Baby food not up to snuff

September 17, 2013

Many commercially available baby foods are targeted to infants as young as 4 months, an age at which experts say infants should still be exclusively breastfed. Furthermore, many of these foods are nutritionally inferior to breast milk, are no more energy-dense than formula, and contain sugar, which may lure children away from the breast and toward a lifelong preference for sweets.

 

Many commercially available baby foods are targeted to infants as young as 4 months, an age at which experts say infants should still be exclusively breastfed. Furthermore, many of these foods are nutritionally inferior to breast milk, are no more energy-dense than formula, and contain sugar, which may lure children away from the breast and toward a lifelong preference for sweets.

The information comes from researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Of the 479 reviewed baby food products marketed in the United Kingdom, 79% were ready-made spoonable foods. Almost half (44%) were aimed at infants as young as 4 months, and almost two-thirds (65%) were sweet foods.

The investigators concluded that the majority of the products had an energy content similar to breast milk. The mean energy content of ready-made spoonable foods was 282 (59) kJ per 100 g, which is almost identical to breast milk, 283 (16) kJ per 100 g. The majority of products did not serve the intended purpose of baby food, which is to enhance nutrient density and expand taste and texture in infants’ diets.

The researchers also found that homemade baby foods tended to be much more nutrient dense than commercially available ones. Also, commercial finger foods were more energy dense than spoonable ones; however, they tended to have the highest sugar content.

If consulted by parents about using commercially prepared baby foods in the weaning process, said the researchers, health professionals should emphasize to parents that such foods will not add to their children’s nutrition and that parents may want to consider progressing straight to suitable family foods without stopping at commercially prepared spoonable options, particularly when weaning later in the first year of life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months of life, meaning that babies require no additional foods (except vitamin D) or fluids during this period unless medically indicated.

 

 

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