If you’re a new parent, the question of when to start feeding solids to your baby can be a deterrent. Well-meaning family members and friends have their own beliefs about eating solids and may force you to accept their opinions.
For example, some families advocate that solids can calm fussy babies, but this notion can lead to introducing them too early. If your baby seems to want solids, you may be eager to start them, but unsure if it’s safe to do so.
Let’s see what this study has to say about when to start feeding your baby solids, including baby food.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ position
Eating solid foods before infants are 4 months old increases the risk of weight gain and obesity, both in infancy and early childhood.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Association advocates waiting until babies are at least 6 months old to feed solid foods, and never feeding solid foods when babies are 4 months old.
In 2011, a study published in Pediatrics (the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) specifically investigated the possible relationship between the timing of solid food introduction and the risk of childhood obesity
The researchers looked at how solid foods affected obesity rates in preschool-aged children.
The findings showed that among infants who were never breastfed (or who stopped breastfeeding before 4 months of age), introducing solid foods before 4 months of age was associated with a 6-fold increase in the odds of being obese by age 3.
In the past, experts believed that formula-fed infants experienced “rapid early growth” (formula-fed infants were more likely to gain weight at the beginning than breastfed infants). However, a 2011 study found that rapid early growth did not explain the increased risk of obesity in preschoolers.
Should breastfed infants start solid foods earlier?
Interestingly, the 2011 study also found that for breastfed infants, the timing of solid food introduction was not associated with an increased risk of obesity.
There was little difference in obesity rates among breastfed infants who were introduced to solid foods before 4 months of age, 4 to 5 months of age, and 6 months of age or later.
Obesity rates for breastfed infants seem to be similar, but does this mean that breastfeeding mothers should feel confident that they can start solids as soon as possible? Not exactly.
Keep in mind that this study only considered one health risk: obesity. Although there was no substantial link between the timing of solid foods for breastfed infants and their risk of preschool obesity, the study still urges parents to adhere to the AAP’s recommended timing for starting solid foodsーーat approximately 6 months of age
When to start solids
Ultimately, your baby’s age and a conversation with your pediatrician should determine when you incorporate solid foods, including baby food, into your baby’s diet.
You may notice signs that your baby is ready or almost ready for solids, such as strong head and neck control and the ability to sit up independently. However, these indicators are not a substitute for a discussion with your infant’s doctor.3
When parents start their children on solids, they often encounter a new set of questions, such as whether to start with baby cereal, what foods they should give their children (and when), and whether they should give them juice.