10 Reasons to Delay Solids Until at Least 6 Months

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feeding baby solidsDespite some clear messages from many health organizations, old recommendations -- or old wives' tales -- have many babies starting on solids before they reach 6 months old. Reasons range from "Baby is big enough!" to "Baby is too small!" (huh?) and even "I can just tell she's ready."

Even when it seems like baby is interested in food before then, often they're just interested in mimicking you, and would copy you putting something in your mouth the same way they'd copy putting your hairbrush on your head -- just copying, not intestinal lining cellular changes, the thing we're really waiting for.

There are very good reasons to delay solids until at least 6 months ...

1. It's recommended by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The American Academy of Family Physicians, National Health & Medical Research Council, and many prominent pediatricians. The lower range numbers, and many of the reasons along with it, have been outdated for quite awhile.

2. Waiting until the cells lining the baby's gut have closed helps prevent many allergies, gas, rashes, and medical issues.

3. Waiting also shows less incidences of gastroenteritis, diabetes, and obesity (as much as six-fold!) and even ear infections.

4. Breastfeeding for at least seven months actually shows decreased rates of anemia.

5. Baby is much less likely to choke -- even on purees -- when baby is older, and can also sit upright of their own accord (babies should never be fed foods leaning back).

6. Baby's gut doesn't produce enzymes to aid in digestion until 3-4 months, and the ones that break down more complicated fats, starches, and carbohydrates won't be produced until 6-9 months, meaning lots of gas, constipation, vomiting, and wasted nutrients before then. Even generally fussiness months later is noted in babies who were started too early.

7. While some babies may be ready between 4-6 months (no evidence has ever shown anything but risks earlier), it's impossible to tell without looking with a microscope in the gut, so waiting until 6 months minimum is a safer move for all babies.

8. Waiting until your baby can pick up and put food into their own mouth while sitting up straight is a clear sign of readiness, especially if they can gum and swallow the foods. The Department of Health's Infant Feeding recommendation actually suggests allowing babies who show readiness before 6 months to play with finger foods (that's right, no purees), as it's also unlikely they will swallow before they're biologically ready.

9. The tongue thrust reflex is to help prevent choking, but spoons of liquid purees can often get past it, since the reflex point is farther forward than an adult's gagging reflex. Putting food in the front of the mouth and allowing baby to move it back, which they can't do until often after 6 months, helps prevent choking and is also, of course, a sign of readiness.

10. Most parent assumptions about when babies are ready are related to other biological norms -- waking up at night, reaching for food, mimicking your eating, wanting to eat more -- and are confused for signs of readiness. Having a set date AND a list of readiness signs helps prevent early introduction based on confusion about normal behaviors.

My friend at the Analytical Armadillo has a much longer and science-heavy post that I adore, but after all is said and done, it pretty much comes down to this: There are no benefits, only risks, to starting a baby before they're biologically ready, and since we can't see the gut, we have to go by outside cues, and waiting until a bare minimum of 6 months is the safest way to play it. If a couple weeks is the difference between a gut infection and not, the choice is pretty clear.

What reasons were most compelling for you to delay solids until 6 months (or more)?

 

Image via © iStock.com/FamVeld

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kjbug... kjbugsmom1517

Just another article saying what some have done/doing wrong. I fed my youngest cereal at around 4 months and she never gets sick,isn't overweight and doesn't get ear infections, has no medical issues etc etc.. On top of being on formula u would think she would be a drs worst nightmare cuz she should be sick and overweight. *eyeroll*

Christina Rodriguez-Pavon

But all babies are not the same.  This is just saying generally (like how meds will suggest that you eat before taking that particular pill, although everyone will not get sick from not eating it).  I totally understand your feelings about the seemingly harsh and insensitive way that some women can attack those that don't breastfeed.  Whatever works for you is all you, but I would like if all women would at least try it.  You can't say "it's not for me" if you don't and anyway it isn't for you, it is for your baby.  :)  Best wishes.

Rachel Schiller

Our first had a horrible time digesting purees until he was 7 or 8 months old. So we delayed that long with the second child and will delay that long for our third. It just works for our family. With #3 we are also skipping purees all together.

35nma... 35nmama2b

Waiting until 6 months (this Friday) has proven to be a real challenge in our house! I didn't even consider introducing solids before 6 months until we were doing some sensory play with smashed avocado a couple of weeks ago and my baby took it straight to his mouth and started eating it. Although I was nervous, we went with it. Since I've given him a couple of finger foods - soft steamed broccoli and pieces of boneless poached talapia, of all things, and he loves it. Chews incredibly well. I'm still going to wait until next week to start solids with any regularity though. We are just going with finger foods though, skipping cereals and purees.

Brade... BradenIsMySon


i fed my kid rice cereal starting at 4 months old and he was formula fed. He has bouts of gastroenteritis and IBS.


 


I was fed formula and rice ceral amongst other food starting at 2 weeks, I have digestive issues and am overweight.


katrinad katrinad

I wish when people wrote articles regarding issues like this, others wouldn't take it so personally. Really why be so defensive, unless you feel guilty or something. Just because people point out scientific facts, it doesn't mean they are bashing your parenting choices.


I was formula fed and had solids started early. I now have a lot of gastrointestinal issues, that didn't show up until I was 11-12. You never know what the long term affects will be.

MTNes... MTNester1

Why does this issue push people's buttons?  Get over yourselves and your insecurities.  I didn't have any issues as a baby in the 1950's either, and I was bottlefed.  But as an adult....  Weight and digestive issues have been my constant companion since my 20s.  Not blaming my mom.  We were both products of the 50s.  But why risk it now that there is research showing it can cause harm to some babies well into their adult years? 

miche... micheledo

Another reason - SIMPLICITY


It takes a lot of time to feed a baby the baby food stuff.  When my fourth child was able to sit up AND awake during our meal times, I would put him in the high chair while the rest of us ate.  If he reached for stuff, he got it to play with or taste.  At first, it was simply to play with.  Then he started tasting, and gumming, and chewing on.  It wasn't really until he was close to 10 months old that he really started to eat solids.  His first meal was veggies, salmon, and cous cous!


And I have never fed him with a spoon.  (EASY!)  At 19 months he is now doing a good job at figuring out a spoon and fork all on his own, having never been fed by someone else.

Aria Clements

KJbugsmom, some smokers don't get cancer or have any medical problems.  So smoking is perfectly safe.  Right?


I was started on solids very early.  At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.  At 14, my ENTIRE large intestine and much of my small intestine was removed.  To this day I deal with autoimmunity and get sick easily.  It wasn't worth starting me on solids.  There's no reason these days with the known risks other than parental convenience.  The risk to our children's health isn't worth it when the risk is so freaking easy to avoid.

LKRachel LKRachel

If my baby weren't formula fed, I might have waited longer, but our ped gave the ok and we just started with little bits of food (mostly avocado and banana) after she turned 4 months.  It is a VERY good point that IF there's a possibility of health risks why chance it?  But our baby was putting everything in her mouth and never once spit anything out (until recently lol!) so I think she was ready.  Plus at the time there was s much stuff about formula recalls and spiders in formula, I figured she was better off with a little more pure food than manufactured stuff.  having read things since, I will probably wait till 6 months with any subsequent babies (especially since  like Micheledo said, milk is easier, even if it's formula).

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