What’s the right age for babies to start eating solid foods?

(Ashley Welch/ CBS News) — Spooning up the first mouthfuls of baby food to a growing infant is an important milestone, but new research suggests many parents are doing it too soon. The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, finds more than half of all babies in the U.S. are introduced to complementary foods — meaning foods or drinks other than breast milk or formula — earlier than they should be. Experts say that as a result, children may not be getting all the health benefits they should from nursing.

“Introducing babies to complementary foods too early can cause them to miss out on important nutrients that come from breast milk and infant formula,” lead investigator Chloe M. Barrera, MPH, of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, said in a statement. “Conversely, introducing them to complementary foods too late has been associated with micronutrient deficiencies, allergies, and poorer diets later in life.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast-feeding exclusively, when possible, for about the first six months of a baby’s life. Babies who are breast-fed for at least six months tend to develop healthier immune systems and are less likely to be overweight or to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Some research suggests they may even grow up to have higher IQs.

“When you start giving a very young baby solid foods, it tends to fill them up and then they don’t get potentially as much of the milk as they should be, and that is the primary source of nutrition whether they’re formula or breast-fed. If they’re taking less milk, they could potentially become nutritionally deficient in some of the nutrients that only the milk is going to give them,” Dr. Stan Spinner, chief medical officer and vice president at Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care, told CBS News. Spinner was not involved in the new research.

According to the AAP, babies should first be introduced to solid foods at around the age of 6 months. (…)

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