Many Parents Aren't Confident About Their Baby's Dietary Needs, New Study Finds

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Anyone who tells you feeding a baby is easy has never fed a baby. Not only do you have to contend with spit-up, you also have to deal with a picky palate (and let me tell you, that palate doesn't become any less picky as your kid ages *glares at my toddler*). Not to mention, there are all these rules you have to follow when it comes to transitioning to solids foods. It's a whole stressful mess. So imagine my shocked face when I learned that many parents aren't confident about their baby's dietary needs, according to new research. I mean, could you even believe such a thing?

Obviously, that's sarcasm. But it is a real problem: A new study published by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) found that nearly half of all parents surveyed said they were uncertain about their child's dietary transitions — namely, when to introduce solids to their little ones, according to Food Dive. In particular, the IFIC Foundation surveyed 1,001 parents of children under 24 months old, and discovered that 44 percent of participants are not fully confident that they're feeding their kids a diet that both nutritious and age appropriate, Food Dive reported.

IFIC Foundation Early Childhood Consumer Research

The four sticking points for parents, according to the survey results: Choking hazards, allergic reactions, when to introduce solids, and what solids to introduce.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests, based on the majority consensus of pediatricians, that parents start introducing solid foods in their children's diets around 6 months old. At this point, your child should be able to sit up and keep their head up with minimal or no support — two of the most important signs of readiness, according to Today's Parent. Your baby may also begin reaching for food on other people's plates, or refuse to breast- or bottle-feed by turning away, though these are more supportive signs of readiness, rather than primary ones, Today's Parent reported.

Most pediatricians also recommend introducing one new food at a time, every several days, according to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This gives parents the opportunity to monitor for allergic reactions and sensitives, such as vomiting, rash, diarrhea, and changes in poop consistency.

But myths exist concerning which foods to introduce when. Many parents may believe that you need to start with thin purées, when, in fact, infants can munch on baby cereal around 6 months of age, even without teeth, according to Today's Parent.

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What's more: Although conventional wisdom suggests parents delay exposure to peanuts until 12 months, emerging research has found that introducing peanut-based purées or finger food between 4 to 6 months old may help keep a peanut allergy at bay.

Despite uncertainty and confusion, most parents are following the recommended timeline. The majority of parents surveyed — 90 percent, to be exact — reported introducing solids between 6 and 12 months old, according to the study results. However, gaps do exist between when parents expected to introduce certain foods into their children's diets, and when they actually did. For example, 24 percent expected to introduce yogurt at 18 months or older, but only 5 percent did, the survey found.

This may have to do with the guidance they're receiving from their pediatricians or family members. Only 42 percent of parents surveyed were "very satisfied" with the nutritional and feeding information they've received for children under 24 months old, according to the IFIC Foundation survey. And even those who are "very satisfied" with the guidance don't always do what they're told. The two main reasons why, according to the survey: Disagreement with the advice and a child's difficult eating habits.

Feeding your baby shouldn't be so hard. Yet, it is, whether their 6 months or 3 years old. But working closely with your pediatrician and speaking to other parents may help you sort through any confusion or uncertainty you may feel. You may not receive all the answers, but don't be afraid to ask those questions.