A team of researchers crunched some data about what mothers feed their infants and came away with disturbing news:
In many cases, infants were fed foods that would surprise even the least stringent of mothers. Candy, ice cream, soda, and french fries, for instance, were among the foods some of the babies were being fed….The immediate danger resulting from poor infant diets is early weight gain and stunted growth. Larger weight increases were observed in the infants who consumed higher levels of fat and sugar, and dairy foods (both of which were associated with poorer households and less educated mothers), especially at age one. Those same babies were found to be shorter on average, possibly, the researchers believe, because of a lack of foods that help promote proper bone growth.
The longer term problem with the discrepancy in infant dietary patterns is that these differences—specifically the exposure to certain unhealthy foods, and lack of exposure to certain other healthy ones—can negatively impact a child’s long-term health, eating habits, and food preferences.
A follow up to the Infant Feeding Practices study, which analyzed data for the same children at age six, found that infant feeding patterns appear to translate into similar childhood eating habits. And those preferences can last a lifetime.
This is yet another example of the ways in which some of us are born lucky and others aren’t—a topic that feels more personal than ever to me lately. It may be that there’s no easy answer to the question of how to level the developmental playing field even during the first few years of life, but does anyone seriously disagree that we should try harder?1
1Probably best not to answer that.