You’re Doing It All Wrong, Parents — Introducing Solid Foods Edition

No Solid Foods For Baby

Uncanny timing — within just a few days of posting an update about our daughter learning to eat real grown-up food with real grown-up silverware, I heard a blurb on the radio about some new study admonishing parents for introducing solid foods to their babies too early. It especially caught my attention because this latest big worrisome health risk was introducing solids before six months — and we introduced them with Lillian at four.

All I can say is that this is what our pediatrician recommended, and there’s no shortage of reputable websites saying “between 4 and 6 months, here are signs that your baby may be ready” (see here, here, and here for just a few examples).¬†Reading up on it more, it seems like the news story was making the biggest deal about the percentage of babies starting on solid foods before¬†four months — but even so, hearing about the six-month rule came as news to me.

More details about this latest big “you’re doing it wrong, parents” newsflash can be found in this New York Times article, but one of the parts I found most interesting was this little snippet about why the recommendation was raised in the first place:

For at least 20 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics had advised against feeding babies solid food before they turned at least 4 months old. Last year, encouraged by growing evidence of the health benefits of breast milk, the group raised that age, saying babies should be fed nothing but breast milk for six months.

So I guess it’s reassuring that the new recommendation apparently has more to do with promoting breastfeeding (because Breast Is Beast, didn’t you know?) rather than new evidence showing some major harm to introducing solid foods before six months, or something of that nature.

But most reassuring of all? I daresay our daughter isn’t the slightest bit worse off for having her parents unwittingly defy the AAP’s six month recommendation — and I suspect the same applies to the millions of children born and fed by well-meaning parents in the 20+ years before this edict was handed down.

How do you feel about these kinds of changing health recommendations, and the way they’re presented in the media? To any parents reading, when did you start your babies on solid foods? Have the recommendations changed since then? I’d be curious to hear any thoughts on this matter in the comments.

8 Comments

  1. Here’s what I have to say about that! You and Joe are Lillian’s parents, and you more than anyone know what she is ready for. Obviously, you’re doing a great job because I see a very happy and healthy baby girl there. I think that I started with solids at six months when Hayley was a baby because she was my first, so I was following all the “experts.” By the time Alex and Amy came along, I decided that the “experts” really weren’t all they were cracked up to be, so I did my own thing. I think they turned out okay. Sometimes, in my opinion, it’s better to follow your own instincts because no one knows your child better than you do. Keep up the good work!! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this matter! I think it’s true that following these kinds of parenting recommendations to the letter holds a lot more weight the first time around, and that the experience of watching that first baby grow into a happy healthy child can really help build more confidence and perspective when it comes to what the experts say. I feel like that’s been slowly happening with us, and have a feeling we’ll be even more mellow if and when baby number two comes along down the road! :)

  2. ” . . . the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other”.
    Edward R. Murrow – Speech to Radio and Television News Directors convention at Chicago (15 October 1958)

    And that applies to “experts” in parenting as well! I have noticed that true experts tend to speak softly and provide specific evidence, to persuade people to change gradually, whatever the field. Keep on listening to Lillian the way you have been doing. She’s a wonderful little girl!

    • Hehe, love the quote! It’s so true about all the “experts” out there, and it seems like these days there are way too many people who use their position of authority to unnecessarily stress out and scare first-time parents.

      I used to just take it for granted that the American Academy of Pediatrics was reputable and trustworthy and scientific (unlike many other supposed experts), but if they’re effectively telling parents “solid foods before six months can be dangerous,” when what they really mean is “BREASTFEED BREASTFEED BREASTFEED,” I have a hard time seeing that as anything but dishonest and manipulative. It’s the sort of thing that will make it difficult for me to take their recommendations without a grain of salt going forward, unfortunately.

  3. When it comes to the human body, one size does not fit all! Every baby is different. Lillian had no trouble swallowing or digesting the solid food, and liked it, so it was right for her! And time and research changes what “specialists” advocate, anyway, like: coffee’s bad for you, coffee’s good for you; eggs are bad for you, eggs are good for you; and on and on. All things in moderation, I say (or was it Shakespeare who said that?).

    You and Joe are the experts when it comes to your baby! Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the comment and encouragement! I think you bring up a really good point about being able to swallow and digest the solids, and that seemed to be the overall attitude before this latest recommendation come along — that babies may become ready to do those things at slightly different points and parents should look for the signs that their baby might be ready. It seems unfortunate that the experts seem so eager to paint all individuals with the same one-size-fits-all brush, but I guess that’s just a recurring theme when it comes to parenting advice these days…

  4. My children were started on solids at 3 mos. they had carrot juice added to their milk at 8 weeks, small amounts, but still. They turned out fine. In fact my first grand daughter is waiting to be six month before she will get anything but breast milk.Even though the doc said it was ok to start her on it.
    I agree with Martha Lyle’s astute observation: first its bad for you then its good for you then its bad again. I think these experts change their expert advice often enough for me to NOT take them serious!
    In other countries babies get pre-chewed ( by their mom) foods as soon as mom thinks baby is ready.

    • Thanks for weighing in! In the light of this kind of media scaremongering it’s great to hear from another parent who introduced solid foods earlier with no negative effects. And it’s interesting that you bring up the customs in other countries — I was reading a discussion the other day that mentioned how other cultures view it as strange that we wait so long to begin introducing foods, and about some preliminary research that might suggest the delayed introduction of certain foods could be associated with a higher risk of developing food allergies. So who knows, in another few years they might just change the recommendation again anyway!

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