The best piece of advice I can give about when parents should move to feeding solids is to base that decision on the individual Don’t allow yourself to be pressured to start solids by the practices of other parents (or even your own past practices with previous children), by the marketing schemes of baby feeding. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured to start solids by the practices of other parents (or even your own past practices with previous children), by the marketing schemes of baby food manufacturers, or by the often inaccurate “old wives tales” on baby nutrition.
The best advice I can give about when parents should start feeding solids is to base the decision on your baby’s individual feeding needs and his unique physical development. Don’t let other parents’ practices (or even your own past practices with previous children), baby food manufacturers’ marketing plans, or the often inaccurate “old wives’ tales” about infant nutrition pressure you into starting solids.
The debate over feeding solids at 4 or 6 months of age
In general, health care professionals generally agree that healthy infants should only be fed breast milk or formula for the first four months of life. Studies have shown that eating solid foods before this age can lead to serious health problems. Therefore, although the issue of starting solid foods may be obscured by many points of view, it is clear enough to delay starting solid foods until children are at least 4 months old.
The current debate is whether babies should be born at 4 months of age or 6 months of age. Some health care organizations say you can start solids at 4 months of age, while others strongly recommend waiting until 6 months of age. What we need to realize is that your baby’s development isn’t like a light switch – all of a sudden she can eat solids when the day before she wasn’t. Solid preparation is an evolving process, and each baby’s solid preparation is individualized. I wouldn’t reach for a baby spoon and bowl just because your child is 4 months old. A better place to start is to begin observing your baby at this age for signs that she is ready for solids, and then offer foods based on your observations and instructions to your pediatrician.
Solids after 6 months of age
For some time, some parents have believed that it is best to start solid foods after 6 months of age to prevent the development of allergies. However, a 2008 study by the Council on Nutrition and Immunology found no specific evidence that eating solid foods after 6 months of age better prevents the development of food allergies.
Signs that an infant is ready for solid foods
Okay, fine. So you get the fact that you shouldn’t be watching the calendar for when to start solids, but rather watching your baby. But why should you watch your baby? Here are some indicators that your baby may be ready for something other than breast milk or formula
She’s not sticking her tongue out, which is a conditioned reflex to stick her tongue out when something is put in her mouth. It is important for this reflex to disappear if she is going to swallow food.
Firm head and neck control. She needs to be able to turn her head around so she can communicate to you that she is full. She also needs to be strong enough to support the weight of her own head.
Be able to sit up independently better.
She has doubled her birth weight (although this is not a “magic” moment and indicates that she is ready for solids).
Showing interest in solid foods and nighttime sleep
In addition, there are two other signals given by professionals to determine the readiness for solids. However, I tend to take these two with a grain of salt. One is to observe whether the infant “appears” to be interested in food. My response to this is that, in general, 4-month-old infants become more aware of their surroundings and show interest in what is going on around them. At the same time, they become fascinated and use their mouths to explore objects. I think their “interest” in solid foods can sometimes be simply an interest in the environment, not necessarily in eating food.
The second sign sometimes indicates that if your baby is not sleeping at night, or not sleeping at night, then solids can be offered. However, this does not take into account that lapses in nighttime sleep may be a reflection of periodic growth spurts, teething, or other development. In addition, research does not support that offering solids will encourage sleep anyway.
When your baby starts solids, be sure to read some of the recommendations for starting solids and discuss the issue with your pediatrician. Use education, conversations with your pediatrician and instinct to make this decision, not pressure from others.