Solid Foods and Picky Eating?

We get questions related to starting solid foods from parents pretty often, and have blogged on topics such as how to start and some specific tips for infants with allergies. Most questions about starting solids are best answered by your little one’s health care team, since there isn’t always consensus in the medical community. Today we want to share an interesting study that was published recently in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that may be helpful.

The Article and the Study

The title of the article is “Associations of Infant Feeding Practices and Picky Eating Behaviors of Preschool Children.” We can simplify it to “how feeding infants might add to picky eating later on.” The authors looked into the way that feeding patterns in infancy, when eating patterns start to develop, affect picky eating behavior later in life. We know that every child will exhibit picky eating at some point; what we don’t know is how picky they will be and how long it will last. We don’t know any parent who wouldn’t do whatever they could to lower the risk of picky eating!

The authors of the study looked at data from 129 mothers of preschool children. The focus was on how early the moms started solid foods. They compared this with how willing the children were later in life to try new foods and how much variety their diets had.

The Results

The authors found that children in the study who were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life were less likely to be picky about how their food was prepared, less likely to reject food, and less likely to be afraid of new foods. By waiting until 6 months to introduce solid foods, their children were less likely to be picky eaters later in childhood.

What the Results Mean

While it’s tempting to take the results of this study at face value, waiting until 6 months to introduce solids will not guarantee no picky eating. For starters, the authors admit that picky eating is hard to define, and each parent sees picky eating differently. This study also relied on parents’ memories about feeding their infants, and the small study group may not represent the whole population.

What we should take away from this study is that infant feeding practices, particularly the age when solids are started, can have an impact on picky eating behavior later in childhood. This study presents evidence that waiting until 6 months may be a good start, and that further studies could be useful. Introducing solids at 6 months is in line with the recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). For infants with documented allergy or risk of allergy, an expert panel has also suggested that it’s best to wait until 6 months to introduce solids. This is part of the reasoning behind why we suggest waiting until 6 months to introduce Neocate Nutra, the only hypoallergenic, amino acid-based semi-solid designed specifically for infants and children with allergies.

Would you change the age that you introduce solids based on the results of this study?

Rob McCandlish, RDN

Published: 10/20/2017
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