This article came out a few days ago and I thought I would highlight it here, since it relates to child development and a little OT and PT!
Infants Are Fed Solid Food Too Soon, C.D.C. Finds (NY Times)
Despite growing warnings from pediatricians about feeding newborns anything other than breast milk or formula, many mothers appear to be introducing solid food well before their babies’ bodies can handle it, says a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
In a national survey of 1,334 mothers, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent said they gave their baby solid food before they were 4 months old, with 9 percent starting as early as 4 weeks. Doctors now recommend waiting until a baby is at least 6 months old.
Further, the women in the survey who turned to solid food early were more likely to be young, less educated and unmarried. They also had lower levels of income or education, and were more likely to participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
While many pediatricians are sympathetic to the difficulties parents face feeding their child nothing but breast milk or formula for six months, they say little good can come from feeding solid food to a child before he or she is physically ready.
They also have yet to develop the proper gut bacteria that allow them to process solid food safely, potentially leading to gastroenteritis and diarrhea, Dr. Gold said. The early introduction of solid foods has also been linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, eczema and celiac disease.
Pediatricians can help parents delay solid food by helping them better understand their baby’s signals, Dr. Scanlon said. “When the baby is fussy, they need to help them understand that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hungry and need solid foods,” she said.
Parents should also know the signs that their child is ready for solid food, like sitting up, being able to take food off a fork and not closing the mouth when food is offered, Dr. Scanlon said.
Prevalence and Reasons for Introducing Infants Early to Solid Foods: Variations by Milk Feeding Type (from CDC research article)
Overall, 40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before age 4 months. Prevalence varied by milk feeding type (24.3%, 52.7%, and 50.2% for breastfed, formula-fed, and mixed-fed infants, respectively).
The most commonly cited reasons for early introduction of solid food were as follows: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.” Four of these reasons varied by milk feeding type.
Physical therapy reasons for waiting until 6 months before feeding solids:
- Child is usually able to sit independently for at least 1 minute by 6 months, which places child in better position to chew/eat solids and swallow solids safely.
- Child has enough head and trunk strength to hold head steady and hold trunk steady while eating solids, which makes it easier for child to eat solids since they don’t have to concentrate so much on holding their head up. If they’re focusing on too many things because they aren’t ready to sit up, then they may spit up more as they aren’t able to swallow correctly.
- If you have to feed your infant in a reclined high chair then they probably aren’t ready to start taking solids yet.
Occupational therapy reasons for waiting until 6 months before feeding solids: (gathered from babycenter.com)
- Losing the “extrusion reflex.” To keep solid food in his mouth and then swallow it, your baby needs to stop using his tongue to push food out of his mouth.
- Chewing motions. Your baby’s mouth and tongue develop in sync with his digestive system. To start solids, he should be able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow. As he learns to swallow efficiently, you may notice less drooling – though if your baby’s teething, you might still see a lot of drool.