ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, forty percent of all mothers start feeding their babies solid food before they are even four months old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a baby starts eating solid food at four months, but many health care providers are giving the go-ahead before they reach that age.

“Understanding parents’ motivations is important, because a number of health problems are associated with the early introduction of solid food,” Kelley Scanlon, co-author on the study and an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told WLTX-TV. “These findings don’t offer a full understanding why, but they give us some insight.”

According to the survey, some of the reasons moms gave as to why they chose to introduce solid food so early on included feeling that the baby was old enough and asserting that it helped their children sleep longer during the night.

The AAP reportedly noted in the study that the head and neck control infants need to safely eat solid foods – as well as the overall coordination – do not develop until around four months. They also indicated that early introduction to solid foods may increase the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, eczema and celiac disease.

Doctors involved with the study additionally recommended that breast-feeding should be done for the first six months of a baby’s life because of the numerous health benefits for the infant, including reduced risk of respiratory and ear infections, diarrhea, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Researchers analyzed data that was collected from over 1,300 mothers pertaining to when and why they introduced solid foods to their infants.

“We didn’t expect to see so many [give solids] before 4 months,” Scanlon said, adding that this study’s finding of 40 percent of parents is much higher than previous studies whose results ranged from 19 to 29 percent.

Researchers also learned that:

— 8 percent of mothers said they introduced solid foods as early as 1 month or younger.

— 89 percent of moms felt their baby was old enough for solid food.

— 71 percent said the baby was hungry.

— 67 percent said the baby wanted the food the mom was eating.

— 8 percent said the baby had a medical condition that solid food would help.

The study was published in the April edition of Pediatrics, the station learned.

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