'No sugar in first two years of life' : Aussies not meeting feeding guidelines

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto 

New feeding guidelines for infants released in the United States confirm Aussie parents may be introducing certain foods too soon. That's according to Western Sydney expert Dr Amit Arora, who notes that the new guidelines recommend parents avoid giving their children food and drink with added sugar for the first two years of life.

"This goes further than current recommendations in Australia, which state that discretionary foods should be avoided in the first year of life," Dr Arora said in a statement. 

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) specifies that core foods are made up of the five major food groups -  cereals, fruit, vegetables, meat and alternatives, and milk and alternatives. What experts call "discretionary foods" have high levels of saturated fat, added sugar and/or added salt.

According to Dr Arora, Australian research previously revealed that parents may be introducing these foods too early and may need further education and support.

These findings come from the Healthy Smiles Healthy Kids (HSHK) cohort, which tracked the health of families born in Sydney public hospitals in 2010 - and continues to study them to this day.

Dr Arora and co-author Dr. Narendar Manohar analysed the responses of 934 women, who were interviewed when their bubs were eight, 17, 34 and 52 weeks of age. Mums were asked how often they fed their babies specific foods over the prior seven days and the age their babies first tried these foods.

The findings, published in the journal Nutrients, indicated that 12 per cent of infants received core foods before 17 weeks of age. In addition, a whopping 95.3 per cent of babies received discretionary foods before they were one year old.  

"Clearly, at the time that the data was collected, the infant feeding recommendations were not getting through to new parents, or were not well understood," Dr Manohar explained.  

While the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends solid foods be introduced 'from' 6 months, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2012 recommended 'around' six months of age.

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"More recently, the 2016 Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommended the introduction of solid foods from four to six months of age, and the Australian Infant Feeding Summit has clarified that the 'from four to six months' wording is intended to encourage parents to start solid foods when their infant is developmentally ready," Dr Arora said.

Reflecting on the Aussie findings, Dr Arora noted that 17 weeks is "very early for foods to be introduced to infants". 

"That 12 per cent of parents in the HSHK study were introducing core foods before this age, is a potential cause for concern," he said. "In stark contrast to the new US and current Australian guidelines—95.3 percent of respondents had introduced unhealthy foods prior to 52 weeks of age, and the median age for introducing these foods was 28 weeks. This is also concerning."

"We need to ensure that parents today are receiving enough clear information to inform their food habits and choices, and critical to this is ensuring that infant feeding recommendations are consistent across all guidelines," he said.

According to the newly released US report, "every bite counts."

"Nutritional exposures during the first 1,000 days of life not only contribute to long-term health but also help shape taste preferences and food choices," it states.