Timing for Starting Solids

Baby eating carrot puree with huge smile. Timing starting solids is key.

One of the questions I’m asked repeatedly¬†is, “What is the best timing for starting solids.” My take on the best timing to start solid foods is different than what I’ve seen elsewhere. It depends on what kids are taking before that first bite of solids.

Breast-fed babies are already getting perfect, complex real food. Not only does breast milk provide ideal nutrient building blocks, provide ideal immune building blocks, provide an ideal closeness with Mom, and provide the greenest feeding choice imaginable, but it also provides a myriad of subtly different flavor combinations — helping to teach the baby to enjoy variety and to enjoy the foods that Mom eats. I suggest exclusive breastfeeding until babies vigorously demand solids, usually about 6 months (watching the baby for cues, not the calendar). Continuing breastfeeding in addition to solids remains valuable long after the first birthday.

Formula-fed babies, though, are getting a simple, processed food that addresses only the main nutrient needs we understand so far. I’m grateful we have them for when needed, but the babies are exposed to only one flavor profile, again and again for months on end. I suggest starting real food much earlier for these babies, when they demonstrate strong interest in what Mom is eating — usually around 4 months. This gives them complex nutrients for building blocks now and extends the window of flavor-preference learning before Neophobia (a phase of suspicion of new foods) sets in with toddlerhood.

Delaying or avoiding any real food beyond 4 to 6 months has never been shown to decrease allergies. Rather, I suggest avoiding the most allergenic foods when a child is taking antibiotics or when the gut is otherwise inflamed, as from illness.

For an in-depth look at infant nutrition, check out my book Feeding Baby Green.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

Get Dr. Greene's Wellness Recommendations

Sign up now for a delightful weekly email with insights for the whole family. Plus Dr. Greene's FREE Top 5 Wellness Tips For 2017.

  1. dr Rashid Yaqoob

    Very informative article,Iam practicing paeds ,I found many things new.thanks

    Added:
    Reply
  2. Vanessa

    My baby can sit up with support and is 4 months old. I have let her taste my organic bannanas and apples and she loves them. She opens her mouth when a spoon comes her way and I did give her white rice because my mom said that’s ‘what you give them first’. She is breastfeeding and I will keep that up for a while. My gut tells me that the fruits are fine, she likes them and a little bit is fine. But, is she too young to digest fructose? Is it harmful before 6months to allow them to have a tiny bit of what you eat?

    Added:
    Reply

Got an idea, tip or a comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *