When should an infant get solid food? For over 20 years, we have been saying after four months. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed that to a recommendation that an infant should get nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life, or infant formula if breast milk is not available.
A new survey of over 1,300 mothers showed that 40 percent fed the baby solid food before four months and almost 10 percent before four weeks, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the April issue of Pediatrics, released online today.
Why are pediatricians worried about early feeding? Babies that are fed too early are more likely to be obese when they get older - that is proven. Doctors also worry that children fed early develop abnormal bowel flora (the germs in our gut that help us digest our food and prevent diseases such as celiac and inflammatory bowel diseases) and are more likely to get severe self-allergy diseases such as eczema and asthma. The evidence for these is not as strong as for obesity, but is a very strong suspicion.
Another problem is that some babies fed solid food too late (after eight months in some cases) simply do not learn to chew food. So there is a narrow window that is the right time to feed infants.