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Babies are eating junk food before they're even old enough to chew

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

A disturbing number of babies are eating chips and drinking soda

The best parent is one who tries their best. It’s a tough gig, and we all do what we can to keep our kids happy, healthy and safe. Mistakes are made and lessons learned. But there are some things you just shouldn't do — and one is giving babies junk food.

More: How baby food could be turning kids into picky eaters

Unbelievably there are some parents who are feeding their infants — some as young as 5 months old – candy, chips and soda, according to a study carried out by scientists at England’s Leeds Beckett University. Over two years, they gathered information on the diets of 1,250 children aged 12 to 18 months in the city of Bradford and were alarmed to find that some tots are being raised on a diet of fatty, sugary junk food — in some cases before they’re even old enough to chew properly.

Lead author Pinki Sahota revealed that some parents fed their children who couldn't walk yet things like soda and potato chips up to seven times a week. The mother of one overweight infant revealed that she cuts fries into little pieces and squeezes the potato into his mouth.

One mother who was asked about how much cooking she did at home told researchers, "Not much — we send them down the road to get burger, chips and a drink for 99 pence."

Another horrific example was of one baby’s teeth coming in black because so much soda had been given via their bottle.

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"The fact that children are having this kind of food at such an early age is concerning enough. But parents are establishing bad eating habits for life," said Sahota.

Sahota, who is chair of the Association for the Study of Obesity, said low-educated, younger mothers tended to be the worst, because many of them don't have the cooking skills to make nutritious meals for their kids, while older, more educated parents were aware of the importance of fruit and vegetables.

"Parents are giving kids junk food because they are eating it themselves," explained Sahota, who is urging authorities to focus on education.

"Schools have a role, then midwives, health visitors and local authorities," she said. "But they need to be supported by the food industry. They could reformulate some of their high-fat and high-sugar products."

More: 20 things to ask a guy before you decide to have his baby

Sahota is absolutely right — education is key. It's easy to judge parents who feed their babies junk food, but can they be blamed if they don't know any better? Or is it the responsibility of every parent to educate themselves about healthy eating to ensure their kids don't suffer?

Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments below.

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