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If you are breastfeeding your baby, you’ve probably been wondering when to start weaning. Even if your baby is on formula, you wonder when he can shift to solid food. Some babies don’t put on enough weight on mother’s milk, while others are fussy or hungry even after a full feeding session. Sometimes, even babies start showing signs that they are ready for weaning, generally around 4-6 months. So when is it the right time to introduce solid food? Before 6 months, between 4-6 months, or after 6 months?
Here’s the complete lowdown on this and you can see and decide for yourself
The World Health Organization, UNICEF and many other health organizations say that whatever may be the reason, it isn’t a good idea to introduce solid foods before 6 months.
So even if your baby seems interested in solid food before 6 months, they’re often just interested in mimicking you! Your baby’s being fussy all the time may have nothing to do with feeding. It could be a variety of other behavioural or medical issues for which you should consult your paediatrician.
In addition to age, you need to look for other signs that your baby is ready for solid foods. Can your baby hold his or her head in a steady, upright position? Can your baby sit with support? If you answer yes to these questions and your baby’s doctor agrees, you can begin supplementing your baby’s liquid diet.
Reasons Why Moms Should Delay Solid Food Until After 6 Months
1. Baby Will be Physiologically Ready to Eat Solid Foods
The cell lining in your baby’s gut may not have closed properly till now. Even full term infants are not developmentally ready for the transition from suckling to sucking or for swallowing semi-solids and solid foods until between six and eight months of age.
2. Solid Foods Aren’t as Nutritious as Breast Milk or Formula
These can be less nutritious and more calorie-dense which can cause obesity.
3. Solid Foods Need Swallowing
This capacity may not be adequately developed before the age of 6 months.
4. Solid Food May Increase the Risk of Health Problems
If given too early, it may cause allergies and eczema and also diseases like diabetes, gastroenteritis, ear infections, and celiac disease.
5. Baby Will Have Better Immunity
Breastmilk contains 50+ known immune factors, and also facilitates the development of “good bacteria” that protect baby’s gut. Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months as compared to 4-6 months, decreases the risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.
6. Baby’s Digestive System will Have Time to Mature
Digestion of fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates is incomplete in infancy, but human milk contains enzymes that aid efficient digestion. These enzymes won’t be produced until 6-9 months.
7. Starting Solids will be Easier and Babies can Feed Themselves
Waiting until your baby can pick up and put food into their own mouth while sitting up straight is a clear sign of readiness, especially if they can gum and swallow the foods.
8. Baby Will Have More Protection from Iron-Deficiency Anaemia
Cases of anaemia are less common in babies who are breastfed exclusively for seven months.
9. Mom Will Easily Maintain Her Milk Supply
Babies who eat lots of solids or who start solids early tend to wean prematurely. For babies under six months, solids tend to replace breastmilk in a baby’s diet. The more solids that baby eats, the less milk he takes from mom, and less milk taken from mom means less milk production.
10. Mom is Less Likely to Become Pregnant
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed for 6 months vs. 4 months have a longer duration of lactational amenorrhea- the natural postpartum infertility that occurs when a woman is not menstruating due to breastfeeding.
11. Mom Can More Quickly Lose Extra “Baby Weight”
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies for 6 months (compared to 4months) have more rapid postpartum weight loss.
12. Baby is Much Less Likely to Choke
When baby is older, and can also sit upright, the tongue thrust reflex helps prevent choking. Putting food in the front of the mouth and allowing baby to move it back, which they can’t do until often after 6 months, helps prevent choking.
Keep in mind that waiting until age 6 months before introducing solid foods to babies who are exclusively breast-fed can help ensure that they get the full health benefits of breast-feeding. However, don’t delay the introduction of solid foods when your baby hits the 6-month mark. Waiting too long might slow his growth, delay oral motor function or even cause an aversion to solid foods. When it comes to your baby, timing is everything!