At four months old, your baby is starting to become more active and even show some signs of wanting to wean, expressing interest in adult food or being able to sit up with support. However, waiting a little longer might be a good thing before rushing to feed your baby with solids.
Currently, it is recommended that babies be fed either breast milk or formula milk exclusively for at least the first six months of life, and solid food is added as a complement to milk up to at least one-year-old. This opinion is supported by many established organisations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
After a baby reaches six months of age, the amount of iron in breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula is insufficient for his daily requirements. As such, solid food can be introduced to complement the main diet of breast milk or formula milk.
Reasons Why Solid Food should be Introduced at Six Months Old
1. Baby’s digestive system will be more mature
Babies below six months old have immature digestive systems and do not have the proper gut bacteria to process solid food smoothly. Feeding anything but breastmilk or infant formula milk before six months old permanently alters this gut microbiota, causing potential problems like allergies or diarrhoea.
Enzymes to aid in digestion are not produced until three to four months old. Enzymes that break down complicated fats, carbohydrates and starches are not be produced until six to nine months old, resulting in fussiness from the baby when their tummy feels uncomfortable as a result of indigestion.
It is also the reason why breastfeeding until six months is recommended, as it allows beneficial antibodies to coat the baby’s digestive tract and provide immunity to diseases.
2. Baby is likelier to be physically ready
When babies less than six months old are fed solid food, it can be dangerous as their oral muscles are not fully developed. They still possess the extrusion (tongue-thrust) reflex which helps to protect them from food and choking. This means that they tend to push out food the moment it is placed into their mouths.
At six months old, they should be able to sit upright without support, and will likely have lost the extrusion reflex.
3. Lesser risk of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life has been shown to protect against childhood obesity and diabetes, among other diseases. A baby’s risk of becoming overweight decreases with each passing month that he is exclusively breastfed.
4. Deprives them of their primary nutrition source
Feeding solids to very young babies fill up their stomach quickly, leaving lesser space for breastmilk or infant formula which has been fortified with the types of nutrients that young babies require. Feeding solid food at too young an age means they will not be able to take in enough nutrients that are only present in milk, resulting in potential nutritional deficiencies.
Formula milk in Singapore meets the nutritional requirements set by local health authorities. Einmilk is a made-in-Singapore brand of formula with a range of milk powder that caters to babies, toddlers and young children so they obtain essential nutrients in their diet.
There is no harm in delaying the introduction of solid food until your baby turns six months old to maintain an optimal infant gut flora which supports the immune system. After all, they have the rest of their life to enjoy solid food, so there’s really no need to rush into it.
There are exceptions where babies start on solids before six months old, and parents usually do so under the recommendation of their child’s doctor or nutritionist. Should your baby have any medical condition, always seek advice from a medical expert about starting solids before the baby turns six months old.
Check this guide to see if your 6-month-old baby is ready for solids!