There is a constant debate about what is the best way to feed your infant: breastfeeding or formula. There is also a debate when to start giving your baby solid foods. A study conducted by the Children's Hospital Boston shed some new light on the combination of how you are feeding your child and when you start them on solid foods, and how these help lower childhood obesity risk factors. The general consensus on when to start feeding babies solid food is between four and six months, with six months being the more optimal time frame. This general recommendation was made regardless of whether the baby was breastfed or formula fed. With this new study there seems to be an increase in the risks for obesity if the child has been formula fed and then gets an early introduction of solid foods.
This study was conducted over a three-year period with about 850 babies and their mothers and at six months the mothers were asked whether they had breastfed or formula fed their babies and when they started them on solid foods. Interestingly, the babies who were breastfed for at least the first four months after birth had a one in 14 chance of being obese as a preschooler. Babies who were formula fed or who stopped breastfeeding before four months and then were given solid foods at four months had a one in four chance of being obese as a preschooler. I think the most interesting result was that the chance of a baby becoming obese later on decreased to one in 20 if the parents waited until he or she was five months before they started solid food.
There are several good messages that come out of the study to help prevent obesity in preschoolers. If possible, based on your lifestyle, breastfeed your baby for at least four months and optimally at least six months. If you are formula feeding your infant, wait until five to six months before introducing solid foods. Why do we care about children being overweight at three years old? The reason is because studies show children who are overweight at three years of age generally continue to stay that way over their lifetime.