As baby’s digestive system matures, they are able to consume more at each feeding. Eventually, they are ready to begin to consume some solid foods in addition to their formula or breast milk, which decreases the number of times that they must eat in a 24 hour period.
Getting up every few hours to feed a new baby is certainly tiring for mothers and the rest of the household. So, it’s easy to understand why most moms are so eager to begin feeding their baby solid foods, and why many begin feeding solids to their baby before they are ready. A 2013 study published in Pediatrics found that nearly 40% of parents had fed their babies solids at least once before six months of age.
Why it’s Best to Wait Until 4 to 6 Months of Age to Introduce Solids
Starting your baby on solid foods before they are truly ready and able to do so, however, can do more harm than good. Before four to six months of age, most babies are not able to sit up easily, or even hold their heads up very well, which puts them at a risk of choking if they are fed solids too early.
There is also some evidence that suggests that the gut bacteria in babies’ stomachs are not ready to digest solid foods until around six months of age. So, feeding baby solids before this age may actually make it more likely that they will develop food intolerances and allergies later on.
For these reasons, most health care experts recommend that babies feed exclusively on breast milk or infant formula for the first six months of their lives.
Is Baby Ready for Solids?
Each infant matures at their own rate; so many babies are still not ready for solids on the exact day that they turn six months old. There are a few signs that parents can watch for that will let them know that it is nearing the time to introduce table food to their growing baby’s diet.
- Baby is able to sit upright unassisted, and has good control of their head.
- Baby makes chewing motions with his or her mouth and leaves mouth open when offered food.
- Baby plays by taking others foods off of their fork.
- Baby can move tongue well and no longer pushes food out with tongue.
- Baby has doubled weight since birth and weighs at least 13 pounds.
Good Choices for Baby’s First Solids
Finely ground cereal grains of rice or wheat are traditionally good choices for baby’s first solids. Mashed and pureed fruits and vegetables are also good choices. As your baby grows and develops, you can later add pureed meats and finely chopped, hard boiled eggs.
Once you have introduced solids to your baby’s diet it’s important to remember that they will still need to continue to drink breast milk or infant formula throughout the first year of their life.