Breastfed Babies Weaned Later than Formula Fed Babies

July 5th, 2009 by

It is recommended by experts across the globe to hold off on starting an infant on solids until at least 4 to 6 months of age; with some experts claiming no sooner than 6 months.  Ideally, an infant should be exclusively breastfed for the 6 months of life, but statistically many women to not reach that goal.  Does the type of infant feeding method dictate how soon a baby is started on solid foods?  A new study attempts to find the answer to that very question.

Published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, the study spans 5 European countries and includes over 1500 infants.  As it turns out, mother who breastfeed are more likely to follow the recommendation of delayed solid food introduction.  On average, formula fed babies were given solid foods 2 weeks earlier than breastfed babies along with being twice as likely to start on solids prior to 4 months of age.  Only about 16% of breastfed babied had solids prior to 4 months of age compared to about 37% of formula fed babies.

The study also revealed the timing of introduction of solids also varied between countries.  Regardless of breast or bottle feeding, Belgian mothers were more likely to start babies on solids before 4 months of age; whereas mothers in Germany did not.  Although expertbaby health, baby nutrition recommendations between countries as to when to introduce solids are the same, the differences suggest that there are social, cultural, and parental influences that dictate the timing of weaning.

In addition, formula fed babies were more likely to be given commercially prepared foods than their formula fed counterparts.  As lead study author  Sonia Schiess of Dr. von Haunersches Children’s hospital in Munich explains:  “It seems that breastfeeding mothers prefer normal foods to commercially prepared or semi-prepared products; whereas mothers who feed their babies formula and, hence, are already using a commercial product, may have a lower threshold for introducing other commercial products into the infants diet."

Almost all countries, including UNICEF, are unanimous about feeding recommendations including exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.  Early introduction of solids has been associated with childhood obesity as well as a main contributor to food allergies. Waiting to introduce solids to your baby’s diet also allows time for their digestive systems to mature improving overall immunity while making the transition into a solid food diet much easier for both baby and mother. 


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