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Risks of Starting solid foods too early

Alison Wood |24, May 2013


Infants grow at an amazing speed. The clothes you thought would fit your baby for months, only last several weeks. To keep up with the rapid speed of growth, your baby's body needs loads of nutrition. Many new moms are tempted to begin feeding their babies solid foods at a much earlier age than is recommended.

"Different family members were pressuring me to feed my son solids at three months of age because he was such a large baby and was quite fussy. Many of the experienced moms I knew said he probably just wanted some real food. I gave in to their advice and my son became constipated as well as had watery bowel movements." relays one mom.

"My cousin came over when my baby was only four weeks old. She recommended me mixing cereal with juice or formula and to give it to my baby in a feeding-type bottle. I was ignorant and followed her advice. I did not realize that starting solids too early could cause health problems." states a frustrated mom.

New moms are extremely susceptible to giving in to pressure to feed their babies more than just breast milk or formula. Often times there is little, readily available information on this topic to properly educate a new mom. Many times she listens to the not-so-good advice of her peers and family as she tries to figure out how to console her crying infant. Most of the time people associate an infant's cry with hunger and that is simply not the case every time.

When is the best time to introduce solids in an infant's diet?

The ideal time for mommy and baby is around four to six months of age. Some pediatricians recommend six months for exclusively breast-fed babies. At around four to six months of age a baby loses his tongue reflux that naturally pushes food out of the mouth. This reflux helps the baby nurse and drink from a bottle, but inhibits other foods from easily entering the mouth. Follow your baby's cues, and if the tongue reflux is still present, wait a few weeks or a month and try again.

There are many risks associated with starting a baby on solids too early. Here are just a few:

Poor diet.
Adding solids to a baby's diet before four months of age can cause him to consume too many calories as well as consume too little vitamins. The breast-milk or formula your baby is drinking provides large quantities of vitamins and minerals, and sometimes babies naturally drink less milk when solids are added to the diet.

Risk of aspiration.
Most babies do not have the skills needed to safely swallow foods before four months of age. This can prove to be very dangerous when someone offers the baby solid foods.

Increased risk of obesity.
It is possible for a baby to overeat. If your little one is consuming the average amount of breast milk or formulas as well as adding solids before four months of age, he has a greater risk of becoming overweight in infancy. This overeating in infancy has been linked to overweight children and teens. Healthy eating habits are formed earlier than many people think!

Your baby's digestive system is extremely sensitive and is not quite ready to process solids before four months of age. This can slow things down in the digestion system and cause tummy aches, fussiness and more serious problems.

Watery bowel movements.
Since the digestive system is so sensitive, sometimes too much food and can have a laxative effect on your little one. Different solids that are considered baby-friendly have varying effects on the digestive system. When you do choose to start solids, ask your pediatrician for a food plan that can let you know exactly what kind of foods to offer in the beginning.

Though you do not want to start feeding solids to your little one before four months of age, you also do not want to wait until after six months of age. Why? Because there are other problems associated with late introduction of solids. Some of these issues are as follows:

  • Slowed growth
  • Iron deficiency in breast-fed infants
  • Oral motor function delays
  • Aversions to solid foods

If you are in the four to six month aged zone and are wondering if it is the right time to introduce solids, keep an eye out for these helpful clues:

- Baby holds his or head up in a steady, upright position.
- Baby can sit unsupported.
- Your doctor has given you the green light.

Some pediatricians also recommend introducing a different solid exclusively for an entire week. This makes it easier to know which foods cause allergies in your child. Some doctors also recommend that you start with cereals first, then progress to yellow veggies, followed by green veggies and then fruits. As mothering advice changes from year to year, ask your baby's pediatrician before following a suggested food plan.

Rest assured that your little one is receiving amazing amounts of nutrition from his breast milk or formula. This should continue to be his main source of nutrition until he is around one year old.

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

Related Articles

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Finger Foods for Your Baby

Give Your Baby a Taste for Healthy Foods

Baby's First Thanksgiving - Delicious Baby Food Recipes

Dietary Essentials for Your Baby


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