Continuing breast feeding when introducing solid foods gives babies
stronger immune system
14 January 2014
Introducing solid food to babies while maintaining breast feeding
after the 17th week of birth could reduce food allergies in babies,
according to University of Southampton research.
The research indicates that giving the baby solid food beside
breast feeding helps it develop a better, stronger immune system to
fight food allergies.
Infants are largely intolerant of solid food before four to six
months of age. This is thought to be due to the infant gut being
"Introducing solid foods alongside breastfeeding can benefit the
immune system," explains Dr Kate Grimshaw, leader of the research.
"It appears the immune system becomes educated when there is an
overlap of solids and breast milk because the milk promotes
tolerogenic mechanisms against the solids.
"Additionally, our findings suggest 17 weeks is a crucial time
point, with solid food introduction before this time appearing to
promote allergic disease whereas solid food introduction after that
time point seems to promote tolerance."
The study, funded by the UK Food Standards Agency and published
in the journal Paediatrics , recruited 1140 infants at
birth from the Hampshire area in a study known as PIFA. 41 of these
children went onto to develop a food allergy by the time they were
two years of age. The diet of these infants was compared with the
diet of 82 infants who did not develop food allergy by the time they
The team found that children who had developed allergies began
eating solid food earlier than children with no allergies — roughly,
at age 16 weeks or earlier. Children with allergies were also more
likely to not be being breastfed when the mother introduced cow's
milk protein, from any source. Women who are not breastfeeding are
encouraged to introduce solids after 17 weeks of age, Dr Grimshaw
This unique research supports the recommendations of the American
Academy of Paediatrics and the European Society of Paediatric
Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition who urge mothers not to
introduce solid foods before four to six months of age. Furthermore
the findings also support the American Academy of Paediatrics'
breastfeeding recommendations that breastfeeding should continue
while solid foods are introduced into the diet.
See also the MTB Europe feature:
Child health dependent on
feeding babies the right amount of fat and protein about an EU
project studying baby nutrition.
The project has also set up this website:
The EarlyNutrition project:
1. KEC Grimshaw et al. Introduction of Complementary
Foods and the Relationship to Food Allergy. Paediatrics, November 1,
2013; VOLUME 132 / ISSUE 5