The sweet spot for introducing baby to solids? Right around 6 months. Ideally, babies should be exclusively breastfed until then. But how many parents are actually abiding by that AAP-backed recommendation? Only about a third, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the first to examine complementary foods for a nationally-representative group of US infants. Complementary foods include anything that's not breast milk or infant formula, like baby food, cereal, juice and cow's milk. Researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to evaluate the food intake of 1,482 children between 6 and 36 months old.
So when are parents introducing those complementary foods?
Before 4 months: 16.3 percent
At 4-5 months: 38.3 percent
At 6 months: 32.5 percent
At 7+ months: 12.9 percent
"Introducing babies to complementary foods too early can cause them to miss out on important nutrients that come from breast milk and infant formula," CDC lead investigator Chloe M. Barrera, MPH, says. "Conversely, introducing them to complementary foods too late has been associated with micronutrient deficiencies, allergies, and poorer diets later in life."
Knowing when to introduce solids is only half the battle. The other half is knowing what. For some help, check out our solid food starter guide here.