From birth, baby feeding is one of the parents’ biggest concerns, from the first months with breastfeeding, whether maternal, artificial, or mixed; and from 6 months with complementary feeding, when the baby begins to eat solid foods.
But, at what age should foods besides milk be added to an infant’s diet? Some guides and professionals recommend starting earlier, between 4 and 6 months, but never before the fourth month. However, the general recommendation of WHO and Unicef is exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and up to 2 years as a supplement and start complementary feeding from 6 months, when they can begin eating almost everything, with some exceptions.
Why From 6 Months?
• Up to 6 months of age, exclusive breast milk is the best food for the baby. You don’t need anything else, not even water since breast milk provides all the minerals and nutrients the child needs. If this is not possible, breastfeeding is supplemented with artificial milk, but the recommendation is the same, that of not offering solid food before 6 months.
• It is best to wait until 4-6 months of age to introduce solids, to minimize the risk of your baby having an allergic reaction to a food, especially if there is a family history of food allergies.
• Your baby is not ready to digest food except breast milk or baby formula until 4 to 6 months.
• Your baby will not sleep better if you add solid foods to the diet before the age of 4 to 6 months.
• Your baby’s risk of choking is higher before 4 to 6 months of age due to a lack of developmental readiness.
How Do I Decide If My Baby Is Ready To Start Eating Solid Foods?
Use the following list to make your decision:
• Baby can keep head up when sitting.
• Baby sometimes opens his mouth when food is brought.
• The baby shows interest in food when he sees others eat.
• Baby can swallow baby food that is put on his tongue.
How To Introduce Solid Foods?
The incorporation of each new food must be done separately, leaving several days between the other. Small amounts will be offered, increasing as the child gets used to the taste.
The best first food is a single-grain gluten-free, iron-fortified baby cereal (usually rice). They are prepared dissolved in breast milk, follow-on milk, or water.
When Should I Add Other Foods?
• Once the baby has mastered cereal feeding, introduce prepared and sifted baby vegetables and fruits.
• Every 3 to 5 days, introduce a new food to allow the baby’s digestive system to adjust and watch for unusual reactions.
• Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons of sifted or pureed vegetables, such as squash, peas, carrots, or sweet potatoes. These foods do not contain wheat, milk, eggs, or citrus that some babies may be sensitive to. Gradually increase the amount of vegetables or fruits to about 4 to 8 tablespoons per day, depending on the baby’s appetite.
By seven months of age, your baby should be eating two cereal meals, fruits, and vegetables per day and continuing to breastfeed or formula.