-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Commercial baby foods don't
meet infants' dietary needs when they are weaning, according to a
That's because commercial foods are predominately sweet foods
that provide little extra nutritional benefit over breast or
formula milk, the researchers said. They also said commercial baby
foods are marketed for use in infants beginning at the age of 4
months, an age when they should still be breast-fed only.
"The most commonly used commercial foods considered in this study supply no more energy than breast or formula milk and yet they are promoted at an age when they will replace the breast or formula milk, which is all that babies under six months really need," explained a team led by Dr. Charlotte Wright, of the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
One expert in the United States said the study brings up
"Weaning from milk-based diets to food-based diets in this age range should not be taken lightly," said Dr. Peter Richel, chief of the department of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. "We must provide adequate nutrition to provide energy, consistent growth velocity and age-appropriate milestones in all areas of development," he said.
In the new study, Wright's team analyzed the nutritional content
of all baby foods in the United Kingdom that can be used during
weaning, a time when infants are introduced to a wider range of
food textures and flavors in order to encourage them to try
different foods and boost their energy and nutrient intake.
The 462 products included ready-made soft, wet foods; powdered
meals that are reconstituted with milk or water; breakfast cereals;
and finger foods, such as rusks.
The researchers found that 79 percent of the products were
ready-made spoonable foods, 44 percent of which were marketed for
infants aged 4 months and older.
The energy content of the spoonable foods was almost identical
to that of breast milk and their protein content was only 40
percent higher than formula milk, according to the study, which was
published online in the journal
Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Products that contained meat had the highest iron content, but
this was no higher than formula milk and not much higher than
products that did not contain meat. Dry finger foods had much
higher levels of energy and nutrients overall, but also had
particularly high levels of sugar.
Overall, nearly two-thirds of the products were sweet foods. The
team said repeat exposure to sweet foods during infancy can lead
children to develop a preference for such foods.
The main point of weaning foods is to increase the energy
content of the diet and provide richer sources of nutrients, such
as iron, Wright's team said.
"While it is understandable that parents may choose to use [these products] early in the weaning process, health professionals should be aware that such food will not add to the nutrient density of a milk diet," they said.
And although the study focused on products sold in the United
Kingdom, Richel said, American babies likely face the same
"Offerings for infant foods [in the United States] are too sweet in general," he said. "Parents should be aware of processed foods, artificial sweeteners in fruits and 'baby-friendly' yogurts and yogurt drinks. These products seem so nice and easy, with great marketing, packaging and convenience."
The best baby foods, however, might be home-made. "In the early
infant with first solids, it would be wonderful if parents took the
time to prepare foods in their kitchen at home," Richel said. "For
example, for fruits and veggies, one simply blanches them, blends a
bit of liquid (breast milk, formula or water) and voila! A puree is
made. Helpings can be stored in ice-cube trays for easy
Although home-made may be a bit less convenient, "the end result
will be so worthwhile," he added. "What could be more important
than the health of our children?"
The Nemours Foundation offers
advice about weaning.
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