Chelsea Wicks, MD, pediatrician, Renown Medical Group
Current recommendations state that solid foods, such as rice cereal, should not be introduced to infants until close to 6 months old. A recent study showed that nearly 40 percent of infants are being introduced to solid foods before they turn 4 months old.
Parents reported they chose to start so early for various reasons including concerns the baby was more hungry, they thought it would help their child sleep better, their healthcare provider recommended it and the baby just seemed ready to eat.
There are a few concerns about starting foods too early for infants. Probably the most recent concern is the thought that by starting the babies so early on solid foods we could be contributing to the rise in childhood obesity. There have also been links to increased risks for celiac disease, diabetes, eczema and other food allergies.
For these reasons, I recommend waiting until the baby shows cues of being ready for solids such as being able to sit up well while supported and no longer showing the tongue thrust reflex. Your child should be able to take the spoon in their mouth without immediately pushing it out with their tongue. This typically occurs developmentally somewhere between 4-6 months.
I recommend my patients start with rice cereal as this has found to be easily digested by the younger infants and is a great teaching food as it can be prepared into different textures. Infants tend to go through a growth spurt around 3 months old so they do start acting more hungry. This is one reason many parents are tempted to start solids at this time, but try increasing the amount of breastfeeding or offering more formula to keep your child satiated.
Each infant is unique and not all are going to be ready to start eating at exactly the same time. Speak with your child’s health care provider if you have questions or concerns about starting solid foods.
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