Pediatricians recommend that mothers introduce solid food to their babies after they are 6 months old. Breastmilk or formula milk should be their primary source of nutrients.
Introducing solid food is a learning process. It takes time for you and Your Child to learn about how to eat and what to eat. Try to make the experience enjoyable and allow the little one to explore the wonderful world of eating.
Why is it important to wait for six months?
In the first 6 months, breast milk alone can provide adequate nutrients and energy a baby needs. More importantly, the baby needs time to practice eating skills such as suckling, strengthening the immune system, and developing physical strength, all of which are needed to support the ability to eat. So here are the reasons why you should wait until Your Child is developmentally ready for solid food intakes:
Breast milk alone is enough: For babies under 6 months, breast milk has all the necessary nutrients they need for healthy development. On the other hand, solid food has limited nutritional value per meal due to its restrictive variety of suitable food for their sensitive digestive system. And most foods, even though all-natural, still provide way more calories than a baby needs—this poses a greater risk for the little one to develop obesity and diabetes later on.
Breast milk is easy to swallow and digest: Breast milk is much easier to drink for babies whose eating skills are not mature enough to handle such strenuous tasks as swallowing. And, just like eating skills, their digestive system needs time to adjust to more complex foods.
Solid foods pose high risks: Introducing solid foods too soon increases the chance of getting illnesses such as diarrhea, making the body weak. Also, babies will take in less breast milk if they are fed solid foods. As a result, they will take in more calories but not necessarily the proper nutrition for the body.
What if Your Child is still hungry?
During the first six months, it is necessary that you only give Your Child breast milk. Then, if the little one still seems hungry, first try to breastfeed longer and more often to increase your milk supply. An alternative is to supplement with appropriate formula milk.
When will Your Child be ready for solid foods?
Most babies are ready to eat solid foods around 7 months of age, when their digestive system is ready. Starting your baby on solid foods at the right time is crucial. Too early increases the risks of health complications; too late can lead to poor nutrition and delay development. Here are guidelines on how to introduce solid foods to Your Child:
The baby can sit upright and swallow: Once the food is in the mouth, the little one does not spit out food. Instead, the tongue starts to move food from the front of the mouth to the back for swallowing. Your Child will need to learn to use gum to chew and then swallow.
Your Child develops pincer grasp: Evolutionarily speaking, eating is a natural process. If the baby is not physically ready to pick up food with thumb and forefingers (pincer grasp) and feed themselves, then solids should not be fed to them. Aside from showing interest in trying out new foods, the baby should be able to grab the food by themselves and put them in the mouth.
If your baby shows these signs of readiness, you can plan to add solid food to the daily routine, preferably natural foods such as vegetables and fruits.
It is important to let Your Child get used to the idea of eating first, so solid food should not be the primary source of nutrients. The baby will take some time to learn and get acquainted with many different textures and flavors.
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (31 March 2021)