OBJECTIVE:

To examine the prevalence of, and mothers’ self-reported reasons for, introducing solid foods to infants earlier than recommended (aged <4 months) and the variation in reasons for early introduction by milk feeding type.

METHODS:

The study included 1334 mothers who participated in the national longitudinal Infant Feeding Practices Study II (2005–2007). Monthly 7-day food-frequency questions throughout infancy were used to determine infant age at solid food introduction and to classify infant’s milk feeding at introduction as breast milk only, formula only, or mixed. Reasons for introducing solid foods at age <4 months were assessed through maternal responses to a list of 12 potential reasons. Analyses included descriptive statistics and multivariable logistic regression.

RESULTS:

Overall, 40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before age 4 months. Prevalence varied by milk feeding type (24.3%, 52.7%, and 50.2% for breastfed, formula-fed, and mixed-fed infants, respectively). The most commonly cited reasons for early introduction of solid food were as follows: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.” Four of these reasons varied by milk feeding type.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings highlight the high prevalence of early introduction of solids and provide details on why mothers introduced solid foods early.

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