Baby food companies in the United Kingdom are missing the point when it comes to providing a nutritionally sound supplemental food for infants. According to research completed in 2012, the majority of commercial baby food is sweet and lacking the nutrition infants need when weaning from the breast. Breast milk provides 100% of the nutrition infant’s need, but when breast milk consumption is reduced or removed entirely during the weaning process, commercial baby foods need to replace the lost calories, macronutrients and micronutrients – something the foods are not doing.
It is suggested that infants breastfeed exclusively for the first six months after birth. Parents have a choice of continuing exclusive breastfeeding beyond this point or adding baby food to the diet for variety and as the start of the weaning process. Commercial baby food companies market products for infants as young as four months. This marketing encourages mothers to wean baby off the breast earlier than the medical community suggests. There would be no problem if commercial baby foods provided the nutrition of breast milk – but that is not the case.
Researchers in the United Kingdom looked at 462 commercial baby food products. All products were produced for four manufacturers. The foods were analyzed for nutritional content. Foods investigated included ready to eat foods, foods that require mixing with milk or water, dried finger foods and cereals. About 79% of the foods analyzed by researchers were ready to eat or spoonable.
The majority of commercial baby foods analyzed were sweet foods – 65%. The majority of commercial baby foods supplied the same calories as breast milk in a smooth, soft package with generally the same nutritional profile as breast milk – though higher in sugar content in some cases.
Commercial baby food is supposed to diversify the nutrient profile of an infant’s food intake. As it stands, commercial baby foods do not differ in nutritional value from breast milk, which means mothers could continue to breastfeed and save the money spent on commercial baby foods. Researchers noted that homemade baby foods and meals tended to be more nutritionally well-rounded supplying more protein than commercial baby foods in a smaller serving size. It is best to leave spices and additives like sugar and salt out of homemade baby foods and meals.
Source: Ada L García, Sarah Raza, Alison Parrett, Charlotte M Wright. Nutritional content of infant commercial weaning foods in the UK. Arch Dis Child 2013;98:793-797 doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-303386.