Circle of Moms member Michelle O. is concerned that her son drinks more than six ounces of formula in one sitting at three months—and that he's not sleeping through the night. She wonders if she should start giving him cereal, even if only at night, both to keep him from getting hungry and to help him sleep longer.
Sara B. says resist, insisting that at this young age, if a baby needs more calories, they should come from formula or breast milk, since cereal has little nutritional value. She believes that the sleep issue is completely separate from feeding, that an infant will not sleep for a five-hour stretch until his central nervous system has developed enough to allow this.
Jamie N. isn't buying it. "Everything is different with every baby," she says, explaining that the only way she could keep her three-month-old happy was to give her cereal with formula mixed in.
This is a taste of one of the most hotly-debated questions among moms of infants under six months: When can I start feeding my baby solid foods?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you start offering your infant solids at between four and six months of age. And Doctors William and Martha Sears, who argue strongly for waiting, give three primary reasons:
- Allergies: Babies' intestines need to mature. Before the age of four to seven months, babies' intestines are immature and can let in allergens.
- Choking: Young babies have a tongue-thrust reflex. This helps prevent choking, and it also pushes out solid foods.
- Motor coordination: Babies need to be able to sit up in order to eat solid foods safely, and most cannot do this before four months.
But as a host of moms in the February 2011 Babies demonstrate, many parents question this wisdom, and start their babies on solids much earlier. Many in the February group began giving their babies soft solids as early as three months, citing their infants' obvious hunger. Louise P. And Tamra G. say their babies showed all the signs of readiness. Tamra's son was even stealing food from her plate!
Most early starters do concede that before four to six months solids should be limited to rice cereal along with the breast or bottle, and that parents should hold off on fruit and vegetables until later.
And as you read through the range of experiences, it's clear that there are both benefits and risks to breaking the four to six month rule. Solids keep babies satiated longer, and as a result, may help some sleep for longer stretches. But holding out just another month or two prevents allergies and gives babies time to develop the sitting and swallowing skills that prevent choking. Anee Sheasby and Jill Scott, in their book Healthy Eating for Babies and Toddlers, sum it up best: "By this age [four to six months], the digestive system is mature enough to cope with the weaning diet, babies are ready developmentally, and they begin to need the extra energy and nutrients to meet growing demands."
Would you give your baby solids before four to six months?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.