Introducing Solids: Waiting until 6 Months
My little lady is 5 months old this week and I’ve been thinking of her readiness to begin eating solid foods. At this point I am still exclusively breastfeeding, as per the AAP recommendation and despite some advice (some from friends and some from medical personnel) that solids should be introduced at 4 months or even earlier. When I look at the research, the benefits of waiting to introduce solids until around 6 months is compelling. I like the idea of my Birdie having a decreased risk of obesity later in life (and her avoiding all the co-morbidities that walk hand-in-hand with obesity). I also feel since we know the gut matures and produces additional enzymes to aid digestion and nutrient absorption when baby is somewhere between 4 to 6 months (though we can’t tell where between 4 to 6 months from baby to baby), I’d rather error on the side of caution and wait until I know for sure my Birdie’s intestines are nice and mature.
There are many other suggested and probable benefits to waiting until closer to 6 months (possible decrease in allergies, less anemia, continued maximum protection from illness conferred by large amounts of my milk) but the other benefit that I feel strongly about is that at 6 months, my baby has much more control of her arms, hands, and mouth. As a therapist, I find this reason to be one of the most compelling, since I know from my schooling as well as from 8 years of direct work with infants and toddlers that they are inherent learners and explorers. They are highly motivated to learn a new skill and to master that skill. Conversely they get indignant when you try to “force” them to do it your way (anyone tried to make a baby eat or sleep when they don’t want to knows that you’d have more luck trying to persuade a dictator to relinquish their power).
Somewhere around 4 and a half months, Birdie started to show that increased coordination in her hands and mouth and has therefore started putting everything she comes across in her fists, then into her mouth. As her coordination improves it will become easier and easier for her to feed herself small bits of actual food when she gets closer to 6 months. That way, when we give her the opportunity, she will be able to do it herself (obviously with close supervision) and will develop a drive to try new foods, as well as to learn to manipulate small objects in her fingers, just as she has a drive to learn to crawl and sit up. I won’t have to battle with her to try to get spoonfuls of pureed up food in her mouth, nor will I have to take the time to puree up all our food. I should be able to offer her small amounts of the foods we eat, directly from my our meal, that are suitable for her. Additionally, since her lips/tongue/swallow will be more mature, there is less risk of her choking on these small bits of soft foods than she has if I let her do this now by putting these bits of food in her mouth for her. So my goal over then next month, is to take advantage of her budding interest in what my husband and I are eating to teach her about variety of foods and to set a good example of healthy eating (since I also know from experience and schooling) that babies and toddlers want to do and be just like mommy and daddy. So bring on the fruits, vegetables, and healthy food choices in my day to day life!