CDC Reports That Infants are Being Fed Solid Food Too Soon

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among many other health organizations, all recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed until six months of age. These organizations also note that formula is an adequate alternative for moms who choose not to, or who cannot breastfeed. However, formula doesn’t change the exclusivity rule. Breastfed or formula-fed means a baby should receive absolutely zero solid foods until they are six months old or older. However, a new study by the CDC finds that parents aren’t heeding this almost universal advice, and as many as 40% may be giving their babies solid food far too soon. Of the 1334 mothers included in the study, around 40.4% of moms introduced their baby to solid food before the age of four months. Breastfeeding mothers were the least likely to introduce solids too early (24%) while parents who fed formula or a mix of formula and breast milk were more likely to introduce solids too soon (around 50%).

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In the study, the CDC notes that the most common reasons parents offered for giving their babies solid foods too early included:

  • “My baby was old enough.”
  • “My baby seemed hungry.”
  • “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula.”
  • “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”
  • “My baby wanted the food I ate.”

Most alarming is the fact that many parents told CDC researchers that, “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food.” Yikes! I’ve personally had parents tell me that they started their baby on solids early because their baby, “Is bigger than other babies, so he’s hungrier” and “My partner can’t breastfeed and he wants to bond with the baby.”  Unfortunately, none of the above mentioned excuses stand up scientifically. Breast milk for six months is best, followed by formula. Solids shouldn’t even be part of the first six-month equation.

Most recommendations surrounding feeding a baby solids say wait until six months, although, there’s more to it than that. Major health organizations, such as the AAP note that babies should not be fed solids until:

  • Your baby’s birth weight has doubled.
  • Your baby has good independent control of his neck and head.
  • Your baby can sit up with just a little support.
  • Your baby can show you that he is full by pulling away when you offer food or by shutting his mouth.

Babies under four months of age can rarely accomplish all of the above, so it’s troubling to hear that so many parents are offering solids before the age of four months. Kelley Scanlon, an epidemiologist with the CDC and an author of the study told The New York Times, “Clearly we need better dissemination of the recommendations on solid food introduction. Health care providers need to provide clear and accurate guidance, and then provide support to help parents carry out those recommended practices.” If a baby isn’t ready for solids he could choke, and as The New York Times article points out, feeding a baby solids too soon is also linked to gastroenteritis and diarrhea plus an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, eczema and Celiac disease. Your best bet is to find support to help you breastfeed successfully or formula feed until your baby is over the age of six months — make sure he’s sitting up well and then discuss solids with your pediatrician. Remember though, the AAP, among others, says that breastfeeding until 12 months of age, at least, is optimal — so even after starting solids you should continue to breastfeed.

+ Prevalence and Reasons for Introducing Infants Early to Solid Foods: Variations by Milk Feeding Type

via The New York Times

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26 Responses to “CDC Reports That Infants are Being Fed Solid Food Too Soon”

  1. Priti says:

    I started solids after four months. Before that my baby was pooping for only one time a day but since i started solids their is no fix timing of his poop n he may poop four or five times a day.😔 i feel sorry about him that i rushed for solids.

  2. achagnon913 says:

    In our area a lot of pediatricians still tell parent to go ahead and start cereal at 4 months and the recommendation is for real food. Cereal doesn’t count so its just practice not eating food really

  3. vforba says:

    What the CDC doesn’t realize is that the reason this keeps happening is because Drs. are telling moms to do this all the time.

  4. JstAgrl says:

    “Cereal doesn’t count” So you’re feeding the baby fake cereal?

  5. swtgi1982 says:

    so what do you do with an 8 mon old who still has doubled birth weight but met all other recommendations?

  6. katiep427 says:

    achagnon913, cereal absolutely does count as solids, and should not be introduced until after six months, if at all. Much research has been done on the harm that introducing grains too early can cause to a baby’s digestive system, and on top of that, cereals are the nutritional equivalent of cardboard. So you’re replacing something vital (breast milk or formula) with something nutritionally empty and possibly harmful. Not a good combo.

  7. brcourtade says:

    Cereal is solid food… If it isn’t real food it shouldn’t be going into the baby at all.

  8. Kristin @MOMentous Moms says:

    I think some kids are smaller than others so for the recommendation of doubling in birth weight I would speak to my doctor but I agree with everything else. We started our daughter on pureed fruits at 6 1/2 months and it was great. She was ready and able to tell us when she was done.

