There seems to be a lot of variation these days regarding when parents should start incorporating solid foods into their infant's diet. Some studies suggest that introducing solid foods too early can lead to obesity, adult onset diabetes, celiac disease, allergies, eczema and feeding difficulties.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that the introduction of solid food take place between 4-6 months of age. According to the AAP, breast milk can provide all the nutritional requirements for the growing infant. In 2005, the AAP encouraged the delay of solid food introduction until six months of age for exclusively breast fed infants with a multi-vitamin supplement also being offered. The 4-6 month infant, who is formula fed, can start earlier than the six months. If an infant was premature, the adjusted age of the infant will be considered. For instance, a baby, who was 2 months premature, will have to subtract 2 months from his birth date so he can fit into the 4-6 month category. I would hope that premature infants would be exclusively breast fed up to 6 months of age since breast-feeding is higher in calories, fights off infections, rich in soluble iron and is easier to digest just to name some of the benefits.
Breast milk contains higher amounts of soluble iron, which means it is easily absorbed by the infant's body.
When breast-feeding stops, one should use high iron rich foods. Discourage low iron milk products like cow, goat or soymilk products at least until 12 months of age. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of nutritional deficiency with prevalence highest among young children and pregnant women. Iron deficiency can lead to developmental delays and behavioral disturbances in children not to mention anemia.
Other good indicators that your infant is ready for solid foods are the following:
- Your child can sit up independently.
- The baby can grasp small foods in hand.
- The child no longer thrusts their tongue when fed, which will push food out of their mouth. This tongue thrusting is called the extrusion reflex and it disappears at about 4-6 months of age, which is timely for the start of solid food introduction. Teeth usually start to erupt at 6 months of age.
Do not add cereal to your child's bottle because it is confusing for the baby to determine if it is a liquid that they should drink or is it a solid that they should chew and swallow.
Here are good tips to help with beginning solids: start with rice cereal. Do not mix cereals or use wheat initially because these types are associated with more feeding problems and allergies. Introduce new foods one at a time and over a 2-3 day period to ensure no reaction to the new food. Within 2-3 months of starting the solids, your child's diet should include breast milk or formula, cereal, vegetables, fruits and pureed meats. Make sure to include one daily feeding of vitamin C rich foods. Never give raisins, peanuts, popcorn grapes or cut up hot dogs to your infant. These foods are choking risks.
Properly feeding your child takes money. The WIC program is an excellent federally funded health and nutrition program designed to give pregnant women and children under 5 years of age healthy supplemental foods needed for proper health and development. Participants must meet some income requirements. These guidelines also include: being pregnant, new moms or children 5 years or younger. WIC serves more than 8 million parents of infants each month. It is a great way for those at risk to maintain health in an economy that lends itself to austerity. Stay well.