There is a lot of conflicting advice out there regarding when your little one should start eating solids and it can be overwhelming. Traditional advice is still circulating that is outdated when compared to more recent research. Here is what the experts say nowadays:
The consensus for introducing solids nowadays is 6-8 months over the outdated recommendation of 4-6 months. This is recommended by several organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, and AAP. This correlates with the recommendation that baby be exclusively breastfed for a minimum of 6 months to optimize baby’s health.
There will be signs that baby starts to show when they are ready for food. These will be easy to pick up as a parent. They will start showing an interest in what’s going on at the dinner table and maybe even try to grab for your plate or utensils. Additionally, they will have developed better hand control that allows them to pinch, a very useful maneuver when they start eating. Lastly, it’s also important for them to be able to sit up to be able to safely eat food.
A new baby’s gut is much different than one that is ready for food. Baby will go through a transition where the cells of their gut go from loosely knit to tightly packed together (read more about this here). The immature cells help baby easily digest breast milk while allowing large antibodies to pass into their system for immune support. This is one of biggest benefits to continued breastfeeding to minimize illness and allergies. It is estimated that this maturity is established around the 6-8 month mark. This is what’s also called “gut closure” and one reason for the recommendation of the exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
Baby is demanding more.
In general, baby does not need food to replace breastmilk in the first 6 months. However, as they get older food can become an additional supplement as they require more calories to grow. If they’re acting hungrier than usual this can be a sign they’re ready. Although with so many things going on around the 6-month mark (teething, growth spurts, changes in milk supply, separation anxiety, etc) it can be hard to differentiate. It is important to find a balance for your growing baby, if food starts replacing breast milk too early it can result in early weaning. A good rule of thumb is to always offer the breast first (or, expressed breast milk) before solids. The primary nutrition during the first year of life should always be mother’s milk.
Do what feels right.
Whatever you decide, it should feel right for you and your baby. Keep in mind also to consult with your Healthcare Provider or Pediatrician before you make your final decision. It’s always a good idea to get their input based on your particular baby’s growth and development.
Don’t ever feel pressured or forced. If you need support and advice for continued breastfeeding talk to an expert at Spectra Baby USA here. Take cues from your baby and you’ll know what to do. If they are fighting starting solids by turning away or spitting out their foot you may need to approach it differently or take a break and try again some other day. As long as baby is happy and healthy don’t get too concerned and remember, your Pediatrician is only one call away!