Many new parents are pressured by friends and family to start their babies on solid foods as soon as possible. Many grandparents remember starting their own babies on cereal around two months of age and assume that this is still the norm.
However, despite most health organization recommendations to delay solids until six months, many parents are still starting their babies on solids earlier than that.
Another reason that you might feel anxious to start their babies on solid foods earlier is the myth that once your baby is eating more substantial solid foods that she’ll sleep better through the night.
This is not always true. Babies barely eat much solid food at all when they are first born and breast milk or formula should still remain your baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first few months of her life.
When Your Baby Wants Food
It may seem as though your baby is ready for solid foods earlier than six months. Around four to six months of age babies usually become very interested in what other family members are eating.
Your baby will watch intently while you eat and even reach over for your food. This is perfectly normal and while it’s a sign of solid food readiness it shouldn’t be your only indicator for when to start introducing solids to your baby.
You should always talk to your baby’s doctor before starting solids so you can keep up to date on the current recommendations but keep in mind that some health care providers may have out of date information and doing a bit of your own careful research is always helpful.
Reasons to Delay Solids
There are many good reasons to delay solids until at about six months of age. One of the strongest arguments for delaying solids is strengthened immunity from breast milk.
Babies who are exclusively breastfed in their first four months of life have been shown to have greater immunity to illness than their formula and solid fed counterparts. Another reason is gut maturity.
Your baby’s digestive system just isn’t ready to digest solid foods until she’s about six months old. Introducing solid foods before this time can make it hard for her to digest foods.
It can also lead to food allergies. Studies have shown that the longer a baby is breastfed the less food allergies they are likely to have. Rushing to introduce solid foods seems to have no benefits at all.
Babies who start solids six months and shortly thereafter also tend to take more willingly to solid foods and enjoy eating them more.
Many babies who are younger than six months old also may not be completely sitting up on their own. If you need to assist your baby in any way to sit up then she is probably not ready for solid foods.
Baby Led Weaning
One option that more and more parents are leaning towards is baby led weaning. Baby led weaning basically means that your baby decides when she’s ready to start solid foods.
This method skips purees entirely and lets your baby start on soft solid foods. If she isn’t interested in eating food then don’t bother to try and push it.
Many people believe that this helps babies create a positive relationship with food and eating.
How Long Is Too Long?
It is possible to delay solids for too long. Some babies really don’t’ seem interested in solid foods so many parents just stop trying altogether.
However, studies have shown that babies introduced to solid foods after the age of nine months may have a harder time accepting solids altogether.
If your baby is older than six months and does not seem to enjoy trying solid foods keep offering, but don’t force. You may want to try different types of food as well.
Some babies simply are not interested in rice cereal.
What Foods to Introduce First
Many people believe that if you give your baby fruits before vegetables that they will develop a “sweet tooth” and shun more bitter foods altogether.
However, breast milk is actually very sweet and so breastfed babies are quite used to sweet tastes already. Follow your baby’s lead when it comes to introducing solids.
It’s fine to keep offering foods that she doesn’t seem interested in eating, just don’t force it. Once you are sure that your baby isn’t allergic to a particular food you can try combining foods.
For instance, try mixing a sweet fruit with a more bitter vegetable to help widen your baby’s palate. Don’t stress out if your baby has a preference for certain foods.
Her taste will change many times over the years to come and what she turns her nose up at today may be tomorrow’s favorite meal.
While you may feel anxious and excited to start on this new phase of your baby’s life, delaying solids until at least six months will help your baby’s eating habits and relationship to food get off to a healthy start.
Make sure you discuss any questions or concerns with your family doctor.