Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wait, please wait

One of my biggest pet peeves is feeding your baby solids too early. All the research says to wait- it's just too risky to start too early- why would you take that chance with your baby?

Signs baby is ready for food (aka you should wait until your baby has ALL of these signs):

  • Pincer Grasp (the ability to pick up food with forefinger and thumb). The first few signs of food readiness are God-given; babies are designed to be dependent for a while, so let them be- there's probably a good reason (ie. the baby isn't ready!). Basically, if the baby can't eat on their own, they shouldn't eat solids. The pincer grasp is one of those developments- grabbing with their whole fist means that they aren't ready.
  • Interest in Food Real interest- not just the "teething so I put EVERYTHING in my mouth whether I actually want to ingest it or not" interest. Sure, Margaret would be interested in putting food in her mouth- she wants to put everything in her mouth! It's how babies explore their environment and deal with teething pain. If they look interested and you give them a spoon to play with and they are satisfied by that spoon- then it wasn't the food they wanted.
  • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflex Ah, one of those things babies are designed to do. You know that picture? Mom and Dad trying to get food into baby's mouth and baby's tongue keeps it from getting in, "Oh look! They like it!" No. That's the tongue-thrust reflex. It's to prevent the baby from choking. If the baby still has it, it means solids aren't supposed to go in. You aren't supposed to be fighting your baby! The baby will lose the reflex. Just be patient. Don't try to circumvent the protection that God gave your baby. Babies lose this reflex between 4 and 6 months, typically, but there are variations, of course.
  • Teeth If they don't have teeth, they shouldn't be eating solids. They are still needing to suck, not chew.
  • Sitting up on their own. Again, one of those developmental things to protect the baby from choking. Wait. It happens around 6 months
  • Being AT LEAST 6 months old. This is a big one. No, "But my baby has all the other signs at 5 months." Nope. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no solids (including juice) until 6 months. Why? Because the baby has what is called an "open gut." It's designed to let breastmilk be quickly absorbed into the baby's system. It will close, but until then, you need to hold off on solids. You see, if something too big for the baby gets ingested, it will be readily absorbed, but then (say it's a protein) it'll get stuck elsewhere. Then the body will need to attack that protein to get it un-stuck and view it as an intruder- and suddenly what do we have? Allergies- the body recognizing something that would otherwise be good for it as bad. There are NO outward signs of a mature gut. None. Zip. You can't tell. Neither can your pediatrician. It simply takes time- and it's recommended to wait 6 months to let the gut close.
"But my pediatrician said that I could before 6 months..." Ok. There are two thing wrong with that. Either your pediatrician hasn't read up on infant nutrition the past couple of decades or they are blatantly ignoring the research (and their own society: AAP). Would you want a pediatrician who has done either? Switch pediatricians now. Your pediatrician obviously doesn't care what is best for your baby.

"But I/my children ate solids at age ____ and are fine!" Look at the number of allergy/intestinal tract/obesity medication commercials on TV. A large number of adults who were the children of the "feed your kid at 6 weeks" parents are dealing with all kinds of troubles that could have been prevented by delaying solids. Sure there are other environmental factors, also, but now that we know that postponing solids can prevent these things, we should try that. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention... And if you/your children are fine, congrats, but I'm not comfortable with risking my children.

"But, but, but..." No. You can't know if your baby's gut is closed for sure- unless you open up your baby and investigate. Just wait the 6 months: it's better than the invasive surgery. It's not going to kill either of you!

In fact, starting solids too early increases the baby's chances of obesity and iron-deficiency (maybe starting solids too early will kill your baby?). Read the link below at kellymom.com- there are references!

I do sound harsh, but like I said at the beginning, it's one of my pet peeves- why don't pediatricians do their research? Why don't parents? You are responsible for a new being who can't take care of themselves! And of course, you don't have to read my blog if you don't want to hear my rants. :) And isn't your baby worth it? Your baby will have a lifetime of solid foods, what's 6 or more months? It's not like they'll never learn to eat: they will.

Oh and when they start eating solids, babies don't eat 3 solid meals a day. Adults shouldn't even do that- we've all heard that 6 or more small meals are better for us, well, they're better for babies, too. And you should feed solids AFTER a good feeding of breastmilk. Even at a year, babies should still be getting most (most!) of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula. The first foods are for texture/taste exploration, not nutrition.

