According to a new study on infant nutrition, more than half of babies in the U.S. are starting the food journey too soon–in an analysis of nearly 1,500 children.
The World Health Organisation recommends only feeding babies breast milk and/or formula, until six months of age.
“Introducing babies to complementary foods too early can cause them to miss out on important nutrients that come from breast milk and infant formula,” study coauthor Chloe M. Barrera explains. “Conversely, introducing them to complementary foods too late has been associated with micronutrient deficiencies, allergies, and poorer diets later in life.”
Evidently–as with all parenting–for the healthy development of your child, you need to strike a balance; hence the ‘middle ground’ marker of 6 months. But also, physiologically, six months is the general point at which your baby’s digestive tract has developed the ability to produce enzymes to digest food and antibodies to protect itself.
For the study, Barrera and her research team monitored the food intake of 1,482 babies between the ages of 6 and 36 months. Despite current WHO recommendations, findings revealed that approximately two-thirds of parents were ditching the wisdom, with 16.3% offering complementary foods before 4 months, 38.3% between 4 and 5 months, and 12.9% introducing solids late on the spectrum–at 7 months or older.
Barrera contests that formula and/or breast milk should be the standalone food source for the first 6 months because it contains “condensed, and very specific” nutrients infants require at a key period in their development–and offering other things interferes with ensuring they take in the optimum levels of such nutrients. So why rush? Sit back and enjoy your clean walls for a little while longer.