To investigate whether early introduction of complementary foods (CF) is associated with an increased risk of overweight during childhood, and whether this association differs between formula-fed and breastfed infants.
We included 2611 participants that were born at term from a Dutch population-based birth cohort (n = 3963) designed to investigate the development of asthma and allergies. Parents kept records of their infant's age when CF were first introduced. Weight and height were parent reported yearly from age 1 to 8 years, and at ages 11, 14 and 17 years. We used multivariate generalized estimating equations analysis to investigate the association between timing of CF introduction (before 4 months vs at or after 4 months of age) and overweight at ages 1-17 years.
Children with CF introduction before 4 months had higher odds of being overweight during childhood than children with CF introduction at or after 4 months (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.19, 1.47). This association was observed in formula-fed infants (OR 1.51, 95% CI 1.17, 1.94) and breastfed infants (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.19, 1.47). The duration of breastfeeding modified the association between CF introduction and overweight: children breastfed for shorter than 4 months, but not children breastfed for 4 months or longer with CF introduction before 4 months had higher odds of being overweight (OR 1.37, 95% CI 1.19, 1.57 and 1.07, 95% CI 0.87, 1.32, respectively), compared to those with CF introduction at or after 4 months.
In children born at term, formula-fed infants and infants who were breastfed for shorter than 4 months, but not infants who were breastfed for 4 months or longer, had a higher risk of being overweight during childhood when being introduced to CF before 4 months of age.