  9. dsilversmith says:

    In the 43 years since I first became involved with baby feeding I have seen the experts say a lot of different things. Start early, start late, grind up the same food you eat, don’t give them peanuts, give them peanuts………. I think the best thing is to do what the mother feels is right. If she is in tune with the baby she will do the best.

  10. Melaniebaptiste says:

    I exclusively breastfed for seven months. I was lucky enough to be able to do this. However, it should be noted that the biggest reason parents move onto solid food is for financial reasons. Women who formula-feed are spending outrageous amounts of money and women who need to return to work are not being supported in their desire to continue to breastfeed. While the information in this article is accurate and informative, it doesn’t take into account a large portion of the population simply cannot afford to feed their infant the way he/she should be fed. Women in low-paying, hourly positions are not given the time to pump, and make barely enough money to feed themselves, never mind $28 cans of formula. We need to better support our moms. We need to offer formula reimbursement, and we need to enforce our pro-breastfeeding laws (ie feeding in public, and allowing time at the workplace to pump).

  11. Life With Teens says:

    Oh for crying out loud people need to calm down. Why are doc’s recommending it if it’s not ok?? My babies were large,, and yes they both had cereal before six months. I think they were both around 3-4 months. They had maybe a couple tablespoons in the early evening, because it helped them sleep through the night. Otherwise they were up eating every hour on the hour because they were HUNGRY. Growing babies need their bellies filled, and if cereal is ok at 6 months, why the hell would it be “nutritional cardboard” at four months, but not at six??

    You know what? My kids are now 18 and 15 and they’re fine. Just like I’m fine and omg my mom had a car bed, not today’s modern, fancy car seats.

    Seriously. If cereal had upset their tummies, obviously I would not have given it to them. If they’d had any signs of choking and had not gobbled it down greedily, I would not have given it to them. Parents need to be trusted to make the right decisions for their own children. Alarmist articles like this do nothing but make young parents feel guilty and afraid about what they’re doing to raise their own kids. Ridiculous hype.

  12. DSH says:

    CDC doesn’t know what they are talking about. They are not the ones raising your kids, you are. I nursed mine kids & gave them formula. I started certain foods at 3 & 4 months old. Didn’t hurt them a bit. I gave them sugar, drinks & tea (of course in moderation) and other things. None of my kids turned out ADHD or these other labels doctors give kids today. All 3 are very smart & went to college & did good & all have good paying jobs & families of their own. I never listened to the doctors or articles.

  13. tag says:

    My niece started on 1st stage baby food at 4 weeks because if not she was eating a 8 oz bottle every hour. then started 2nd stage with formula still at 4 months. Now at 8 MONTHS OLD she is almost walking, sitting up by her self, feeding her self, Barely on formula, Uses a sippy cup, only takes 1 nap a day and at night sleeps 8 hours. now we are showing her flashcards of numbers and letters. she is very smart.

  14. jjllanos says:

    oh brother. Eating food that early has nothing to do with how smart the baby is, or cognative abilties. A baby consuming food to early Is bad because the intestines are not completly developed. Meaning the things that break down regular food isnt being made yet. The tummy may be full but a babys body cant effeciantly process the food.This can damage the intestinal tract, and cause food intolerences, ect. Sometimes it takes years to really know if their was any damage.

    “Now at 8 months…..barely on formula” why? She still needs it. Why are you trying to push this baby to grow up faster than she should be? Sounds more like lazy parenting.

  15. mommyof2 says:

    I jad a nine llb and ten llb baby and i call bs i beleive bigger babies need food quicker than smaller ones

  16. luny_girl says:

    JustAGrl: That’s Exactly what I was thinking.

    two of my cousins started on solids way to early and honestly? They haven’t stopped since.

  17. jld42488 says:

    Are some of you feeling guilty? A lot of defending going on. This article is best practice, it does not say every baby who has solids early will have issues. This is based on scientific evidence, not just opinion. Bottle fed babies most often are over fed because they have to drink the bottle or they will drown. This stretches their stomachs and leads to having to give baby more to satisfy them.

  18. Ahum says:

    Some of these comments are scary and why people can’t be trusted to raise their children on their own. (Most can tho!!) why the hell would you be trying to get your baby off of formula at 8mo?!

