When To Introduce Baby Food
This is a question that receives lots of varied answers from people. Maybe you have family members and friends who may advise you on this issue.
Perhaps even your trusted pediatrician may also advise you to introduce solid foods as early as from 3-4 months of age or even earlier. But I will tell you that this was just a traditional practice.
Fresh studies show that it is important to delay solids foods until your baby attains, at least, 6-months. Most health organizations including WHO and UNICEF recommends that the baby should have nothing other than the breast milk or the formula for the first 6-months of age.
Breastmilk is the best nutrition that protects your baby from illness. For most babies, mom’s milk is all they need for their first six months.
Before six months of age, the baby’s digestive track is not yet mature enough to handle solid foods. More so the gut is still open during this time, and it closes somewhere at the age of six months.
Giving your baby solid foods at this stage while the gut is still open, it will be hard for the baby to digest the food materials properly. This can cause upset stomach, constipation, gas, or even bloody stool.
Now before I share with you the most recommended stage to introduce solid food materials in your baby diet, there are few things I want you to know.
Risk of introducing solid food materials prior to 6-months
- Early introduction of solid foods can increase the risks of food allergies
- It can lead to iron-deficiency anemia
- It increases the risks of obesity
- It is associated with high risks of allergic disease, respiratory problems, ear infections, celiac ailments, type 1 diabetes and even SIDs.
More so, there are zero benefits to starting solid foods earlier than 6-months of age. Before introducing solid food to your baby who is 6-months or older ensure the baby meet the following requirements.
- Can sit up unassisted and here I mean not being propped up or rather in a special sit.
- No longer has a tongue thrust reflex which is a natural reflex where babies push out food from their mouths with the tongue.
- Can push the chest up if laid face down
- Can move objects to their mouth with their hands
- Has shown interest in food
- Can communicate to you in some way, probably to say no to you
Because the baby is developing, quite often they will start to be interested and get curious about the surroundings before reaching 6-months. The baby may start grabbing at your food or mimic you when you’re eating.
Oops! This is where most moms get it wrong! These behaviors are part of your baby’s social development and not signs that they are ready for solid foods.
Don’t force the introduction of solids before time. Also, don’t take the baby’s level of interest as your guide for readiness.
So when should you introduce solids?
It is best to introduce solids when your baby reaches 6-months and is meeting the readiness signs listed above. However, this may vary between babies.
To some it may be right at six months of age while to others it may delay up to 7-9 months of age. Just relax and let your baby enjoy breastfeeding until when ready enough to graduate to solids.
When the right time to introduce solid foods come, you may need the following pieces of equipment;
- Baby food grinder particularly when preparing your own baby food
- Highchair, bibs, plastic spoons, dishes and a sippy cup.
When introducing solids, make sure you don’t alter your breastfeeding pattern. You should continue to breastfeed as usual and perhaps introduce some snacks in-between breastfeeding sessions.
It is also best to give solid food to your baby about an hour or more after breastfeeding to ensure that your baby does not take in a little milk. Keep in mind that you’re doing this to familiarize the baby with different textures and tastes.
So the main source of nutrition should remain the breast milk. Also, when, introducing these solids, don’t force the baby to take large amounts it is okay even if your baby eats a teaspoonful at a time.