The Melbourne-based Murdoch Childrens Research Institute found that introducing solids at five to six months decreases the chance of babies having a high body mass index — a measure of body fat — at age one.
Pinpointing the optimal age to introduce solids to babies has long been a source of confusion for parents.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and then introducing solid foods.
To reduce the risk of allergies, the Australian Infant Consensus feeding guidelines, updated in May, also advised starting solids about six months, but not before four months.
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute paediatric gastroenterologist and allergist Professor Katie Allen said the new findings about obesity protection supported the allergy guidelines.
“We found a U-shaped curve: if solids were introduced before four months or delayed after the age of seven months, then that appeared to increase the risk of overweight and obesity,” she said.
Babies who had solids before four months were three times as likely to have an above-normal BMI compared with those who received their first solids at six months.
“Early-life weight gain is an important risk factor for being obese and overweight later in life,” Prof Allen said. “For instance, there is also evidence that babies who gain weight too rapidly are at risk of cardiovascular health issues later in life.
“We are interested in helping babies have optimal growth in that first year of life — not too little, not too much, just right: like Goldilocks.”
The researchers also found that breastfeeding, of any duration, appeared to protect against obesity in early life.
The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and University of Melbourne research, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, also found the longer babies were breastfed, the lower the chance of their weight being above normal.
“Breast is best for baby and the reason people think this is the case is that the baby self-regulates their appetite — they only drink what they need,” Prof Allen said.
Melbourne mother Jade Barnes introduced solids to her daughter Chloe when she was five months old.
“She was showing signs that she was ready by watching me eat and I tried her on Farex and she loved it,” Ms Barnes said.
As originally published by The Hearld Sun
Monday 10th October