Answer From Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.
By ages 4 months to 6 months, most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding. It’s around this time that babies typically stop using their tongues to push food out of their mouths and begin to develop the coordination to move solid food from the front of the mouth to the back for swallowing. Before this age, babies also have low levels of the enzymes that help with the digestion of starch.
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.
Starting solids too early might:
- Pose a risk of sucking food into the airway (aspiration)
- Cause a baby to get too much or not enough calories or nutrients
- Increase a baby’s risk of obesity
- Cause upset stomach
Starting solids too late might:
- Slow a baby’s growth
- Cause iron deficiency in breast-fed babies
- Delay oral motor function
- Cause an aversion to solid foods
In addition to age, 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.