Touch