When to start feeding babies solid food

Many parents have questions about when to first feed their baby solids.

Many parents have questions about when to first feed their baby solids.

Some questions include, “Can I feed my child solids at four months or would it be OK to start them even earlier? Why should I wait to feed them solids until six months?” With all these questions, a lot of anxiety and insecurities can be created.

Health Canada suggests it is best to start solids at six months of age; doing so sooner may affect a baby’s intestinal development.

Your baby’s intestines need to be mature enough to handle new food.

The intestines are the body’s filtering system, screening out potentially harmful substances and letting in healthy nutrients. In early months, this filtering system is immature.

Between five to seven months of age, a baby’s intestinal lining goes through a developmental growth spurt and becomes more selective of what it allows through to prevent potentially allergenic foods from entering the bloodstream.

A baby’s swallowing mechanism is also immature before the age of six months. The tongue and swallowing mechanisms may not be ready to work together for solids.

Many parents believe their child is ready to eat solids because he is showing signs of “wanting to eat.”

He may be watching you and open his mouth when he sees you lift up the spoon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is ready for food. It may simply mean he is interested and learning as he gets closer to the age when his body is ready for solids.

When starting solids around the six-month mark, it is important to remember to include iron-fortified foods.

Your baby needs iron for healthy blood and for developing brain cells. Without enough iron, babies become tired, irritable and are more prone to infection. Your baby is born with a natural supply of iron that begins to deplete at around six months of age, making that the perfect time to begin solids. Iron-enriched cereals are an ideal first food. As your baby grows, make sure that you include iron-rich foods every day.

The feeding relationship with your child should be one that is enjoyed both by your child and you. It can be a time of bonding and a time to teach your child the important values of family time and nutrition.

When you are beginning to feed your baby solids, it is important to keep in mind that your child is not used to foods and may not enjoy some of the foods he tries.

Keep trying; a baby may have to try a food several different times before he or she decides it’s good to eat.

Be consistent and enjoy this fun exciting new time of exposing your baby to a world of different food choices.

You can find a lots more information on healthy eating on the Alberta Health and Wellness website, www.healthyalberta.com. There is a booklet available called Feeding Baby Solid Foods from 6-12 months.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Erin Visser, a Healthy Families Home Visitor with Family Services of Central Alberta. Visser can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.