My sources:
kellymom.com My favorite part of kellymom is that there are sources to studies. Read them! Need sources on the open gut? They're at the page I linked to. Need sources on increased obesity in children who begin solids too early? There, too. She even links to pages of the organizations that recommend waiting at least 6 months (and it's more than just the AAP and WHO).
I was going to list other sources, but kellymom has already listed them for me. Why reinvent the wheel?

And my favorite benefit: easier feeding. Waiting until your baby can feed herself, sit up, doesn't have the tongue-thrust reflex, has teeth, etc., means that you don't have to feed her mush! And it's cleaner (and cheaper- baby food is expensive)! No more, "Here comes the choo choo!"

And if your baby isn't interested yet, just keep on breastfeeding. Some babies just aren't interested in solids- even until 2 years. They are getting everything they need from you. That's what's great about breastfeeding- you don't have to worry if they're getting everything because they are! Babies are going to go through eating strikes, especially if they're sick or going through a big developmental milestone. Isn't it nice to know they are still getting everything they need through your breastmilk? Sets a mother's mind at ease. Relax, it's taken care of! Go breastmilk!


  1. I'm a big fan of waiting on the solids. Magei was a year old before she was eating solids. She didn't need them and didn't care and I didn't care. Sam, however, was feeding himself morsels of green beans by 8 months. He just seemed hungrier. Even though he probably would have welcomed food, I wouldn't budge on the 6 month rule. My daycare was trying to convince me to give him cereal at 5 months and I said no way.

  2. Amen!!! I know someone who recently posted on her blog that she had been trying to get her baby to eat for a few weeks and that finally at 3 months, she seemed to get it! I think that's crazy!! I actually found that with each of my kids, it was different, most being around 7 months (and even later for Eden )but Tucker and Jordan were 6months and it is totally from those signs you mentioned, but also even when they were old enough, I fed/feed them once a day and maybe a finger food at another time. I have never counted on their solids to fill them up that young. I guess I feel strongly as well, hence my long comment!

  3. I think the key thing is to NOT fixate on any given age, but to follow baby's lead...Bear started grabbing fruit out of my hand around 5m...he would suck out the juice from my nectarine or watermelon. I got a baby-safe feeder and let him go at it. I never pushed or even really offered...but he was literally grabbing it from me, you know? Then, after a month or so, he pretty much totally gave up on anything but nursing until he was 8-9m... He had most of those readiness signs, but didn't get his first tooth until 9.5m...

    I've written about some of it if you go to 'baby led eating' in my tags. I more or less follow the mantra 'food is for fun until they are one' and I pretty much let him explore what he wanted when he wanted.

  4. I agree, but disagree with some things. My doctor said to wait until 6 months, but my baby WAS ready. I decided to start 1 feeding a day of small amounts of food because I am her parent. Not the AAP, not Dr. Farnsworth, and not Kellymom.com. The research is good, but thoughtful parents who pay careful attention can make good decisions for their children.

    However, my pet peeve is when people tell you that if you feed your baby rice cereal they will sleep through the night. Sounds great to parents who are DESPERATE for sleep, but it doesn't work! Yogurt doesn't work either. (I haven't tried that, but it seems counterintuitive anyway.)

  5. I agree with most but will fight you on the "teeth" part. Deirdre has been eating things other than breastmilk for several months - she LOVES food and will eat anything you give her, spicy or not - and she still does not have a single tooth. Obviously she can't have meat or things that require chewing, but she loves soft fruit, cooked veggies, and bread that she can gum down.

    I am primarily in the "follow your child" camp, but will say that AT LEAST wait until 4 months because before then they don't even produce bile. They can't digest properly. It doesn't matter if your child shows signs and "is ready." You are setting your baby up for serious food allergies and digestive problems.

  6. Toby was DYING to start solids at around 5 months but we still waited till 6 because I have food allergies and was worried about him, you know, dying. I think we started just as his teeth were coming in, so there you go. Actually all the things you listed, he's got down, except he still can't sit up on his own yet. Silly baby.

    And ugh the rice cereal thing drives me nuts. I am guilty of feeding it to him - our old ped said it would help him sleep and poop better, but he LIED. And my mom and grandma both get on my case weekly about not feeding Toby rice anymore, but seriously. Why would I feed him something that has no nutritional value and, frankly, looks like shredded cellophane?

  7. Thank you thank you thank you for doing this post! I remembered reading it and sent the link on to a close friend of mine when she got advice from her pediatrician to start solids on her 4 month old! She just started with this doctor and is thinking of switching... I think all the reasons you posted here are in great support of that. Thanks for doing your research and keeping us informed. You ROCK! ;)


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