I have briefly touched on the this topic in Graduating to Solids . To recap, delaying the introduction of solids to babies until at least 6 months old is in line with WHOand the AAP, as well as our own Health Promotion Board‘s recommendation of breastfeeding exclusively for at least 6 months, i.e. no other food except breastmilk.
In the past, doctors and nurses will advise parents to start introducing solids at 4 months. Thankfully, as more doctors and nurses are updated on the latest recommendations, we get less of such advice these days. However, some doctors are still putting pressure on parents to introduce solids early due to weight gain concern. Now that WHO has come up with a better growth chart , it should address this issue.
If you are not breastfeeding, it does not mean that the 6 months rule does not apply to you. Delaying solids until at least 6 months protects the baby against diseases and allergies. You can read more about it here. Hence, for health reasons, even though your baby is formula fed, it is still advisable to delay solids until 6 months. Even if your baby seems to be exhibiting all the signs of readiness, it pays to delay solids until 6 months old because of all the health concerns.
I mentioned in Graduating to Solids about the readiness of the baby and how delaying solids actually make introduction of solids easier on you and your baby. Our third baby did not start solids until 8 months old! It was not because we didn’t want to start him on it but by 5 months plus, the boy was not even showing any interest in food! At 6 months, we tried to introduce solids but he only frowned like we gave him lemon to eat and spat the food out. After a few tries, we concluded that he was not ready to eat yet and waited another month. At 7 months, we tried introducing solids to him again. Although this time he didn’t spit out the food, he wasn’t very keen on eating either. Once again, after a few frustrating tries, we decided to wait again. The boy only really started eating at 8 months. Even then, he was unlike his brothers and ate very small portions. Honestly, it did take me a while to get used to the idea that he was just a small eater. You have to remember I had two good eaters before him so he was a bit of a ‘culture shock’ for me.
Also, examine the reasons behind your eagerness (or your baby’s caregiver, grandparents’ eagerness) to introduce solids early. Is it because of pride? Is it because the grandparents are eager to boast to their friends how ”advance’ their grandchild is? Is it due to ignorance?
I have met old folks who are very eager to start solids, from as young as 4 months old. If your child’s primary caregiver is the grandmother, you will probably need to educated grandma on why it is not a good idea to do so. Frankly, in my opinion, a lot of old folks are eager to introduce solids early because of a show-off mentality. In our Asian culture, grandparents seem to take pride in their grandchildren’s development. To them, taking solids early is a sign of advance development. I have met old folks in my neighbourhood who boast to each other how early their grandchildren started eating porridge or rice. Each of them trying to outdo the other.
With so much pressure coming from all everywhere – doctors, grandparents, media – it is not uncommon for new parents to feel extremely pressurised to introduced solids early. Some succumbed, only to regret later on. The questions I pose to new mothers facing such pressures are :
Do you want to do this just because of what other people say, or because you are truly convinced this is the best option for you and your family? Do you want to act on other people’s misinformation rather than your own conviction? Remember that the people who are urging you to introduce solids early will most likely not be there for you when you face frustrations from trying to coax your unwilling baby, or deal with problems like allergies.
So hang in there and wait. When it comes to introducing solids, it is better to be late than early.