• Mon, Dec 2 - 5:00 pm ET

Don’t Be In Such A Rush To Start Your Baby On Solids

86475384Figuring out when to start your baby on solids can be really confusing; it seems like everyone is getting different advice. But a new study shows you shouldn’t be in too much of a rush to start your child on something other than breast milk or formula. Babies that start solids earlier may be more prone to food allergies.

From The New York Times:

British researchers followed a group of 1,140 infants from birth to 2 years, while their mothers completed diaries detailing the babies’ diets and noting suspected allergic reactions to food, which researchers later confirmed by testing. They found 41 babies with confirmed food allergies, and compared them with 82 age-matched healthy controls. All were born between January 2006 and October 2007.

After controlling for birth weight, the duration of pregnancy, maternal allergies and many other factors, they found that 17 weeks was the crucial age: babies who were introduced to solids before this age were significantly more likely to develop food allergies.

I’ve known people who started their babies on rice cereal at four months, as instructed by their doctors. My son’s pediatrician advised me to skip rice cereal all together insisting it had no nutritional value and would probably constipate him. My daughter’s pediatrician told me since I was breastfeeding to wait until she was six months old to give her anything else. He insists she’s getting all she needs from the breast milk. He told me he advises mothers who are formula feeding to introduce fruit juices around four months. I have a friend who had her baby at the same time I did. She fed her baby food a few weeks before I started mine on solids. See what I mean? We are all getting different advice.

According to the study, it seems like the only factor that really matters is that you are waiting until your child is over four months old or 17 weeks to start him on food other than breast milk or formula. If it is unnecessary and may put your child at risk for developing food allergies – you may as well wait. I think sometimes we may get excited to see our child through another stage and we forget we may be pushing a little too fast:

“Don’t introduce solids until 17 weeks,” said the lead author, Kate E. C. Grimshaw, a nutritionist at the University of Southampton, “and if you can wait longer, that’s fine, too. At whatever age you begin solid foods, you should continue breast-feeding as well. And for those who cannot breast-feed, the advice not to introduce solid foods until 17 weeks is still applicable.”

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Cee

    Hmmm. My brother in law started his baby on solids quite early? At Thanksgiving him and his wife were feeding the baby anything they could smash up for her. Now the other day, she started developing a rash all over her face. My niece is 6 months old right now. I dont know if thats early but I do l know shes been on solids for a bit and that her mum says shes been having rashes. I wonder if shes allergic cuz they started her early.

    Though I should add that they started her on solids to get her into daycare. I hope they didnt put the pressure.

    • Ptownsteveschick

      Part of introducing solids is discovering allergies. Its recommended to wait 3 or so days in between introducing something the kid hasn’t had before so if they do have a reaction you know what it is from. So it might not be that they are causing the allergies, but just in the process of discovering them. It is also winter and lots of places have the winter air causing skin reactions, I know mine and my daughter’s skin is scaly dry nastiness right now. 6 months isn’t early.

  • Janok Place

    Our daughter showed huge interest in solids around the four month marker, so we let her have them. She needed to eat, she was starving. I needed to sleep, and as a breast feeding mum it was becoming impossible. She started sleeping through the night at 3 weeks and then around 3.5 months stopped and just wanted to eat. It was a no brainer for us, she was hungry, the food was nutritious and she handled it well so at the four month mark we threw in the towel and let her have some avacado/carrots etc, one thing at a time. I think every kid is different. Ours has no allergies, and at a year old had no issue chowing down on moderately hot curry, all the veggies you could throw at her and a host of other things a toddler wouldn’t normally touch with a ten foot pole.

    Meanwhile our doctor, horrified, informed my husband (150lbs 5’10″) and I (105lbs 5’6″) that we were setting her up for an inevitable life long battle with obesity. Right, lady, sure…

  • Bethany Ramos

    Okay, my personal experience = research (ha!). Son #1 started rice cereal at probably 4 months and had RAGING eczema and multiple allergies. We then saw the new guidelines for son #2 with only breast milk until 6 months. So far, no signs of allergies!

  • NeuroNerd

    17 weeks is less than 4 months (when you figure that a month is really 2.5 weeks long), so it seems like the 4-6 months recommendation is still accurate. More than likely, there’s probably a window in which you should start solids–too early, you increase risk for food allergies, too late, you increase risk for celiac and iron deficiency.

    • Emmali Lucia

      The risk of Celiac disease increases if you wait too late?

      I was under the impression that Celiac disease was genetic…

    • NeuroNerd

      ” Evidence is emerging that early (< or = 3 months) and perhaps even late (7 months or after) first exposure to gluten may favor the onset of celiac disease in predisposed individuals."

