Maternal and infant factors associated with reasons for introducing solid foods.Matern Child Nutr 2016; 12(3):500-15MC
The current UK Department of Health advice is to introduce solid foods to infants at around 6 months of age, when the infant is showing signs of developmental readiness for solid foods. However, many mothers introduce solid foods before this time, and for a wide variety of reasons, some of which may not promote healthy outcomes. The aim of the current study was to examine infant and maternal characteristics associated with different reasons for introducing solid foods. Seven hundred fifty-six mothers with an infant aged 6-12 months old completed a questionnaire describing their main reason for introducing solid foods alongside demographic questions, infant weight, gender, breast/formula feeding and timing of introduction to solid foods. The majority of mothers introduced solid foods for reasons explicitly stated in the Department of Health advice as not signs of readiness for solid foods. These reasons centred on perceived infant lack of sleep, hunger or unsettled behaviour. Maternal age, education and parity, infant weight and gender and breast/formula feeding choices were all associated with reasons for introduction. A particular association was found between breastfeeding and perceiving the infant to be hungrier or needing more than milk could offer. Male infants were perceived as hungry and needing more energy than female infants. Notably, signs of readiness may be misinterpreted with some stating this reason for infants weaned prior to 16 weeks. The findings are important for those working to support and educate new parents with the introduction of solid foods in understanding the factors that might influence them.