When to Introduce Solid Foods to BabyOctober 8, 2011
Introducing solid foods to your breastfed baby is an exciting time for every family. Those bibs, those tiny spoons, and all that food EVERYWHERE – it’s a great photo opportunity! While you may be eager to give your baby foods other than your breastmilk, it is best to follow general guidelines.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is best to wait until baby is six months old before introducing solid foods. This includes cereal, juice, or fruits/veggies. In some cases, it may be best to wait until baby is nine months old or older. Why is it adviseable to delay starting solids? I’m glad you asked – there are some great reasons:
- Greater Immune Protection: When baby is exclusively breastfed, she is getting the maximum amount of calories from breastmilk. This means that baby is also getting the maximum amount of immunity via mom’s antibodies/immune factors.
- Greater Maturation of Digestive System: Giving solid foods to a baby whose digestive system is still immature will result in intestinal discomfort for baby and frustration for mommy.
- Decreased Risk of Future Obesity: Studies have shown that breastfed babies are at a decreased risk for developing weight issues later in life.
- Possible Natural Contraception: By exclusively breastfeeding your baby for six months, and following several other guidelines spelled out in the Knocked Up While Breastfeeding post, you may be able to reduce the chances of getting pregnant again.
So you’re baby is six months old now and you want to introduce solids… how do you ensure that your baby is developmentally ready? If baby’s digestive system is not mature enough, introducing solids may cause intestinal upset. Most babies can handle solid foods once they reach six months old, but to be sure, the following guidelines indicate that baby is old enough:
- Baby can sit up unsupported.
- The tongue-thrust reflex, which automatically pushes solid foods out of his mouth, has disappeared.
- Baby appears very interested in food during family mealtime.
Since every baby is unique, just because your baby is meeting the above guidelines, it does not mean that baby is definitely ready to start solids. Another general sign that baby is interested in starting solid food is baby is displaying an increasing demand to nurse often.
Even when solids are introduced to baby’s diet, brestmilk should still comprise the majority of baby’s calorie intake for the majority of baby’s first year. So when introducing solids, keep in mind that very little should be offered and very little should actually be replacing breastmilk in baby’s diet.
Sophia is just shy of her 5 month birthday, and although we are so excited to introduce solids to her, we are waiting until she is at least 6 months old. I have been doing a ton of research recently about the best way to offer solid foods to babies. I’ll post soon on Baby-Led Weaning, a school of thought that banishes dedicated purees of fruits/veggies for baby and supports giving baby safe pieces of the food that’s already on your plate. Furthermore, there is a new recommendation that meat may be the ideal first food to offer to baby- I’ll post about that, too!