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17664902

  • Katherine Handcock

    I loved my doctor’s advice on the topic when I had my first: she said, “Sometime between 4 and 6 months. You’ll probably know when – he’ll be watching you eat, he’ll seem like he’s not quite satisfied after he’s done nursing, and he might try to steal food off your plate.” Yep, that about did it! I think that babies often do give cues about when they’re ready (as long as parents understand the difference between those cues and the natural increase in hunger during a growth spurt.)

    The other advice I was glad she gave me was not to worry too much about exactly WHAT my kids ate, just to give them the chance to try a bunch of stuff and let them guide me. My son loved cereals, pureed fruits and veggies, etc. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted REAL food – meaning whatever we were eating. No cereal, no purees – she didn’t even really like rice crackers etc. So for her, I’d just squish whatever we were having for dinner into an appropriate mush. I think if I hadn’t had a doctor who told me that was okay, I would have been REALLY stressed out about feeding her.

  • JadePanda

    It’s always interesting to hear how recommendations change. We were also told to wait until the 6 month mark, and have followed the schedule prescribed by our daughter’s pediatrician (wait four days before introducing, hold on introduce meat and gluten, etc.) Of course, she still suddenly got eczema and rashes after starting solids, even with all the precautions, so who knows?

  • SusannahJoy

    My son is 7 months and only just started eating solids. I’ve been trying to get him to eat them for a month, but he just wasn’t interested. Now though, he downs like 4 ounces in 15 minutes of carrots or sweet potatoes or whatever. It’s AWESOME! We’ve been having trouble getting him to gain weight, so we mix it with formula, and then I get to not have to be attached to the baby for 5 minutes, seriously, I love it. So much.

  • EX

    But, I don’t think anyone was being told to start solids before 4 months (well, besides by nosy old relatives telling them to put rice cereal in a newborn’s bottle or some such crazy none sense) and 17 weeks = 4 months so the recommendations from this study don’t change anything. Or am I missing something?

  • MoD

    Our doctor told us to wait as close to six months as possible. So our son was exclusively breastfed until five months, when we slowly started introducing solids, starting with rice cereal. Around that time, he also started taking a small amount of formula because I wasn’t pumping quite enough to keep up. Besides the fact that he’d more than doubled his birth weight, he was always trying to grab food from our plates and always seemed hungry. He’s nine months now and still not big on solids (still prefers milk over anything, and it’s the vast majority of his diet), but he usually just eats whatever we’re eating now. He never really got into baby food, and now he’s at the point he can chew small pieces of food. He has a really varied diet, including mildly spicy foods and “ethnic” foods (Indian, Japanese) and likes everything except tomatoes.

  • NicknamesAreDull

    My daughter showed little to no interest in food until about 6.5 months. So, we started her then. She had a ton of food sensitivities, but not allergies. As she has gotten older, they have lessened.

  • Paul White

    Sam started wanting what we were eating at maybe 4-5 months. So we obliged. Seems to be working OK.

  • footnotegirl

    Heh, I was told “food before 1 is just for fun” and we introduced our daughter solids as she showed interest, which in her case wasn’t until she was 9+ months old. She bypassed ‘baby foods’ entirely, could never stand them, refused to eat them. No food sensitivities, no allergies, no problem.

  • Maddi Holmes

    My mother is a nutritionist also, she has a PhD and masters in the field. According to her, most research suggests that feeding babies mush (baby food) is actually pretty bad for them, and even though they don’t have teeth, when you start giving them other food than milk you should actually be giving babies more solid foods. Obviously this means you need to be careful and make sure baby doesn’t choke, and clearly don’t give your infant a steak. Things like cut up apple, crackers etc. It helps develop stronger jaw muscles and promotes proper jaw growth (which will hopefully result in your child not needing braces later on!).

    This isn’t to do with the article really, I just thought it was relevant.

    • Paul White

      Sam only ate mush for about a month; after that he wanted big people food exclusively. Which I’m fine with cause it’s easier.

    • Rachel Sea

      Do mesh feeders count? It seems like they get to chew like you say, because it takes some gnawing to get a chunk of food through the bag, but once they get it out, it is basically pureed mush.

  • Adam Fitzgerald

    Food before one is unnecessary, just for play

    • NeuroNerd

      Not true–around 7 months breastmilk can no longer meet a baby’s nutritional requirements for iron.

  • guest

    A friend of mine started feeding her 15wk old solids the last few weeks, just letting him “taste” what they were eating. I thought it was way too early especially since he was doing the tongue thrusting thing when they put food on/in his mouth and he can’t even sit up yet. But I kept my mouth shut. I don’t really understand the rush to give babies solids so early. Can’t we just enjoy the uncomplicated parts of their little lives while they last?