NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – New research suggests parents who introduce solid foods too soon may be putting their babies at risk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics last year began recommending that babies six months old and younger be fed only breast milk or formula.  Experts say introducing solid foods too soon could put an infant at risk for choking or even diabetes and obesity later in life.

As a first-time mom, Megan Pittman says she was very careful about her daughter’s nutrition.  And when the time came she asked 13-month-old Olivia’s pediatrician before introducing solid foods.

“She said that we could start anytime we wanted between four and six months,” says Pittman.  “But, honestly, I tried rice cereal at about six months, and she was not interested at all, and kinda spit it out.  At first, I stressed a lot about it.  But, in my gut, I just felt like all she really needed was breast milk at that time.”

And experts say that instinct was exactly on point.  But, new research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that many parents are either unaware of the recommendations – or are ignoring the warnings.

The agency surveyed more than 1300 mothers and found that 40% introduced solid foods before the baby was six months old.  Of those surveyed, 9% reported that they started solid foods as early as four weeks.

Researchers found that mothers who formula-fed their infants were more likely to introduce solid foods earlier than the recommended guidelines.  Education and income were also factors.

“Sometimes people just can’t afford formula,” says Baylor Pediatrician Majorie Milici, M.D.  “And so, they tend to supplement it with food.  The other thing is, they think that the food is going to make the baby sleep longer and be happier.  And that’s really not the case.  The baby is going to sleep longer and be happier as it ages.”

Dr. Milici adds that a four month old infant shouldn’t be expected to sleep through the night, and introducing solid foods before the baby’s body can safely digest it could create more serious problems than sleep deprived parents.

“I try to go on a baby by baby, family by family basis.  If they’re starting to take 8 ounces every 3 hours, they’re getting hungry.”

But, Dr. Milici also cautions her patients to not be in a hurry to introduce solid foods– and the empty calories that often accompany it.  “The baby’s nutrition– even after beginning solid foods– should come from the milk.”

It’s advice that Mom Megan Pittman says somehow, she knew already.

“Don’t be afraid to trust your gut. I even struggled with that early on, you’ll be surprised how much your motherly instinct will guide you in the right direction.”

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