Many new parents often feel that adding solid food -- most often cereal -- to their newborn's food repertoire will help the baby sleep through the night. But that's not true. Even more importantly, by adding cereal, you decrease intake of the substance your baby needs most at this stage of his life to grow -- breast milk or formula. Adding cereal too soon raises the risk that your baby will develop eczema, and become overweight or obese.
Improper Nutrient Balance
Babies are made to digest breast milk. Formula makers attempt to mimic the content of breast milk because it's the ideal food for newborns. Babies can't digest more complex foods at this stage of their life. Breast milk and, to a lesser degree formula, contains the perfect mix of protein, carbohydrate and fats, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Introducing solid foods too early appears to increase the risk of a baby developing eczema, a skin condition often associated with allergies, according to AskDrSears.com. Whether the incidence of allergies also increases when parents give solids before 4 to 6 months of age hasn't been conclusively proven, a University of Washington study published in the May 2006 issue of "Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine" reports. Some pediatricians, such as Dr. William Sears, say they feel that a baby's immature gut can't filter out potential allergens well before 6 months.
Starting solid foods before age 4 months can increase your baby's risk of becoming overweight or obese. A Children's Hospital Boston study published in the March 2011 issue of "Pediatrics" found that babies who were fed solid foods before 4 months were six times more likely to be overweight or obese at age 3. Babies are born with the ability to self-regulate their food intake. Forcing a baby to finish a bottle interferes with this natural ability. Adding cereal to formula and increasing its caloric intake interferes even more, pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene says.
Babies don't have the motor control to eat solid foods until around age 4 to 6 months. The tongue movements needed for nursing differ from those needed to swallow solid foods. Your baby will push the cereal out rather than swallowing it, although a small amount might actually make it down his throat. Putting cereal in his bottle is dangerous. You'll need to enlarge the nipple hole for the cereal to flow through it, which can cause the mixture to come out too fast and increases the risk of choking. Tiny babies can also aspirate cereal into their lungs, the Mayo Clinic warns.
- Dr. Greene: Baby Bottles and Cereal
- Ask Dr. Sears: Six Reasons to Delay Introducing Solid Foods
- Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine: Systematic review of the relationship between early introduction of solid Foods to Infants and the Development of Allergic Disease
- Pediatrics: Timing of Solid Food Introduction and Risk of Obesity in Preschool-Aged Children
- Mayo Clinic: Starting Solid Foods: Whens the Right Time?
- Minnesota Department of Health: Infant Cereal
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