Guidelines for introducing solid foods to infants may lead to unhealthy weight

July 26, 2019

The National Institutes of Health says a study the agency funded indicates that common recommendations from hospitals and infant formula manufacturers for introducing solid foods to infants could raise the risk of overfeeding or underfeeding. The computer modeling study, led by Bruce Y. Lee, MD, Executive Director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, appears in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Parents often seek guidance from medical professionals on how and when to first give solid foods to their infant. Many national and international organizations recommend waiting until an infant is 6 months old before introducing solid foods. However, recommendations vary significantly for infants between 6 months and 1 year. Little research evidence is available on how much solid food is appropriate during this time and what types of solid food are best.

In the current study, researchers developed a computer model that captured feeding behaviors, physical activity levels, estimated metabolism and body size of infants from 6 months to 1 year in response to guidance from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, and baby formula manufacturers Enfamil and Similac. All of the simulated tests resulted in either overweight or underweight simulated infants by 9 months.

The researchers recommend that medical and professional organizations, government agencies and industry consider developing consistent guidelines on how best to introduce infants to solid food, including appropriate portion sizes and food types based on whether the primary feeding type is breastmilk or formula.