The timing of infants’ solid food introduction has been associated with mothers’ age, educational attainment, breastfeeding at 4 weeks, self Reported maternal satisfaction, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), and negatively associated with mothers’ gestational weight gain. There are also several studies that showed the association between mothers feeding their infants solid food before 24 weeks of gestational age and their risk for overweight or obesity at 6 months. These results are contradictory to the notion that breast milk is sufficient for healthy infants.
Mothers who fed their infants solid foods before 24 weeks of gestational age had higher BMI at 6 months of age and a longer duration of exclusive breast-feeding compared to mothers who did not introduce solid foods to their infants before this time. This study also showed that the association between overweight and obesity was stronger for infants who were breastfed. Thus these results indicate that the early introduction of solid foods is not necessarily beneficial for infants. Conversely, it may be beneficial for premature infants who have been breastfed but do not complete the full four months of breastfeeding.
Another study that suggests the lack of benefit of breastfeeding is from a study comparing low-fat and low-calorie sweetened formulas and breastfed infants. Participants were categorized as having either a history of food allergy or not, and from two different ethnic/racial groups. Both groups had similar patterns of caloric intake and frequency of feedings. Those in the history of food allergy were significantly more likely to be overweight at six months than those in the non-allergic group. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in body mass index or glycemic index at six months for those in the history of food allergy compared to those in the non-allergic group. The conclusion of this study suggests that there may be an unhelpful link between weight gain and the potential for food allergy in infants.
The timing of feeding has also been examined as a possible factor in the relationship between infants and food allergies. Research indicates that breastfed infants tend to reach full size earlier than bottle-fed ones, which may account for their higher ability to gain weight. Feeding frequency and time periods also appear to have a bearing on infant growth and development. Frequent feedings are recommended during the first six months of life of young children in order to help them meet daily nutritional requirements.
Weaning is defined as the gradual reduction of an infant’s mother’s exclusive breast milk following weaning. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that wean infants by four months of age. At this time, a mother can wean her baby by using solids or powdered formulas made specifically for weaning. Weaning occurs much earlier in some populations, as many infants were weaned before the age of one. Thus the average weaning time for an African American baby might be one year less than that of a Caucasian infant.
It has also been suggested that infants might be sensitive to milk protein and gluten. This argument has been presented against weaning by research, however. There is no conclusive evidence linking either a positive or negative reaction to feeding infant soy products during the first month of life, according to medical research. Likewise, there is no evidence that infants who are weaned on solid food experience any increased incidence of allergies.