The general consensus today in the world of baby
recommendations is that the time to start them on solids foods is at 6 months. Up until then, they are receiving all of the nutrition they need through formula or breast milk and literally don’t need a single thing more to continue growing healthy little bodies.
Researchers at the Center for Disease Control conducted a study over 6 years and found that only 32.6% of babies were given solid foods at the appropriate time. Where some were introduced solids prior to 4 months, most were between 4 and 5 months old, and babies who were formula fed tended to receive solid foods sooner than breastfed babies.
In the grand scheme of things, a month or two may not seem like a whole lot of time, but this early on it can make a big difference. The main concern is that offering solid foods too soon can cause babies to miss out on important nutrients from breast milk and formula. These nutrients are very specific and are much needed at such a crucial time of development.
So why the rush? In the 1950’s, it was recommended that you should give your baby solid foods as early as 3 months, and it wasn’t until the 70’s that they decided that 4 months was acceptable. It’s very likely the generation of young parents today receive a lot of conflicting advice from older family members or even seasoned healthcare providers. When my daughter was at her 4-month checkup I was told by an older nurse practitioner that I could start to give her rice cereal. I had said that I read there was little to no benefit and was it something I had to do. She simply said “there are minerals and you should.” And being the mom of a non-sleeper I had heard so many times to put rice cereal in with her bottle at night to “fill her up” so she will sleep longer. A lot of parents also feel that their babies looked/acted hungry because they watched what they ate so intently.
Like with most advice, take it with a grain of salt and do your own research…even if it comes from your most trusted source. I also want to note that the study also is clear that solids shouldn’t be introduced too late either as that has been associated with micronutrient deficiencies, allergies and poor diets later in life. It’s all about that sweet spot of 6 months old in introducing new and healthy foods to your baby.
Lisa is a babywearing, breastfeeding, cloth-diapering mama who enjoys exploring all things natural parenting.