Starting solid foods

Q: When should we start our baby on solid foods? I've heard everything from a few weeks to four months!

A: It’s not surprising that parents are confused about when to start solids, because clinicians are too! There’s evidence to wait until six months of age and evidence to start much earlier. 

Organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, recommend exclusively breastfeeding until about 6 months of age because breast milk is nature’s perfect food. 

Additionally, breast milk has amazing immune-protective properties for infants, decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and is preventative against childhood obesity. 

There’s also new evidence that formula-fed infants, who receive solids before 4 months of age, have a six-fold increase in the odds of being obese age 3. 

On the other hand, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology recommends introducing solids, even potentially highly allergenic solids like egg, soy, fish or peanut butter, by 4 to 6 months. Delaying introduction of these foods until 1 or 2 years of age may actually increase the risk of developing food allergies. 

So, the best answer today is to offer your baby breast milk or formula, nearly exclusively, until about 6 months of age. 

If parents desire to start solids earlier, between 4 to 6 months of age, they should look for readiness signs in their child — sitting up with minimal support, holding up his or her head and making chewing motions while watching you eat.

Offer little tastes off of your fingers (or off of theirs) using a single pureed fruit/vegetable or oatmeal. (Regular use of rice cereal remains unadvised due to concerns for arsenic. Learn more at aap.org.) 

If you desire to start more highly allergic foods, talk to your infant’s clinician first. 

Delaying solids until after 7 or 8 months of age comes with long-term risks for aversion of solids altogether.