"Growth is a sign of nutritional intake and development, an insight into health," says Jillian Trabulsi, associate professor of nutrition and a registered dietitian. "Infant nutrition is a critical starting point."
‘The WHO recommends that an infant be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of his/her life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health. At six months the baby displays readiness for new foods, textures, and modes of feeding.’
With nearly 10 percent of infants considered "high weight for length," Trabulsi is interested in how to help all infants achieve a healthy weight as they enter childhood, starting with their intake during those first few months of life.
The reality is that 60 percent of American infants are exposed to infant formula by four months of age either as a sole source of nutrition or in combination with breast milk.
Already, she and her collaborator, Julie Mennella, have confirmed the finding of a previous study that found that healthy babies randomized to receive cow's milk formula had accelerated weight gain compared to babies fed a hydrolyzed protein formula (a formula typically for infants with cow's milk allergy), who gained weight similarly to their breastfed counterparts.
While the benefits of breastfeeding are well known -- breastfed babies tend to be better protected against rapid weight gain and obesity, among other things.
Danger of Early Complementary feeding
Baby foods are recommended when breast milk or formula are not enough to satiate a child's hunger. Although these continue to be nutritious, baby foods mainly supplement breast milk and/or infant formula.
- Lack of Nutrients: Many of the most popular brands contain less than a fifth of a baby's recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and other crucial minerals (University of Greenwich 2012). One meat jar, one vegetable jar and 600ml of formula milk still would not be enough calcium, magnesium, copper and selenium and meets only 20% of the daily nutrient intake.
- Risk Of Anemia: Early introduction of complementary baby foods may satiate the hunger of the infant, resulting in less frequent breast feeding and consequently, less nutrition. Iron absorption from mother's milk decreases when the milk comes in contact with other foods in the infant's small intestine. Therefore, early use of complementary foods may cause iron deficiency and anemia.
- Use of Preservatives: Baby foods are loaded with preservatives to prevent the food from spoilage. While preservatives do no good for an adult, it is wise to give a second thought while opting it for babies.
"Breastfeeding is the preferred source of infant nutrition. For infants who are fed infant formula, either in combination with breast milk or as a sole source of nutrition, it is overwhelming when parents walk down the formula aisle," she says.
"Parents should talk to their doctor or registered dietitian about how formulas differ in composition to find the one that is best for their baby."
- Jillian Trabulsi et al., Healthy weight gain in infants, 4th International Conference on Nutrition and Growth (2017).