The Perfect Time for Introducing Your Baby to Solid Foods
For a healthy infant, the moment of introduction of solid foods depends on his neurologic and gastrointestinal maturation. Usually, the child is ready for non-liquid foods when he is able to sit and to coordinate chewing and swallowing of this kind of food. By the age of 4 to 6 months, the baby can digest and absorb proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The infant indicates the readiness for eating by opening the mouth and leaning forward in the sitting position. The decision to introduce solid foods should be individualized and based on the infant’s developmental ability, following these criteria. Most of the time, all of these conditions are met by the most of the babies by the age of 6 months old.
Many researchers have tried to determine what impact has the moment when the baby is introduced to solid foods to his future health state. There were brought to attention and analyzed several effects of the food diversification at a certain age. Most of the studies reached the conclusion that the age of 6 months is the best option and waiting until your baby gets older might lead to unpredictable reactions like rejecting the texture of the food and potential allergies. Actually, the relationship between the age at the introduction of solid foods during the first year of life and allergic sensitization at older ages is a subject of interest for many studies.
One of these was conducted by Dr. Bright I. Nwaru, from Tampere School of Public Health, University of Tampere, Finland. He included in this research 1067 children born in Finnish hospitals and focused on how the age at the introduction of solid foods during the first year influences allergic sensitization at age of 5. He concluded that late introduction of solid foods was associated with an increased risk of allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens. Eggs, oats, and wheat were most strongly related to food sensitization, whereas potatoes and fish were most strongly related to inhalant sensitization.
When it comes to other sensitivities, bioexpert Anne Zutavern (Germany) analyzed at the age of 2 a number of 2612 infants from the perspective of delayed introduction to solid foods and atopic dermatitis (AD) and atopic sensitization. She could not findevidence supporting a delayed introduction of solids beyond the sixth month of life for the prevention of AD and atopic sensitization. She and her team could not rule out that delaying the introduction of solids for the first 4 months of life might offer some protection.
On the other hand, it was set that for the formula-fed infants or infants weaned before the age of 4 months, the introduction of solid foods before the age of 4 months was associated with increased odds of obesity at age 3 years (Susanna Y. Huh, MD, MPH – Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts).
Based on this kind of studies, World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that feeding you baby with solid foods should start after the age of 6 months. WHO advises that infants should start receiving complementary foods in addition to breast milk, initially 2-3 times a day between 6-8 months, increasing to 3-4 times daily between 9-11 months and 12-24 months with additional nutritious snacks offered 1-2 times per day, as desired. UNICEF, the Canadian Pediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) are other international institutions which are also recommending the age of 6 months.
In conclusion, the age of 6 months seems to be, indeed, the perfect age to introduce solid foods into the baby’s diet. Starting too early or too late might cause some inconveniences regarding child’s health.