Courtesy of WebMD
Starting solid foods too early among certain infants may increase the risk of becoming obese by three years of age, according to a study by Harvard researchers. The study, published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found formula-fed infants who were given solid foods before they were four months old were far more likely to be obese at age three, compared to babies introduced to solid foods after age of four months. However, among breastfed infants there was no association with the timing of solid-food introduction and obesity.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that while 75% of women report breastfeeding their newborn children, only about one-third of women are exclusively breastfeeding their children when they are three months old. Huh said that holding off the introduction of solid food until babies are at least four months old is one way parents can reduce the risk of their infants becoming overweight.
Among the 847 babies, 67% were breastfed and 33% were formula fed at the age of four months. Researchers then looked the timing of solid-food introduction and they obtained information on height and weight through the age of three years, as well as a gauge of fat measured using skin folds, to see if solid-food timing had any impact on obesity risk. They found that formula-fed babies given solid food before they were four months old had a six-fold increase in the risk of becoming obese compared to babies introduced to solid food after four months. Reseachers found that 7% of breastfed babies were considered obese at age three--or having a body-mass index at or greater than the 95th percentile on children's growth charts--compared to 13% of formula-fed children. About 17% of children in the breastfed-group were given solid foods after six months compared to 9% of the formula-only group, suggesting that formula-fed babies were started on solid foods earlier than breastfed babies.