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Babies, Solid Food, and Obesity

02.08.11 Babies, Solid Food, and Obesity

When did your baby start eating solid food?  Or when are you planning to introduce it to your baby?

An interesting discussion is happening over at the Washington Post.  Jennifer LaRue Huget posted a few weeks ago about a study questioning the practice of introducing food to breastfeeding babies at 6 months.  The study suggests possible effects of exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months "which may include lack of sufficient iron and increased risk of food allergies and of celiac disease, for example. In addition, the report suggests, babies who are exclusively breastfed till they're half a year old may have difficulty accepting new tastes, particularly bitter ones, which could shape their food preferences for years to come."   This is concerning to parents because the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics (among many other organizations) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. 

I hung to this 6 month marker with a vengeance, even as many of my friends around me started their babies on solid food much earlier.  And anecdotally, my girls both gobble up spinach, tomatoes, feta cheese and various strong, bitter and sharp tasting foods. I certainly don't want this study to discourage mothers from breastfeeding their babies for as long as possible.  The benefits to both mama and baby are well documented and numerous.   

Then to add more information to the mix, Jennifer reported about study that showed babies who are formula fed, and then given solids at 4 months or earlier, are much more likley to become overweight or obese.  Interestingly, this finding only pertained to formula fed babies.  This begs the question of other issues being at play.  In addition, take a look at these statistics:

"Our data suggest that increased adherence to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines has the potential to reduce the risk of obesity in children in the United States, given the relatively high prevalence of infants who are formula- fed or breastfed for less than 4 months. Approximately one-quarter of infants in the United States are never breastfed, and approximately half are breastfed for less than 4 months."

With breastfeeding rates so low in the U.S., the whole idea of waiting until a baby is at least 4 months old to introduce solids has the potential to lessen the rate of obesity and should be considered as parents are deciding when to introduce solid foods.  And how can we as a nation improve our rates of breastfeeding babies? By promoting family friendly workplaces, health care, and family leave with organizations such as Momsrising.  

What do you think?

Posted in: Obesity, Breastfeeding
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