When most of us hear “baby food,” we think strained peas, mashed apples, and other delicacies that start as solid foods and are then made mushy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies enjoy a steady diet of nothing but breast milk or formula for around the first 6 months of their lives. So why the waiting period between birth and the introduction of these kinds of “solids”?
#1: Breast milk and formula are loaded with nutrients
The early months of any baby’s life are a lightning-quick montage of physical development. Babies need a nourishing supply of iron and fats to keep pace with this rapid growth cycle. That’s exactly what a serving of breast milk offers, and formula has been designed carefully to closely imitate it. Once a baby’s growth rate begins to slow down, they can start transitioning to basic foods that offer a bigger variety of nutrients.
#2: Solids shouldn’t crowd out breast milk
Once Baby starts on solids, they will probably continue to live on a combination of breast milk or formula and solids. At this early stage, instead of supplementing breast milk’s nutrients, solid foods servings could actually edge out some of the calories that a baby would normally gain from breast milk or formula without providing the same nutrients. That’s why when Baby first begins sampling solids, it will be primarily about exploring what it means to eat (or throw, or smear) solid food and have fun with new textures and tastes – breastfeeding or formula will likely still make up their primary source of nutrition.
#3: Younger babies aren’t physically ready
Though Baby may be dreaming of the day when they get to munch on some delicious pureed peas, their little body just might not be ready for it. Experts recommend waiting to introduce solids until Baby loses their extrusion reflex (which makes their tongue stick out), until they can support their head, and until they show some interest. If Baby isn’t showing these signs of readiness yet, it may not be time. And if you’re just not sure, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider so that you can better understand when exactly your little one can start to sample solid delicacies.
“Complementary Feeding.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Retrieved July 20 2019. www.who.int/nutrition/topics/complementary_feeding/en/.
“Infant Food and Feeding.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved July 20 2019. www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx.
“Starting Solid Foods.” healthychildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, January 16 2018. Retrieved July 20 2019. www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Starting-Solid-Foods.aspx.
“When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, December 3 2018. Retrieved July 20 2019. www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/when-to-introduce-solid-foods.html.