RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—As every new parent knows, that tiny addition to the family can cause a disproportionate amount of angst. But soothing fussy babies with juice or other foods before they're ready isn't a healthy solution, according to the American Association of Pediatrics. The AAP recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively until 4 months of age, if possible, or fed formula if that’s not possible, and recommends that solid foods should only be introduced after babies are 4 months old.
THE DETAILS: Overwhelmed parents of fussy babies aren’t always sticking to those guidelines. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics followed low-income families in North Carolina to assess early infant-feeding patterns. Their findings? Though about 70 percent of the babies were fed at least some breast milk in their first month and 20 percent got breast milk exclusively, by age 3 months, things changed. Just 25 percent were being breastfed, and only 5 percent of the babies were getting breast milk exclusively. In addition, almost 20 percent of the babies were fed solid foods or juice by age 1 month; and by 3 months old, 70 percent were getting fed something (often fruit juice or added cereal) in addition to milk or formula. And the mothers who classified their babies as fussy were nearly twice as likely to feed them solid food early, compared with moms who described their child as calm.
WHAT IT MEANS: The concerns here are that not only do young babies not need solids or juice, but that those foods provide lots of extra calories. Infants fed these foods consume 100 more calories a day than infants given only formula or only breast milk, which can lead to babies who are overweight for their height. And sweet fruit juice may soothe a fussy baby in the short run, but establishing an eating pattern based on treating moods with sweets isn’t a good idea in the long run.