  19. ang says:

    jld, thankyou for your comments. I had no idea, my first, my mum convinced me to put him on a bottle. He would drink it all, then throw the whole lot back up……….. Then next four I breastfed, so my poor little first born, yes I was probably semi drowning him….. Thank god babies survive, most things 🙁

  20. ang says:

    Doesnt anyone breastfeed in USA? I persevered with four of mine, that was 30 years ago, my daughter saw me feeding her brothers, she has 5 and another on the way, she breasfeeds, and has not the slightest problem…. please, breastfeed your babies, ignore ignorants that compain. She has told me what I did wrong! All I did wrong was listen to advice, and it was all wrong, do what your body tells you, not what a so called “expert”, who has never ever given birth, nor fed, nor mothered, tells you to do!

  21. Momma Bootz says:

    DSH- first stage baby food at 4 weeks old? SMH I cannot even imagine. How is this baby chewing 1st stage at that age??? This has to be a joke. If it isn’t, digestive issues and other problems might not show up right away. Poor baby. I doubt that the baby being smart has anything to do with the food. My kids are smart and I didn’t give them solid food until they were 6 months old. One is a Dr. and one is a teacher.

  22. Happymum says:

    I breastfed both my kids. Didn’t introduce food with my oldest until 6 months as was current advice at the time (2011). Sadly he has allergies to eggs and nuts. With my new baby I introduced food at five months to reduce the risk of her developing allergies – on the basis of advice from both my older son’s allergy specialist and the baby’s pediatrician. They monitored her closely. She has no allergies and can eat anything. Are you sure the advice in this article is current? Take a look at this article.
    If you wait to introduce foods until 6 months, then do a new food every three days as is recommended, you may find baby is 7 months old before they are trying some foods – which is part the 4-6 month window to minimise the risk of allergies.

  23. taylordanielle0807 says:

    I skipped cereal COMPLETLEY there is no need for it i breastfed ny son for 7 months before starting him on baby food i am still breastfeeding him and he is almost 8 months old and really doesnt care for the baby food , but food before 1 is just for fun no need to rush things mamas enjoy your babies !! (:

  24. Somepplaresostupid says:

    The mention of cereal here does not refer to Cheerios or Fruit Loops! It is talking about rice cereal that is mixed with either breast milk or formula. If you mix it thinly enough, the baby can drink it. Unfortunately, many babies have an allergy to the rice in the cereal, which is another good reason to wait until later to introduce anything other than breast milk or formula.

  25. Jbmtraining says:

    What people who feed cereal early to “help baby sleep better” fail to realize is babies wake through the night as a way to prevent SIDS. Its mother natures way of keeping your baby safe. Some will sleep through the night, others wont. My 6 month old (youngest of 3) STILL wakes at least once a night. My older 2 slept through the night about half the time by 3 months. Im exhausted but that doesnt not mean im going to risk my baby. Educate yourselves, dont be stubborn and do what you “feel” is right unless you have done a ton of research to back it up. The health of our children is slowly declining yet no one wants to change how things age being done… Wake up and see that what worked years ago doesnt mean its what is best and as parents dont we all want what is best for our babies? Doctors dont get updated training on infant nutrition unless they seek it out. Please put baby first or do not have children…

  26. DoWhatsBest says:

    Every child is different. All three of my children were born with severe GERD and MSPI. My now 18 year olds required ready to Alimentum. She is 100% normal today. My now 6 year old ended up on Neocate, then Neocate Jr. He just recently stopped it. He had to have a thickening agent added to his bottle at a very young age, otherwise he would reflux it up. We ended up using organic oatmeal mixed with quinoa. His stomach is slowly beginning to handle different foods. My now 3 year old is battling cancer and his stomach is the worst. He also had to have a thickening agent and ended up on the organic oatmeal mixed with quinoa. He also went from Neocate to Neocate Jr. He has to take medications twice daily to keep the reflux at bay. He’ll remain on Neocate Jr for at least 2 years more.

    I am a mom that couldn’t breastfeed and have constantly been looked down upon for it. Even though my milk would have made my children very sick. We didn’t introduce solids until after 8 months and again after 10 months and again every two months until they could handle things.

    My children’s pediatricians office recommends veggies anywhere from 4 months up depending on each individual child’s maturity and situation.

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