It’s not uncommon to be anxious about starting your baby on solid foods, but there is a right way to approach this major eating milestone. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that many parents are offering solid foods before their baby’s body is ready, with 40 percent reporting that they gave their baby solid food before he or she was 4 months old (with 9 percent starting as early as 4 weeks).
Research has shown that starting solid foods too early can increase the child’s lifetime risk of diabetes, eczema, and obesity. Additional studies show that infants who are at high risk for developing type 1 diabetes (because of family history) are more likely to develop diabetes-associated autoantibodies if introduced to gluten-containing foods (such as cereal) during their first three months of life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until a baby is at least 6 months old before introducing solid foods. This encourages moms to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, which has numerous health benefits for infants, including reduced risk of diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, diarrhea, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome. If you formula feed your baby, it is also a good idea to hold off on the introduction of solids until 6 months. Babies need the specific nutrients provided by breast milk and formula. Solid foods given prior to 6 months have the potential to serve as an incomplete substitute. It’s similar to adults skipping a healthy meal in favor of dessert. It will fill you up, but the nutrition content is not as good as it could have been.
Parents are advised to talk to their child’s pediatrician before making the decision to start their baby on solids.
- Studies show that many parents are introducing solid foods to their babies as early as 4 weeks old.
- The AAP recommends waiting until a baby is at least 6 months old before introducing solids.
- Cereals and other “baby” foods do not contain the same nutrients found in a diet of breast milk or formula.