If you bottle-feed your baby, don’t be too quick to introduce solid foods no matter how hungry they look for “real food”. According to a study published in Medical News Today, feeding babies solid food too early increases their risk for obesity later on.
Feeding babies solid food early: A risk for obesity?
Childhood obesity is a growing problem, and the roots of childhood obesity go way back – as far back as the womb. In rats, mama rats that are obese before getting pregnant are more likely to give birth to offspring that have weight problems, while those who lost weight before conceiving deliver baby rats with less body fat.
Feeding babies solid food prematurely is another example of how early behaviors influences a child’s risk of obesity later. According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, feeding baby solid foods before 4 months of age boosts their risk of weight problems even before they’re old enough for kindergarten.
How much does it raise the risk? Based on this study of 847 children, introducing solid foods before 4 months increases a child’s risk of obesity by 6 times by the time they turn the age of 3. This was only true for bottle-fed babies. The timing for feeding babies solid food didn’t affect the risk of obesity for breast-fed babies.
When should you feed a baby solid foods?
If this study holds true, not introducing solid foods early is a simple step parents could take to lower a baby’s risk of being overweight or obese during childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against feeding a baby solid food before 4 months of age. They recommend that babies get their first solids between 4 and 6 months of age.
Irrespective of the risk of childhood obesity, there are other reasons not to introduce solid foods too early. Babies younger than 4 months still have immature intestines, and they’re more susceptible to choking when you put solid foods in their mouth, at least until their swallowing mechanism has matured. Babies under 4 months also don’t have teeth to chew solid food. In addition, a baby needs to be able to sit up and support itself without help before eating solid foods.
The bottom line
What’s the rush? Don’t be too eager to give your child solid foods. Wait until your child has passed the 4 month mark and is able to sit up and support himself easily. Always introduce solid foods slowly while gauging a baby’s ability to swallow without choking. If the food comes back out of his mouth and your baby grimaces, he may not be ready.