Breastfed babies ‘are less likely to be given treats before their 1st birthday’

  • Women who breastfed for six months gave their children healthier food
  •  Experts say this is worrying as healthy eating habits are established early in life

Breastfed babies are less likely to be given sugary drinks or unhealthy snacks before the age of one, according to a study.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow analysed data from 2,730 parents and found a number of positive links between breastfeeding for at least six months and early infant diets.

Overall, they discovered that babies who still received any amount of breastmilk at the age of six months and beyond were more likely to have a diet that adhered to official feeding advice.

From six months old, it is recommended that babies are introduced to suitable family foods, beginning with simple purees and gradually progressing to more textured meals and finger-sized food.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow found 15 per cent of babies who were breastfed for six months or longer were given unhealthy treats compared to 45 per cent of formula-fed babies

Current advice also suggests offering babies green and bitter vegetables early, and to avoid adding salt and sugar to foods.

Sugar-sweetened drinks and ‘treats’ such as chocolate and crisps should also be avoided.

In this study, 15 per cent of babies who were breastfed for six months or longer were given unhealthy treats compared to 45 per cent of formula-fed babies.

Nearly half of breastfed babies were given sugar-sweetened drinks compared to formula-fed babies, and they were more likely to be start solid food at the recommended age of six months or older.

The researchers, from the University of Glasgow, said all the links remained even after they took socioeconomic factors into account.

Lead author Dr Ada Garcia said: ‘In this study we were able to observe that diet inequalities start as early as 6-12 months old.

‘This is worrying, because eating habits are developed and established early in life, and it can be harder to change them later on.

‘Our research suggests that continuing to promote breastfeeding, where possible, may help to protecting infants’ health, along with helping to establish healthy dietary behaviours from a young age.’

The researchers also found that, of all the babies surveyed, 20 per cent were solely infant formula-fed while 48 per cent continued breastfeeding beyond six months.

Despite starting the weaning process later, infants who were still breastfed after six months ate the same number of food groups and meals as formula-fed babies, and were just as likely to self-feed both purees and fingers foods.

Previous research by Dr Garcia has found a large number of commercial baby food products are high in sugar, and as a result may promote a sweet tooth in infants and encourage snacking on processed food.

The findings were published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition.