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Health scare of the week: Weaning babies too soon

A startling number of parents are risking their babies’ health by giving them solid food before their bodies can tolerate it.

A startling number of parents are risking their babies’ health by giving them solid food before their bodies can tolerate it. Doctors recommend waiting until children are at least 6 months old before feeding them anything other than breast milk or formula. But a new national survey of mothers found that 40 percent had given their babies solid food before they were 4 months old, and nearly 10 percent had done so at 4 weeks old. That puts infants at risk of choking, as well as developing diarrhea, intestinal inflammation, obesity, and diabetes. It also deprives them of breast-feeding’s benefits, which include improved immune system health and decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Many mothers falsely believed solid food would help their babies sleep, and more than 50 percent said that their doctors had “told them it was time to introduce solid food,” which “for us indicates that health-care providers need to provide clearer guidance,” Kelley Scanlon, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tells NBCNews.com. Young, unmarried, and low-income mothers were also more likely than average to start their babies on solids early because of the high cost of formula.

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