Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Relation between early introduction of solid food to infants and their weight and illnesses during the first two years of life.

British Medical Journal 1993; 306 doi: (Published 12 June 1993) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1993;306:1572
  1. J S Forsyth,
  2. S A Ogston,
  3. A Clark,
  4. C D Florey,
  5. P W Howie
  1. Department of Child Health, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee.


    OBJECTIVE--To assess the relations between early introduction of solid food and infant weight, gastrointestinal illness, and allergic illnesses during the first two years of life. DESIGN--Prospective observational study of infants followed up for 24 months after birth. SETTING--Community setting in Dundee. PATIENTS--671 newborn infants, of whom 455 were still available for study at 2 years of age. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Infants' diet, weight, and incidence of gastrointestinal illness, respiratory illness, napkin dermatitis, and eczema at 2 weeks and 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, and 24 months of age. RESULTS--The infants given solid food at an early age (at < 8 weeks or 8-12 weeks) were heavier than those introduced to solids later (after 12 weeks) at 4, 8, 13, and 26 weeks of age (p < 0.01) but not at 52 and 104 weeks. At their first solid feed those given solids early were heavier than infants of similar age who had not yet received solids. The incidence of gastrointestinal illness, wheeze, and nappy dermatitis was not related to early introduction of solids. There was a significant but less than twofold increase in respiratory illness at 14-26 weeks of age and persistent cough at 14-26 and 27-39 weeks of age among the infants given solids early. The incidence of eczema was increased in the infants who received solids at 8-12 weeks of age. CONCLUSION--Early introduction of solid food to infants is less harmful than was previously reported. Longer follow up is needed, but, meanwhile, a more relaxed approach to early feeding with solids should be considered.