feeding babyA few years ago the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with the findings from their study on when and why parents introduce solid foods to their babies. The results are surprising, to say the least: over 40% of moms are feeding their infants solids before the AAP’s recommended 6 months of age.

This is problematic because introducing solids before a baby’s gut is ready can lead to a variety of health issues, such as allergies, eczema, leaky gut syndrome, and an increased chance of obesity and diabetes. It can also lead to poor nutrition, as foods such as cereals and baby foods replace some of the breast milk or formula an infant would normally consume.

Here are some results from the study that I found interesting:

  • Out of the 539 moms who introduced solids too early, 1 in 10 gave solids to their infant before 4 weeks of age. This can likely be attributed to the well-meant but misguided recommendations of grandmothers and older generations. We’ve learned a lot about infant nutrition in the last half-century, and the guidelines for introducing solids have evolved greatly.
  • Participants in the study tended to be older, more educated, and had a higher income than the average mom. “Mothers of lower socioeconomic status are at a higher risk of early solid food introduction,” the study says.
  • Formula-fed babies were about twice as likely to be given solids before the recommended 6 months of age when compared to exclusively breastfed babies.
  • Over 50% of moms who introduced solids before 4-6 months said their child’s pediatrician recommended doing so. This is likely linked to pediatricians attending medical school when it was commonplace to introduce solids earlier, and not being educated on the current guidelines for introducing solids. It’s hard to question your child’s doctor – after all, most moms haven’t attended medical school – but if something doesn’t seem right or doesn’t jive with what you’ve read or heard, ask questions and get a second opinion. You are your child’s best advocate!

How can you tell if your baby is ready to start solids? Some good rules of thumb are that your baby can sit on his own (reclining high chairs are completely unnecessary), opens her mouth for food and swallows it, and shows an interest in bringing food to his mouth. Many moms nowadays (myself included) use the Baby-Led Weaning method of introducing solids, as it requires the child to show a true readiness and interest in solid foods and lets him gradually increase his intake at his own pace. And remember, just because the AAP recommends waiting until 6 months to introduce solids doesn’t mean that it’s the magic age for your child. Talk with your baby’s pediatrician and pay attention to your baby’s cues or lack thereof.

When did you start solids with your baby? Would you do anything differently if you could do it all over again?