The findings highlight the need for better communication about when mothers should start their infants on solid foods, and the risks of giving these foods too early, said study researcher Kelley Scanlon, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
The study surveyed 1,334 women before they gave birth, and nearly every month during the first year of the baby's life. Moms were asked to report any solid foods their babies ate in the last week.
The most common reason mothers gave for starting their babies on solid food before 4 months was "My baby was old enough to begin eating solid food." This shows that "A large proportion of women are not aware that that is too early," Scanlon said.
Other reasons were: "My baby seemed hungry a lot of the time," "My baby wanted the food I ate," and "I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula." More than 50 percent of mothers in the study said a doctor told them their baby could start solid food before 4 months.