ATLANTA, May 11 (UPI) -- Although concerns have been raised that introducing solid foods to babies too early can increase their risk for obesity, a recent study says the timing does not matter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in the new study that whether babies are given solid food for the first time earlier than four months or later than six months, age of first solid food appears to have no effect on risk for obesity.
Despite a 2013 CDC study suggesting starting solid foods too early had a dramatic increase in risk for obesity, the new study followed babies for up to six years, tracking their weight and development -- finding solid food starts had no effect.
"Given the conflicting findings from previous research about whether the early introduction of solid foods increased the chances of a child becoming obese, this important large-sample long-term study from the CDC raises this key question anew," Dr. Tom Baranowski, a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine and editor-in-chief of the journal Childhood Obesity, said in a press release. "Future research will need to assess adiposity at multiple points before 6 years and possible metabolic influences that could result from early introduction of solids on later child obesity."
For the study, published in the journal Childhood Obesity, researchers recruited 1,181 infants who participated in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, following them from birth to 6 years old.
Overall, 12 percent of children in the study were obese at age 6. The researchers report that timing of introduction of solid foods and obesity at 6 years old differed significantly as 15.4 percent children introduced to solids before four months were obese, while 9.9 percent of those introduced between four and six months were obese.
Despite this difference, as well as a smaller gap between children introduced to solids between 4 and 6 months old and children eating their first solids after six months, the researchers say when other life variables are considered, timing of solid foods makes no difference.
Although the study found no link between timing of solids and obesity, previous studies have shown the link, leading the researchers to suggest following optimal feeding practices as currently recommended.
"Despite our findings, optimal infant feeding practices, including exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first 6 months, timely introduction of complementary foods, and continued breastfeeding for at least the first year, should be promoted and supported for all infants because of the numerous health benefits for infants and mothers," researchers write in the study.