Just like everything else, the research on when to start solids has changed over the years. In the past, doctors recommended starting solids at 4 months of age, however, now both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend waiting until 6 months of age before starting solids.
But why wait until 6 months?
1. Physical readiness
By six months of age, most babies can sit upright - remember grown ups always telling you as a kid to sit up and eat? Sitting upright while eating is important to prevent choking and aide digestion. By this age, babies also have good head and neck control. They have lost their tongue thrust where they push food out of their mouths with their tongues. Different babies develop differently, but most babies show physical signs of readiness to start solids at around 6 months of age.
2. Nutrional significance
Until 6 months breastmilk has all the nutrients that the baby needs (or formula for those mothers who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed). Once your baby turns 6 months, they depend on solid foods to get nutrients like iron and zinc - although, breastmilk and formula continue to be the primary source of nutrition until your child’s first birthday.
Your baby’s digestive track is not fully developed before six months. Starting solids before they are ready can lead to constipation and other digestive issues.
Research shows that babies who are exclusively breast fed for 6 months have a higher immunity than those who are weaned earlier.
Before you start weaning your child, be sure to consult with your pediatrician. Usually, during the 6 month check up, the doctor will evaluate your child and check for readiness - the physical signs including sitting upright, head and neck control etc. He will also guide your decision making process regarding BLW (baby led weaning) or offering purees. Based on your baby’s growth and development, he will support you in creating a plan for feeding, schedule and amount of breastmilk or formula to be given.