A new study raises concerns for babies who get a late start on solid food—that is, at the age of 7 months or older, LiveScience reports. Researchers found that babies who didn't begin eating solids until the age of at least 10 months had four times the risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) than that experienced by infants who started on solids by 4 months. Babies who started at 7 to 9 months saw triple the ALL risk of those who started at 4 months. But kids who got into solid food at 5 or 6 months didn't encounter an increased risk of the illness, which is the most common type of childhood cancer in the US, the researchers note.
But the study had its limits—for instance, it only involved children from Texas, and other factors could be involved in the risk level. Researchers aren't ready to say parents should abide by the findings, though they do approximately fit American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that babies be exclusively breastfed until 6 months, at which point they should start eating solid foods; at that point, the CDC says, solid foods should "complement" breast milk. The AAP suggests babies should continue breastfeeding until they're at least a year old. Indeed, the researchers note that breastfeeding for longer than six months is also associated with a reduced ALL risk. Overall risk of the disease, however, remains low, with about four US cases diagnosed per 100,000 kids each year, LiveScience reports. (Meanwhile, recent research may offer new hope against leukemia.)