Some low-income mothers are more likely than others to introduce their infants to cow's milk too soon. In doing so, they may put their children at risk of health complications, according to a study by researchers at Penn State and the Institute for Children and Poverty, New York.
The study showed that women who enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's WIC program during their first or second trimester of pregnancy -- from week one to week twenty-seven -- were far less likely to introduce cow's milk too soon than women who enrolled in WIC during their third trimester or who did not enroll at all.
"What this study tells us is that if we intervene by enrolling low-income women in WIC earlier on in their pregnancies, it will be healthier for the babies," said Daphne Hernandez, assistant professor of human development and family studies, Penn State.
The researchers analyzed WIC enrollment by trimester of pregnancy. Past studies have only looked at whether or not women had enrolled in the program. The study is helping researchers to better understand the critical time period in which proper nutrition can be reinforced in low-income women, which will have lasting effects in improving their children's health. The researchers reported their results in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Although many adults drink cow's milk, it can be harmful to infants' health. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children not drink cow's milk before their first birthday. In addition to being difficult for infants to digest, cow's milk is much lower in iron than breast milk and formula, which means that infants who are fed cow's milk are at an increased risk for developing anemia or other iron deficiency disorders.
Hernandez hypothesizes that women who enter WIC by their second trimester may be influenced by dietary information provided to them by WIC. The study used data from
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