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Saturday, 9 September, 2000, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Mothers 'feeding babies too early'
Baby
Babies shouldn't be fed solids until they are four months old
Mothers are putting their children at risk of health problems later in life because they are feeding them "solids" too early.

Government guidelines suggest that babies should not be fed solid food until they are at least four months old.

This is because babies who move onto solids too early risk becoming overweight and developing heart problems when they grow older.

However, few mothers follow that advice. Figures produced in 1995 show that as many as two out of three mothers feed their babies solids before they are four months old.

And a study carried out in Scotland found that while most mothers are aware of the guidelines, few know why they should follow them.

The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Dundee, examined the feeding practices of 29 mothers with infants under four months old.

It found that half had already given solid food to their babies.


It is important that children do have adequate nutrition in their early years

British Heart Foundation spokeswoman

The solids ranged from teaspoons of baby rice added to bottles to two course meals.

Many of the mothers who took part in the study said they had introduced solids early because they felt their baby was hungry.

The mothers said feeding solids to their babies made them more contented and settled.

They said it was difficult to think about the effect that early weaning might have on their baby as an adult, particularly when their babies were content and happy.

Professor Beth Alder, from the University of Dundee, said she had not been surprised by the findings. "It confirmed previous suggestions," she said.

Differing views

Professor Alder said the women had differing views on why the government guidelines suggested they should not wean their babies too early.

"Some thought they were supposed to wait because babies' digestive systems cannot cope with solids," she said.

Professor Alder said one of the reasons for the early weaning was because mothers were treating their babies "as individuals".

"They are encouraged to treat their babies as individuals by health visitors but by doing so one of things they are doing is not following the guidelines."

A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said it was important babies were fed nutritiously.

"The feeling is that breast milk and milk formula need to be the main ingredient of a baby's diet for at least the first year. After that they can be switched very gradually onto other foods.

"There has been a lot of discussion about early nutrition and illness in later years. It is important that children do have adequate nutrition in their early years."

Professor Alder has recently completed a study of 400 new mothers to further examine the reasons why they feed their babies solids before recommended.

Those results are expected shortly.

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31 Jan 00 | Health
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