Influences of Early Introduction of Solid Food to Infants

1042 words | 4 page(s)

Breastfeeding is a very important aspect of development in a child. Breastfeeding has its effects on the physical growth of the child in that it is the best method through which the baby’s natural defense against diseases is developed. It also provides a psychological bond between the mother and the baby and has been known to lead to early development in the baby in aspects such as communication and socialization , Hockenbury (2010). There however comes a time when the baby ought to be introduced to solid foods. This is a natural progression as it marks an important stage in the development of the baby. There have been several arguments regarding the exact timing and circumstances which ought to prompt the mother to feed the baby solid foods. Some experts have added to the debate with interesting facts and this essay will review some of these facts.

One such study was undertaken by Heather Clayton who wrote an article on the need to have the best timing for introducing one’s child to solid food. In the article the role of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is stressed has having provided a tentative time period within which to start feeding the baby solid foods. Research has indicated that at least 40% of mother’s introduce their babes to solid food too early and this may have health consequences. Other studies have recommended several methods to which a parent may know the right time to introduce solid foods to the baby’s diet. One such study established that there are some signs apart from the baby’s age which are supposed to guide the parent these signs are:

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If the baby can hold their head in an upright and steady position
Whether the baby can sit with or without support
Whether the baby is chewing or simply mouthing their mouth on objects such as toys or fingers
The baby’s response to what the parent or adult is eating.
Whether the baby opens his/her mouth when food is directed towards the mouth, and
Whether the baby can take and swallow food off the spoon

The above guidelines merely show that there is no scientific and empirical manner through which the correct age can be ascertained as to when to introduce the baby to solid food.

The research that was conducted could however provide glimpses as to the correct timing and manner in which to introduce the solid foods. The study was undertaken during a period of two years, during which 1,334 participants/mother were asked to fill out questionnaires. The questionnaires asked what the mother was feeding the baby during that previous week. The data received from the questionnaires helped scientists to determine at which age most mothers fed their babies solid foods. It was at this point that they determined that 40% of the mothers gave their babies solid food at a prematurely early stage. The AAP recommended age is pegged at 6 months whereas some mothers quoted ages lower than 5 years. The study fully proved that there was insufficient knowledge to mothers regarding introduction of solid foods to babies, and that previous research was wrong since it had pegged the figures at only 19% of mothers doing so.

The research further established that the information regarding solid foods comes from experienced mothers who had introduced their own babies to solid foods earlier and therefore recommend this practice to their counterparts. This warped knowledge is what has led to some babies being denied the health benefits of staying longer on breast milk. It was also noted that majority of the respondents who had introduced formula to their babies earlier as a substitute to breast milk, ended up giving their babies solid food too early. Poverty levels also factored into the research since most mothers who were below a certain income level, confessed to resorting to feeding solid foods to their babies.

The research required moms to choose from amongst 12 reasons which prompted them to start feeding their babies solid foods. 905 of the mothers said they considered their babies to be old enough to start feeding on solid foods. 71% of the respondents said their babies seemed hungry most of the time and this may have signaled a need to eat solids. Experts have opined that mother’s should not always respond to a baby’s cries with food as the cries could be as a result of other things such as heat and diaper related. A further 55% of respondents believed a health professional or an experienced person had recommended that the baby should begin eating solid food. This scanty knowledge by healthcare professionals could be attributed to the fact that they could have been trained on eating regimens when there was scanty research on this topic and therefore the medical information at the time was outdated.

There are benefits to introducing the baby to solid foods at the right time and not rushing into it. Researchers have established that higher risk to diabetes and obesity is a direct link to the baby being introduced to solid foods too early in their infancy, Bower (1982). Other health consequences are eczema and several food allergies which could have been avoided by keeping the baby on the non solid diet such as breast milk. This article has provided a lot of insight into the benefits of correctly introducing the baby to solid food and also provided insight into the health benefits of keeping the baby on breast milk for a little while longer. The research data furthermore, is useful in other spheres of epidemiology such as child care and nurture and provides the causes of allergies and how to best avoid them, Okada, (1991). Some alternatives to breast milk are also alluded to such as wholesome formula milk and formula food which contain just as much nutritional value as breast milk.

  • Bower, TGR (1982), Development in Infancy (2nd ed.).San Francisco: W.H. Freeman & Co., ISBN 0-7167-1302-0
  • Hockenbury, Don and Hockenbury, Sandra “ Discovering Psychology: Fifth Edition”. Worth Publishers, 2010, p. 388.
  •, ed. (1 November 1990).” Lymphocytes bearing the T cell receptor gamma delta in human breast milk” retrieved 1 December 2012.
  • Okada M, Ohmura E, Kamiya y et al . (1991). “Transforming growth factor (TGF)- alpha In human milk”. Life sci. 48 (12) 1151-6

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