I've been a nurse for more than 30 years and a mom for 26. As long as I can remember, the prevailing wisdom on when to introduce solid foods for babies has fluctuated. At one time, they said only breast milk or formula for the first 6 months. Then, it was cereal at 3 months, and so on. And even now, it can depend on who you talk to as to the advice you get.
The reasons for these changes can vary, but a new study published recently in the journal Pediatrics lays to rest at least some of the reasons behind this debate.
A group of German researchers used the data from the LISA study to look at whether delaying the introduction of solid foods could help prevent certain allergic diseases, including eczema, asthma, nasal allergies and food allergies. (LISA stands for Influences of Lifestyle-Related Factors on the Immune System and the Development of Allergies in Childhood.)
Here are the highlights of this study:
- Data was examined for 2073 children who had reached age 6 years
- Researchers looked at whether there were skin or other allergic symptoms during the first 6 months of life
- No evidence was found that delaying solid foods beyond the first 4 to 6 months would offer any protection at all from anything other than eczema, and the results on that disease are conflicting at best.
These results are signficant because currently the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology all currently recommend that no solid food be given to a baby during the first 4 to 6 months of life.
There does not seem to be any scientific basis for such a recommendation. In fact, this data analysis seemed to indicate that delaying solid foods might actually lead to a higher frequency of food sensitization, although scientists caution against drawing any lasting conclusions from that data.
So what does all this mean to mothers of infants today? Well, it remains to be seen whether current policy recommendations will change as a result of this study. But it does not appear that introducing solid foods to your young baby is going to increase the risk of allergic disease.
However, it IS important to note that solid foods should always be introduced slowly, one type at a time, and your child should be watched carefully for any signs of digestive problems or allergic reaction. And be sure to follow your doctor's advice on feeding too.
Published On: January 16, 2008