Experts warn weaning children before six months old is creating health crisis
Weaning your baby from a milk-only diet onto solids is a huge milestone for both the baby getting a taste of actual food for the first time and also for the new parents faced with yet another of parenthood's 'firsts.'
The standard advice given is that babies are ready for solid food around the six-month mark, but experts are now warning that many new parents are now weaning their children weeks – even months – before this and that this is causing a growing obesity crisis.
According to research, the problem appears to stem from parents who are weaning babies off breast milk and bottle milk too soon and turning to pureed junk food instead, reports Daily Mail.
According to the newspaper, figures last year showed more than 1,400 newborns were classified as obese (weighing 9 lb 15 oz or more) in the UK since 2011. The average weight for a boy is 7 lb 8 oz and for a girl 7 lb 4 oz — a weight that is around 2 oz higher than in 1971.
The problem, according to Tam Fray, a spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum, is that many new parents are simply not getting the right information about this.
"We are weaning children far too early because parents are not being taught properly," Fray explains. "We are forcing food into children at an inappropriately early age. The only solution is education, from health professionals and GPs as the knowledge is not being inherited. Not everyone these days has extended families that help them when they are first time parents so the previous knowledge isn’t being passed on."
The National Obesity Forum in the UK is made up of a group of healthcare professionals who take an interest in the treatment and management of obesity, and Fray believes what needs to happen, is for the Government to invest more heavily in healthcare professionals to work with mothers and in the community.
"It is woeful that even when a child hasn’t developed a digestive tract we are forcing it to eat solids and it therefore likes to eat and often become obese before reaching one year," says Fray. "And this is largely because of the appalling system in place. Mothers do see health professionals but often at the beginning and end of the year due to under-investment in this country."
The official advice from the WHO is that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to "achieve optimal growth, development and health."