With our 3 boys, it went like this: 6 months, 5 months and 4 months. Why did feeding get earlier?? We felt our boys were giving us the cues to start at different times and we listened. We also knew why to wait until 4 months!
A recent study (Infant Feeding Practices Study II), found that parents feed their babies earlier than the 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) feeding recommendation to wait until 6 months old. Almost half (40%) of the parents fed their babies earlier than 4 months of age!
Some of the parents (55%) said they started food earlier than 4 months old because of the doctor’s advice. Others gave these reasons:
- “My baby was old enough”
- “My baby seemed hungry a lot of the time”
- “My baby wanted the food I ate”
- “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula”
- “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.” “
(K. Struck, ed. MedPage Today)
The 2012 AAP feeding guidelines recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life, with continuing breastfeeding up to 12 months of age – ALONG with (solid) complementary foods. This study questioned if simply not mentioning formula in these recommendations ended up confusing the public. We know, we do hear opinions from family members, co-workers, daycare teachers and our physicians, on how to feed our babies along with rearing them! Who should we believe?
As pediatric dietitians here at Dayton Children’s, we reinforce:
- Look for feeding cues
- Hold off on solids until 4-6 months due to their immature stomachs
- Initial solid intakes are not nutritive but developmental. Babies need to learn how to accept the spoon and what to do with even very soft foods (swallow or spit out?!).
- Continue breast milk or formula as the main source of nutrition in the beginning of introduction of solids (until 10-12 months of age).
Refer to one of my favorite handouts from Gerber on infant feeding. Remember to note your infant’s feeding and physical skills along with their cues in all feeding times. Introducing solids is more than just giving them food for the first time.