The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies not start consuming any solid foods until they are six months old, but according to a recent study, as many as 40% of new moms could be introducing their babies to solid foods too early, which could contribute to problems for their children down the road.
A younger baby’s digestive system often isn’t ready to handle anything besides breast milk, and prematurely introducing solid foods can lead to a host of troubles, including allergies and eczema. It’s also been linked to a higher risk of obesity and diabetes. Ideally, babies would be exclusively breastfed for the first six months so that they can obtain all the benefits of breast milk, including immune benefits and possible protection from obesity and diabetes.
It’s true that each baby develops at a different pace, but there are some definite signs that your baby is ready for something beyond breast milk. Is the baby able to sit up well when supported, and can he hold up his head on his own? Has she doubled in weight since birth? Does the baby open its mouth when food comes its way, show chewing motions, and take the food off the spoon and actually swallow it? To eat solid foods, babies must first lose the reflex that causes them to push food out of their mouths with their tongues.
If your baby is showing all of these signs and is at the proper age, then you are probably safe to start introducing solid foods. Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean a steak or corn on the cob — start with pureed fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, peaches, pears, or applesauce.
Something else to keep in mind for new parents: crying doesn’t just mean that your baby is hungry. It could also be a sign of feeling sick, being lonely and needing attention, or having a wet diaper.