Feeding Babies Too Early

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Researchers at the CDC were surprised to find that 40% of mothers reported feeding solid food to babies under 4 months old; the recommended age is 6 months old. Sally Findleyprofessor of Clinical Population and Family Health and of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, discusses the reasons health guidelines for children are sometimes unknown or ignored.


Sally Findley

Comments [9]

Matthew G from Los Angeles

I don't think the guest or the guest host did a respectable amount of research for this segment.

One of the primary reasons for withholding solids is that an infant's gut is still "open" before six months. This allows for more direct absorption of the antibodies in breast milk, but if feeding solids, also allows macromolecules and pathogens to enter the bloodstream.

Some babies are ready earlier. Anecdotes about babies who started solids early and went on to be healthy, thin adults don't disprove the study and the data on thousands of people. Some smokers live to be 90. So smoking is harmless, right? How did Mr. Cruz or Professor Findley not respond on this most basic of scientific principles, that anecdotes don't disprove statistics?

I was disappointed to hear Professor Findley mention rice cereal and jarred foods as the primary foods to begin with at six months. Rice cereal is nutritionally void and jarred foods are not nearly as healthy as whole foods. La Leche League recommends whole foods, such as cut up or mashed avocado, banana or sweet potato. This is also how Montessori and Baby-Led Weaning work.

I would not expect the segment to cover all of this in depth, but just a mention of the wealth of options would give new parents something to research further.

-Long-time listener, former New Yorker and father of a five month old, looking forward to Brian's return.

Mar. 28 2013 01:44 PM

I started my son on "solid" foods (baby cereal flakes) when he was 3 months old. He was growing at a rate where clothes I'd buy him one week didn't fit the next. At just over 3 months he could stand up holding on to his crib rail, and at 5 months he was crawling. he didn't sit up until he was about 6 months old, which is common for early crawlers. He was always hungry, eating an 8-ounce bottle of formula every 2 hours, including night time. I asked his doctor and he said that I could mix in some baby cereal in his formula and see if he would be able to eat jar food, which he was able to. He started sleeping better, only waking up 2 times to eat (instead of 4). He is now 22, very tall (6'2") and is not obese at all. My daughter pretty much followed suit two years later. The way the doctor on the show today would pause at "trick" questions lead me to believe that she doesn't have any children or, if she does, she had nannies to raise them.

Mar. 27 2013 10:00 PM
Julie from Brooklyn

Some babies are ready to start solids by six months, but not all babies. Those born prematurely may need to wait longer before they're ready. My son, born at 36 weeks, wasn't sitting up on his own until seven months, so we waited until then. Once we did introduce solids, he took to them avidly.

Just as important as the timing of introducing solids is the kind of foods that are introduced. Rice cereal has relatively low nutritional value, but foods like avocados, bananas, apricots, and sweet potatoes are high in nutrients, and introduce babies to a variety of tastes. Breastfeeding advocates also recommend nursing your baby BEFORE each feeding of solid food, because breast milk will continue to be their most important nutrient source until they're around a year. Diets that are lower in animal products will be beneficial to children's long-term health (see the excellent book "Disease-Proof Your Child" at

Mar. 27 2013 02:32 PM
Julia from Bay Shore, NY

Peg, you are so right!

Mar. 27 2013 12:05 PM

I've found that those most interested in early pablum feeding are also those who did not breast feed and they seemed determined to have breast feeding mothers "get it over with" in their presence. AND... they were all women.

Stand firm, breastfeeding mothers. Many of your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, work mates and neighbors may have a serious "issue" with breastfeeding ...and that's their problem - not yours.

Mar. 27 2013 11:48 AM
Joe Pearce from brooklyn

This is unscientific, but a legendary story in my family. My mom married late and had been a flapper, so domesticity was quite strange to her. Her older sister was the same, except even more so. When Mom's baby doctor (the word 'obstetrician' was unknown in those days to people like us) told her to try me on solid foods, it was left at that. (I don't know exactly how old I was by then, but I suspect about six months.) Mom came home, her older sister Cassie was there (Dad was at work), and they had no idea of WHAT to feed me, so they went with their instincts. The next time she went to the baby doctor, he asked how it went with the solid food, and Mom said it was okay. He asked what she had tried with me, and she said, "Well, we fried him a meatball." Aghast, the doctor practically yelled, "You fried him a meatball?!! And what happened?" Mom, back to the doctor, "He liked it, so I fry up one every day for him now." Today, she'd probably be arrested for child endangerment, but I am now 74 and don't think I've had two instances of upset stomach or indigestion in my entire post-babyhood life. Professor Findley might use this as an anecdote as to just how influential early eating patterns may be on one's later development. God bless my flapper mom and aunt! (And I still love fried meatballs!)

Mar. 27 2013 11:46 AM
Julia from Bay Shore, NY

I wish this news was reported a few months earlier. My baby is seven months old now, and I was getting pressured from my mother, mother-in-law, sister, mother-in-law's neighbors, "the girl at at my sister's office" and more to feed my baby cereal earlier than two months old. Fortunately for me and my child, I had researched this, and was steadfast and stubborn when confronted with this unwanted advice. I did start earlier than I had originally intended. I wanted to wait until six months, but around four and a half months, I noticed that my daughter was sitting up, holding her head up, making chewing motions and was fascinated by our food. She was also already sixteen pounds. Her pediatrician reported that she was ready around that time, so we started with some cereal. And it was love at first bite. I now have a freezer stocked with all sorts of homemade baby food. She loves her vegetables.

Another piece of unwanted advice, and the most ridiculous, was from my in-law's neighbor, who happens to be an ObGyn. After hearing that my baby was fussy, she told them that she is probably allergic to my breast milk, and that babies are very often allergic to mother's breast milk. That advice had me so angry. I researched online for hours, and found no information that could confirm her ludicrous comment. All I found was that yes, babies can be sensitive to foods that mothers eat (like dairy), but they are allergic to mother's milk in only the most extreme cases.

Mar. 27 2013 11:20 AM
Sherril from Morris Plains, NJ

This is not new news. My daughter is 32 years old and my father was a physician and I was hell bent on breast feeding only, at least for the first 6 months. I got flack, but I knew then, 32 years ago, in 1980, that it was the best for my baby. There was much scientific evidence then for breast feeding and not giving solid foods, for some, even up to a year. The La Leche League was big and influential in 1980. Why or why do they keep reinventing the wheel?

Mar. 27 2013 11:14 AM

The study is total b/s,

My 28 year old son is very skinny and fit. When he was a couple of months old he was growing very quickly. The doctor told us that he is too big for his age and that we had to LIMIT the amount of food he is getting. But the kid was hungry. He was sucking the bottle like a wolf. So, we ask the doctor - how can we not feed our baby? His answer was to ridicule us - that a little baby tells us what to do.

So, at home we started to feed our baby son serials. Until he started to walk he was on the chubby side, but it all was gone soon after.

Now, at 28 he is physiscally very fit and not overweight at all. I think he is 5'11'' @ 155 lbs.

Mar. 27 2013 11:02 AM

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