Introducing Solid Food to Babies: Making Sense of the Confusion
To introduce solid food to your baby, or not to? That is the question, thanks to a new set of recommendations recently released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Since the 1950s, doctors have flip-flopped on when that milestone moment of giving a young baby solid food should occur. During the baby boom era, experts were singing an entirely different tune when it came to infant nutrition. Their advice on when to start introducing solid food? At four to five weeks! Doctors back then were also big advocates of formula, since they thought the manmade baby beverage was safer and more nutritious than breast milk. But they were wrong.
Jump ahead 40 years later to the 1990s, and you might recall that the recommendation was to not feed babies solid food until they were nine months old. Five weeks to nine months is quite a difference.
And when you bring foods that commonly cause allergic reactions, medical advice seems even more confusing. Should you expose a young infant to eggs and peanut butter or wait until a certain age? It’s difficult enough trying to figure out when it’s time to give your baby Cheerios, let alone something your little one might potentially be allergic to.
But we’re here to offer some clarity and share with you the latest findings to help put your mind at ease when trying to figure out your way around these ever-changing guidelines.
Introducing Solid Food
Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants should only be breastfed for the first six months. No formula. No baby cereal. No mashed up fruits or veggies from a jar. And while you should continue breast-feeding for at least a year, you can start introducing solid foods to your baby when he’s four to six months old.
In addition to age, look for other signs that he’s ready to upgrade to baby cereal. Does he weigh 13 pounds or more? Can he hold his head up and sit in a high chair? Does he open his mouth when you’re sending food his way? If the answer is yes, then it’s time. If not, you might want to continue breastfeeding for a little longer, or ease the transition by diluting solid food with breast milk.
It should also be noted that babies who were introduced to solid food before they were four months old were more likely to be obese at age three. So even if your personal beliefs may differ from the AAP’s advice, consider how proper nutrition habits start from the very beginning.
The number-one tip from doctors to prevent food allergies is breastfeeding, which provides your baby with essential nutrients and antigens to aid the development of his immune system and overall health.
The next tip? Allow your baby to eat allergenic foods before he’s a year old. But do take precaution: these foods should not be part of the first solid foods your baby consumes, and pay attention to any signs of an allergic reaction, such as rashes or episodes of diarrhea that occur after eating.
To find a Crozer-Keystone pediatrician who’s right for you (and your child), call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258).