There is a vast amount of information available on the subject of starting your baby on solid foods. We receive guidelines from the government, which are passed along to us through our healthcare providers. There are also plenty of books on the subject, written by many different people from many different parenting perspectives.
The thing to remember is that your baby hasn’t read these guidelines! Each baby will reach readiness at a different point in time. Some babies genuinely are ready for solids at a young age of 4-5 months, but they are certainly the exception rather than the rule.
There is a strong argument for delaying the start of weaning onto solid foods. By delaying, I mean putting off until your baby absolutely could not do without it — i.e. when weight gain starts to tail off over a number of weeks, and they are simply not satisfied with milk any more. Most babies will reach this point at around the middle of the first year, but others may be 7, 8 or even 12 months before this happens. I know a few babies who were still only having just a few tastes of solid food every now and then at 12 months old, and were thriving regardless. All babies are different.
So why is delaying the introduction to solid foods until at least 6 months of age worth doing?
Protecting Their Tiny Tummies
Introducing solids too early can cause digestive problems later in life. There has been a lot of research in recent years into the subject, which is one of the reasons why the advice given to parents here in the UK has changed from recommending weaning at 4 months to weaning at 6 instead. Before 6 months of age, their digestive systems are genuinely not capable of processing solid foods. If you wean your baby too soon, you may find that they suffer from constipation, trapped wind and start waking more in the night due to being uncomfortable.
Reducing the Risk of Allergies
Introducing solids too early can cause food intolerance in babies. Again, their little tummies just aren’t up to the job of processing all of the new substances being forced upon them. Breastfeeding helps prevent babies from food intolerance because they are exposed to tiny amounts of allergens through the mothers’ milk; this helps build up tolerance before the introduction of solid foods.
More Food Freedom!
After the age of 6 months, there is very little you are advised against giving your baby. Before the age of 6 months, you are advised against giving them gluten, wheat, oats, citrus fruits, eggs, nut butters, seed fruits, sesame products, cheese, cows milk in cooking amongst many other foods. As you can imagine, this doesn’t leave you with much choice. Being able to offer a wide variety of flavoursome foods early on is important in preventing your baby from becoming fussy later on. If you wait to start weaning until your baby is actually physically capable of feeding themselves, they will be getting a much richer learning experience from weaning and it will be a lot easier for you. Rather than having to park yourself next to your baby to spoon pureed goop into their not-so-eager mouths, you can provide a range of yummy finger foods and instead enjoy watching them tuck in!
They Just Don’t Need It!
Most babies simply don’t have a need for solids before 6 months of age, so if your baby is happy with just milk, why change things? It is far easier to continue with breast or formula feeding for as long as your baby is satisfied with it than it is to introduce solids when they’re not necessary. It’s cheaper, too!
How old was your baby when you introduced solids? Were you happy with your decision, or did you feel pressured by others to rush into giving food earlier than you would have liked?