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When to Feed Your Baby Solid Foods?

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When my baby was two months old, elder mothers around me used to advise me that it was time to feed him biscuits or to let him drink water, so that he would sleep well at night, which was what they believed and did with their children back in the day. However, as all moms do nowadays, I researched the topic extensively. Eventually, even though I suffered from my baby’s disturbed sleep, I preferred not to give him any solid foods at such a young age.

The truth of the matter is: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF all recommend that infants breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their life. After performing many tests on different groups of babies around the world, researches proved that newborns need only breastmilk or formula during this period; with more preference to breastmilk, of course.

This is because the baby’s intake of breastmilk decreases with the introduction of solid foods, which means the baby will benefit less from the rich nutrients in breastmilk. As a matter of fact, breastmilk contains more than 50 immune factors that decrease the risk of some diseases, such as respiratory tract infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. It also facilitates the development of good bacteria that protect the baby’s gut, protecting him/her from gastrointestinal infection.

The baby’s digestive system needs 4–6 months to be ready to deal with solid foods; fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates are thus poorly digested in infancy. However, breastmilk contains enzymes that aid efficient digestion. Moreover, introducing solids before six months increases the baby’s risk of developing food allergies, especially if there is history of food allergy in one or both of the parents. Additionally, according to AAP, the early introduction of solids is associated with increased body fat and weight in adolescents and adults.

More good news for breastfeeding mothers lies in the fact that, not only do babies benefit from breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for six months also helps the mom with more rapid postpartum weight loss. That said, moms need to remember that all they eat reaches their babies through breastmilk, so moms need to make sure they follow a balanced diet.

Due to the physical and developmental differences between children, some babies show signs of readiness for solid food as early as four months, but not before. These signs include good head and neck control, so that the baby can sit upright when supported. When the baby does not automatically push solids out of his/her mouth with his/her tongue, and shows interest in what the mom is eating, moms can let their babies taste certain foods.

For about six months, the baby uses the iron stored in his/her body; this stock starts to decrease as the baby grows up and cannot get the needed iron from breastmilk or formula. As such, introducing food should not be delayed beyond six months as this may result in the baby not getting enough nutrients. On the other hand, in some conditions, babies who totally depend on formula, due to some health issues, such as premature delivery, can receive solids as early as four months old, as the formula does not provide all the needed nutrients in breastmilk.

Finally, always remember that, whenever possible, breastmilk should always be the baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year, even after introducing solid food.

References
aap.org
babycenter.com
health.gov.au

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