London: Giving a baby solid food besides breast milk after the 17th week of its birth helps it develop a better, stronger immune system to fight food allergies, new research has found.
The University of Southampton study, led by dietician and senior research fellow Kate Grimshaw, revealed that introduction of solid food before this may promote food allergy whereas solid food introduction after the 17th week seems to make the immune system stronger.
“Introducing solid foods alongside breastfeeding can benefit the immune system,” Grimshaw said.
“It appears the immune system becomes educated when there is an overlap of solids and breast milk because the milk promotes tolerogenic mechanisms against the solids,” he said.
The researchers recruited 1140 infants at birth from the Hampshire area.
The diet of these infants was compared with the diet of 82 infants who did not develop food allergy by the time they were two.
Forty one of these children went on to develop a food allergy by the time they were two years of age.
The team found that children who had developed allergies began eating solid food earlier than children with no allergies, roughly at 16 weeks or earlier.
Children with allergies were also more likely to not being breastfed when the mother introduced cow’s milk protein from any source.
Grimshaw said women who are not breastfeeding are encouraged to introduce solids before 17 weeks.