March 2012

There was the tendency through the 1970’s to start infants on solid foods at a very early age. Frequently, this was done because “everybody was doing it” rather than for any demonstrated benefit to the baby.

Milk is the only natural food for an infant during the first five to six months of life. It is a complete food containing all the nutrients that an infant needs during the all-important first four to six months of life. The infant digestive system is not designed to handle complex foods other than milk. Although most infants will not be obviously harmed by early introduction of solid foods, there is an increasing body of evidence that indicates subtle but definite disturbances of the intestinal tract can occur when solid foods are started too early.

There is strong indication that early introduction of solid foods will lead to an increased incidence of allergies later in life. Obesity frequently begins in infancy and has been related to the early introduction of solid foods.

For these reasons we recommend that infants start solid foods no earlier than four months of age (six months for some infants). This is also the recommendation of the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Decisions as to what solid foods are introduced first are quite arbitrary. Any foods that the baby accepts readily are appropriate, though we would recommend delaying introduction of sweet, dessert type foods until after the first year. Generally, the more bland foods should be begun earliest and the more tasty, sweetened foods last.

There are no advantages to baby foods over prepared table foods other than their convenience. Any table foods that can be pureed are satisfactory for your baby. Whichever form of infant feeding you wish to use (prepared baby foods or prepared table foods), introduce no more than one new food every three to five days. This will allow you to identify any food that might be causing your baby a problem.

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