When Is The Best Time To Introduce Solids?
March is National Nutrition Month. Each year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates by choosing a theme and this year it is: "Go Further with Food." And this couldn’t be more inline with our motto here at Little Foodie Club.
Offering babies the right kind of foods can really help set them up for the rest of their lives. A recent set of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlighted the importance of a varied diet of meats, fruits and vegetables for healthy brain development in infants for instance, while a study from the University College London found that the bigger the variety of vegetables a baby is exposed to in the first few weeks of eating solids, the more likely they are to eat healthily later on in life.
But like so many things, introducing a baby to solid foods is all about timing.
Experts often discuss the disadvantages of introducing solids too early, warning that this can have adverse effects on a baby’s development. But on the flipside, introducing solids too late can also be detrimental to a baby’s future wellbeing.
The AAP recommends introducing a baby to solid foods between four and six months of age. But a study published in The Maternal and Child Health Journal found that only about 62% of parents introduce their babies to solids during this safe window.
It warns that waiting too long can result in suppressed growth as well as feeding problems, while the American Association for Cancer Research advises that a delayed start on solid foods could increase a child’s risk of leukemia.
Babies grow and learn more in their first year than they will in their lifetime, meaning the first 12 months are a crucial time for future health and development. A French study found that late introduction of solids can deprive infants of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, leading to a reduced immune system and irreversible delays on the cognitive development.
Also, delaying your child's introduction to solid foods beyond six months of age can have a profound effect on their oral motor-sensory skills, according to the Mayo Clinic, which also warns that delaying solid foods might be linked with the development of asthma, hay fever, eczema or food allergies.
While no baby is the same and readiness for solids may vary significantly, the right time to start solids is between four and six months, when a baby has doubled his or her birth weight, is able to sit well unassisted and is showing signs of hunger after being breast or bottle fed. And possibly the most significant sign of readiness for solids is the ability to swallow food, which means a baby has lost the initial reflex to push food out with the tongue.
So before starting your baby on solids, be sure to watch the baby not the calendar.