Abstract

Humans are the only mammals who feed our young special complementary foods before weaning and we are the only primates that wean our young before they can forage independently. There appears to be a sensitive period in the first several months of life when infants readily accept a wide variety of tastes and this period overlaps with a critical window for oral tolerance. As a result, infants should be exposed to a wide variety of flavors while mother is pregnant, while mother is nursing and beginning at an early age. There also appears to be a sensitive period between 4 and 9 months when infants are most receptive to different food textures. There remains debate about when it is best to begin introducing solid foods into an infant's diet however, the available evidence suggests that provided the water and food supply are free of contamination, and the infant is provided adequate nutrition, there are no clear contraindications to feeding infants complementary foods at any age. There is emerging evidence that introduction of solid foods into an infant's diet by 4 months may increase their willingness to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables later in life, decrease their risk of having feeding problems later in life, and decrease their risk of developing food allergies, and the early introduction of solid foods into an infant's diet does not appear to increase their risk of obesity later in childhood.

Highlights

  • Humans are the only mammals that feed our young complementary foods before weaning and the only primates that wean our offspring before they can forage independently [1]

  • As a result of feeding our young complementary foods, there does not appear to be a specific age for weaning in humans, and weaning is variable across cultures

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend solid foods be introduced at approximately six months of age [11,12,13] whereas, the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) recommends “complementary foods should not be introduced before 4 months but should not be delayed beyond 6 months” [14]

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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Humans are the only mammals that feed our young complementary foods before weaning and the only primates that wean our offspring before they can forage independently [1]. The brain accounts for 2% of body mass but consumes 25% of resting energy expenditure. On a raw diet similar to what non-human primates eat, humans would need to feed 12 h every day to meet our energy needs the actual value is only an hour [4]. We solved this paradox with cooking; cooking enables us to eat a diet much lower in fiber than any other ape. Cooking and making food more digestible allows children to be weaned onto adult foods much more quickly and allows mothers to stop nursing sooner; all human societies prepare some form of weaning food [7, 8]

WHEN DO WE START FEEDING INFANTS SOLID FOODS?
WHAT SOLID FOODS SHOULD WE FEED INFANTS?
POTENTIAL RISKS OF EARLY INTRODUCTION OF SOLIDS
The Intestinal Microbiome
Findings
CONCLUSIONS
Full Text
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