Four Seasons Pediatrics

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Early solids and formula in infants linked to obesity

March 10th, 2011 Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital published results of their study regarding introduction of solids to infants.  They set out to examine the association between timing of introduction of solid foods during infancy and obesity at 3 years of age.  847 infants were in 3 groups – those with introduction of solids at less than 4 months, those with introduction at 4-5 months and those with introduction at > 6 months.   At age 3, 9% of children were considered obese.   Among the infants who were breast fed, introduction of solids at different ages had no effect on risk for obesity.  Among formula fed infants, introduction of solids before 4 months of age was associated with a risk of obesity that was 6 times higher. 

Dr. Miller comment: There have been several studies regarding solid food introduction and the risk of allergies in children.  These studies show that the more solids introduced before 6 months of age, increases the risk for allergies in children.  One study showed that the risk for allergies is not increased with introduction of rice cereal only at 5 months of age.   (Thus we still recommend waiting until 6 months, but give permissive advice to start solids at 5 months for parents who feel they want to start earlier).   Other studies regarding breastfeeding have shown that the risk for obesity is 2 times lower than with formula feeding.  This study adds to that work.  Formula feeding AND solids introduced early increase this risk for obesity.  When I first started practicing, I remember families that would introduce solids at 2 weeks of age despite our advice.  The normal timing for introducing solids has changed over the years.  It is wonderful that we continue to have well done studies that support the advice we give to parents.  These studies help guide and support parents who are pressured to start solids.  I can’t tell you how many parents continue to get advice from well meaning friends and family to “give him food”.  This study gives them one more piece of information to do the right thing!

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