A new study emphasizes that mothers should avoid giving their newborns solid food before 4 months, because the infants’ bodies aren’t yet developed enough to digest it.

Among women who started their babies on solid food too early, 52.7 percent had been giving them formula, while only 24.3 percent had been giving them breastmilk.

In Orange County, Calif., there’s more awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and delaying solids until the recommended 6 months, says Dr. Eric Ball, a pediatrician with Southern Orange County Pediatric Associates. But he adds that many mothers don’t realize that starting babies on solids too soon can be a problem.

“We see it a lot,” Ball said. “The main reason I usually see it is, there’s a misconception that babies who aren’t sleeping through the night are not full, and if you start giving them solid foods early they might sleep better. There’s no truth to that.”

By 6 months, most babies are getting bigger and need more nutrition than milk or formula can provide. Also, most babies are born with enough stored-up iron to last them about 6 months, and their bodies start to run out around that time, Ball said.

For years, the standard first solid for a baby has been rice cereal, but “in reality, there’s no science” to back up that recommendation, Ball said. He suggests starting with a whole-grain cereal, and to mix in pureed vegetables and fruits.

©2013 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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