There is nothing like the joy of your baby reaching a new milestone. However, with all the information out there about what to expect, in addition to seeing other babies develop at different rates, it can be difficult for parents who may feel a desire to rush a milestone that they can actually control – like introducing food. But, it’s important to remember that the rate of growth and development is neither a competition nor a gauge of intelligence and that there are reasons why things progress the way they do.
I have so enjoyed sharing my love of food with my son. The new level of independence and freedom have been wonderful, so trust me that I get that you’re anxious. But it is crucial to understand the importance of waiting until your baby is between 4 to 6 months of age. Although your infant may be showing all the right signs of readiness for food introduction (can sit in highchair, hold up their head, interested in your food), there are some risks involved in diving-in prematurely. Likewise, waiting too long to start food introduction can also pose some problems for your child.
Did you know that babies who start eating solid food too early are more likely to be overweight or obese in childhood and adulthood?
At an early age, breast milk and formula provide the perfect balance of calories and nutrients required for a baby’s optimal development. But it is interesting to note that where foods had been introduced early, a higher risk of obesity was found in babies who were previously fed formula than those fed exclusively breast milk.
Another reason to wait is that your young baby’s digestive tract is very immature. By waiting until it has fully developed, bacteria colonizes appropriately, which in turn reduces a lot of discomfort and food sensitivity development. Breast milk does provide healthy bacteria for your baby’s gut, but supplementing with probiotics can also help with healthy bacterial colonization of the gastrointestinal tract.
As far as late introduction of foods, the American Association of Pediatrics found that if you wait too long, the risk of allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens is increased.
Those found to be of most concern were eggs, oats and wheat as a food allergy and potatoes and fish as an inhalant allergen.
So, the big question then is, when is the best time to start solids? I feel that holding off until 6 months is ideal. I know some of you are looking anxiously at that number because you want to get started. I felt the same pressures to start solids with my very interested and hungry-looking son. But there is a lot to be said for patience and waiting for the appropriate time.
The current recommendation is between 4-6 months, with the research showing before this age as too early and after this window as too late. I think you can hold off to the ideal 6 months – let your baby be good and ready and allow them the time needed to develop fully. Of course, listen to their cues and signs of readiness, as ultimately, they are the boss and will let you know when they’re ready!
Wishing you and your baby a very happy and healthy food introduction!
In great health & happiness,