The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed only formula or breast milk until they are 6 months old, but more than 90 percent of mothers are offering solid food to their babies earlier than that, with 40 percent offering solids before 4 months, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC survey, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, said the findings are "worrisome" in that babies may be at increased risk for developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, eczema, and celiac disease. More from NBC News:
The mothers who volunteered for the CDC study filled out food diaries and questionnaires designed to ferret out their opinions on why and when solid foods should be offered.
Among the moms offering solid foods to infants younger than 4 months, the most commonly cited reasons for doing so included: "My baby was old enough;" "My baby seemed hungry;" "I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula," "My baby wanted the food I ate;" "A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food;" and "It would help my baby sleep longer at night," researchers reported.
What's more, moms who fed their babies formula were far more likely to start solids too early versus those who exclusively breast-fed (53 percent versus 24 percent), the study showed.
One food expert unaffiliated with the CDC study suggested that some health-care providers may simply be unfamiliar with current baby-feeding recommendations.
"I think this is worrisome," said Ann Condon-Meyers, a pediatric dietician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "I think it may show that word isn't getting out that ... it is 6 months before solid foods should be offered."
Image: Baby being fed, via Shutterstock