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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Current Guides for Starting Infants on Solid Food May Lead to Overfeeding

Starting six-month-old infants on solid food in the amounts recommended by standard feeding guides may lead to overfeeding, according to a study by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Solid food feeding guides are produced by infant formula makers, large children’s hospitals and other infant health experts. They are meant to guide mothers and other caregivers in starting infants on solid food after initial exclusive milk and/or formula feeding. The new study, published July 25 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found evidence that recommendations in four feeding guides, if followed from age 6 to 12 months, would likely result in overfed, overweight infants.

The study was based on a model involving computer-simulated infants that were fed certain diets, and their resulting growth was recorded. The study also measured the computer-simulated infants’ metabolic rates and activity levels, and documented body size and other attributes that were sampled from normal ranges and tracked day by day from age 6 months to 12 months. The simulation also modeled the fact that mothers normally adjust feeding amounts in response to infant weight gain or weight loss.

Testing the impacts of these feeding guides with real infants in a clinical trial would be a complex undertaking, the authors note, and would involve ethical issues given the risk of over- or under-feeding infants participating in such a trial.

Ms. Marie Ferguson, a research associate in the Bloomberg School’s department of international health, is the paper’s first author.

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