New Solid Food Recommendations Lead to More Confusion


baby foodJust when you thought you knew what was best ... another study comes along to make you question everything. An article in the British Medical Journal says that exclusively breastfeeding for six months might not always be the best option.

This new evidence is raising a lot of hackles. However, nobody’s recommending formula or even supplementing with formula, so everybody just relax. The bottom line is this: Breast is still best, but you might want to introduce solid foods sooner (but not too soon) rather than later (but not too late).

Now, if you want to hear what the paper says and how it reached these conclusions and solid food recommendations, take a deep breath and click.

This paper was not a study -- it was a review of all the recent research on infant nutrition. The paper’s authors just wanted to take a closer look at the 2001 recommendation by the World Health Organization that recommends EBF (exclusive breastfeeding) for six months. Their conclusion is that babies need solids slightly earlier than six months.

The first thing they looked at is studies regarding infant infection. Four different studies found that kids who were EBF got fewer infections, though upon closer inspection, the benefit might taper off after three months. (Not my experience, but maybe I just have uber-healthy kids.) It's important to note that in cases where kids got more infections, bad enough to require hospital admission, the difference was that they got formula, not that they got solid foods.

Next, the researchers asked about nutritional adequacy. In other words, is breast milk enough to sustain an active infant’s needs? They noted that the reasoning is sort of circular -- for infants who were EBF to six months, breast milk was enough. But that’s because it was enough, and they didn’t ask for more. Babies who got solids earlier might have done so because breast milk wasn’t enough for them.

This section also asked if babies were getting enough iron. If you had a low birth weight baby and you EBF, you might want to watch out for anemia and/or consider an iron supplement.

And then, of course, there are allergies: We’ve all noticed how more kids seem to be allergic to weird stuff than when we were kids. Something’s not adding up. The researchers in this paper took a closer look at data on introduction of solids and found that kids who had gluten allergies were more likely to have gotten gluten before three months or after six months. Kids who start solids that include gluten between four and six months have fewer gluten allergies and a lower incidence of celiac disease. Dayum!

So, to recap: Breast is still best, if you can manage it, and nobody (least of all me) is here to make you feel bad if you tried and had to supplement. But while solids before three months are a no-no, they are a yes-yes if your baby shows signs of wanting them between four and six months.

Does that make sense? Good. Now everybody relax and have some whole-grain cereal.

Image via Jencu/Flickr

baby first year, baby health, formula, solid food, breastfeeding


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

LKRachel LKRachel

Dear Amy-  thank you for reading that and trying to decipher it!!  It almost made my head hurt trying to wrap my head around that, but you summed it up nicely.  :)

lovin... lovinangels

Here's my thought. Every baby is different. This is why we shouldn't be judgmental.  My kids didn't really take solids till 8 months and that was when the docs were shoving cereal down your throat at four months.

They didn't want it, and I don't believe in force feeding. My kids are healthy as horses.

Milijana Tomasevic

Great post. Just a few years ago, moms in my country started with EBF for six months, but before that, it was almost obligatory to give the baby solid food when four months old.
I think no baby should be forced to eat. My son didn't want solid food untill exactly 6 months old...

FourK... FourKidsSoFar

My son didn't want solids until about 7 or 8 months but my daughter wanted it at 4 months. Both kids were breastfed for over a year also and are extremely healthy!

Megara Megara

Every baby is different.  My daughter wasn't interested in solids until 6 months, and even then only sparingly.  I nursed her until she self-weaned at 30 months.  My son, however, was "chomping at the spoon" for solids at 4 months, but I waited until 5.  He doesn't get solid food on a regular schedule, and some days not at all.  He's 6 months now, and we nurse on demand, and will continue to do so until he self-weans.  Introducing solid foods does not have to change the breastfeeding relationship.  I believe in giving food when baby wants it, and nursing when baby wants it.

Mia81 Mia81

And this would be why i do not follow *health* trends.They change way to often ,I have been a parent for 6 years and i don't even want to go into how many times these *findings* or *studies* have changed.

Milagros Pollock

I started introducing solids at about four month, but only because my son was very interested in food! He is now 10 months and very long and lean, and I am still breast feeding him as well as giving him any nutritious solids he wants.

Stephanie Caldwell

I just think that researchers need to look at age solids were given and later adult digestive issues, and see if there is a correlation.

Stacy Enriquez

Nicely put ! Our local news blew this way out of porportion ! And yes all kids are different, my son was first introduced gluten at around 5 months & just recently found out he's intolerant. Go figure !

Christina Cook

This article is EXTREMELY ill-researched. Ok, firstly there is no "new evidence". This review was based off of old evidence and contains absolutely NO new information. Secondly, in WHO's reply to this review, it is stated that given the fact that THREE OUT OF THE FOUR "researchers" who published this review filed disclosures admitting taking funds from infant formula companies (coincidentally also baby food manufacturers!) Now, anyone think THAT is a coincidence?


1-10 of 11 comments 12 Last