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The Early Introduction of Complementary (Solid) Foods: A Prospective Cohort Study of Infants in Chengdu, China

Yu, Chuan, Binns, Colin W., Lee, Andy H.
Nutrients 2019 v.11 no.4
breast milk, cohort studies, community health, complementary foods, educational status, health promotion, hospitals, infant feeding, infant formulas, infants, liquids, midwives, mothers, multivariate analysis, odds ratio, pediatricians, China
The objective of this study was to document the types of foods introduced to infants before six months of age and identify factors associated with their early introduction. A prospective cohort study of infant feeding for the first six months after birth was undertaken in the city of Chengdu, PR China. The participants were 845 mothers who delivered their infants in hospitals in Chengdu. Mothers were interviewed within 15 days of giving birth and were followed up with for six months. The outcome measures were the introduction of complementary foods to infants within four and six months postpartum. Complementary foods are defined as any food, whether manufactured or locally prepared, used as a complement to breast milk or infant formula. In this study the emphasis was on solids and not liquid foods. More than 94% of the infants were given complementary foods (semi-solid or solid foods) before the age of six months and 10% by four months. The most commonly introduced food was infant cereal, which was given to three quarters of the infants by six months. Multivariate analysis showed that maternal education level was a significant factor affecting the introduction of complementary foods before four months, adjusted odds ratio 2.983 (1.232–7.219), with the more educated mothers introducing complementary foods earlier. More antenatal and postnatal health promotion efforts are required to highlight the benefits of introducing solid foods later than is the current practice in Chengdu, at or close to six months of age. Further education is also required for training health professionals including pediatricians, midwives, and community health staff.