Indeed, four out of 10 mothers gave their infants solid foods before their baby was four months old, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The practice, which may increase the risk of some chronic diseases, was more common among mothers who used formula than those who breastfed. Medical professionals worry that babies are not getting all the benefits they could from breastfeeding if their mothers are choosing to feed them solid foods.
According to the study, more than 52 percent of mothers who used formula to feed their infant chose to introduce solids before four months, states a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 24 percent of mothers who were breastfeeding their infants did the same.
Researchers analyzed data from about 1,300 mothers who gave solid food to their infants during the baby’s first year of life. The data also included reasons for introducing solid food.
Three reasons for starting solids earlier than recommended included: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”
Many of the mothers who decided to introduce solids earlier than suggested were more likely to be younger, unmarried and have a lower level of education.
Medical and health officials encourage women to breastfeed their babies because breast milk fights disease. The cells, hormones and antibodies that are present in breast milk help protect infants from getting sick.
Its protection cannot be matched by formula, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, SIDS.
Infants who are formula-fed also have higher risks of
- necrotizing enterocolitis
- lower respiratory infections
- atopic dermatitis
- type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- childhood leukemia
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