WOMEN'S HEALTH
June 12, 2006

Not By Breast Alone

Giving breastfed babies a bit of solid food may help ward off food allergies.
A new study has challenged the widespread belief that babies should be exclusively breastfed, and not given any solid foods, in their first six months.

The study, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 1,612 Colorado children, tracking the diet of those who developed allergies to wheat. After lead researcher Jill Poole, M.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and her colleagues factored in family histories of allergies and other factors, she said: "We found the odds striking — almost four times as many babies in the group which delayed introduction of solid food until after they were 6 months old, got wheat allergies."

This dramatically contradicts the conventional wisdom that that infants who are given solid food in the first few months of life are more likely to develop food allergies.

This dramatically contradicts the conventional wisdom that that infants who are given solid food in the first few months of life are more likely to develop food allergies.

Parents can be forgiven if they are confused on this issue — the experts are confused, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, currently offers not one, but two recommendations. The AAP's Committee on Nutrition suggests giving babies cereal between 4 and 6 months of age. But the AAP Committee on Breastfeeding advises parents to hold off on solid food until babies reach 6 months old.

Though a growing number of parents are waiting 6 months or longer before giving their babies cereal, thinking that they are preventing food allergies, this latest study suggests that waiting, in fact, has the opposite effect.
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