There are both pros and cons of starting solids at 4 months in babies. Some say it is better to wait until 6 months, while some experts argue that 4 months is good enough. The WHO recommends solid foods to commence at 6 months when babies are developmentally ready. But according to recent studies, starting babies earlier increases their willingness to try and decreases the risk of developing food allergies and obesity later in life.
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Pros of starting solids at 4 months
It is hard to hold emotions when your baby shows interest in food and grabs it with their little hands.
Many parents want to make a ceremony to give their little ones their first bite. It’s messy but always picture-worthy.
And you probably can’t also wait to stock up on baby foods and lay your hands on that fancy baby food maker.
They used to say to wait until the baby is six months when the gut is fully matured. But modern parents now seize the opportunity of giving their babies their first food at four months.
Complementary foods help your baby meet the dietary requirements exceeding what is provided in breast milk or formula. Meeting their nutritional needs can improve their sleep and weight gain too.
Giving four-month-old babies food is safe as long as the food is also safe and hygienically prepared. Pureed vegetables or meat with runny consistency are the best.
An early start in solid food introduces babies to a variety of flavors. Babies have a high oral tolerance during the first few months, which decreases after a period.
Thus, exposing them to different flavors from their mother’s pregnancy until early infancy is recommended.
Early food influences reduce the chances of raising a picky baby later in life.
An early but timely start in solid food results in the following:
- Improved sleep
- Better weight gain
- Improved digestion
- Exposure to flavors
- Prevents reflux
- Decrease feeding problem
Cons of starting solids at 4 months
Starting babies with solids at four may bring many benefits, but it does come with a little warning:
- Increased risk of food allergies
- Difficulty swallowing
- Increased risk of choking
- Potential for overfeeding
Each baby is different, and their development varies. While some are quite ready for food, there are little tummies that are immature and sensitive to foods.
Theories like the Open Gut Syndrome is said to affect baby when they eat food before reaching six months.
It claims that the lining in the GI tract has gaps that cannot effectively filter substances and bacteria that reach the bloodstream.
While it is beneficial for the absorption of nutrients in milk, it is said to be problematic for solids. But, the theory is still under study and, until then, remains a myth to experts.
Early solid food also increases the risk of food allergies, although the idea remains under study.
Some evidence seems to refute it and claims it is even helpful in decreasing allergies.
Accordingly, oral tolerance enables babies to accept different food and flavors and tolerate allergens.
But one thing is for sure, giving your baby food before they gain control of their swallowing reflex is dangerous.
Babies who cannot chew and move food properly down their throats may choke on it.
4 factors to consider when deciding to start solids at 4 months
If you want to introduce solid foods to your baby at 4 months, look for signs of their readiness.
The most important thing to watch out for is how your baby can move food in his mouth, and he needs to be able to swallow it well without much difficulty.
Babies chewing their fist does not manifest readiness for solid foods. Nor is their wanting extra feed and waking up more during the night.
The things you need to consider are:
1. Developmental milestone
Your baby’s ability to stay in a sitting position and hold his head. Your baby should be able to coordinate his hands and mouth.
It means he can look at the food, try picking it up, and put it in his mouth by himself.
2. Baby’s interest in food
Is your baby watching you, smacking his tongue, making sounds, or trying to grab food from you?
Yes, it is a sign that your baby is interested and is now ready to have his first taste of solid food.
3. Physical ability to eat
A newborn infant has a tongue-thrust reflex that pushes things out of his mouth.
Once he loses it, he is now able to swallow food without difficulty. He is also ready when he can draw his lower lip to take a spoon in.
4. Parent’s comfort level
The parent’s decision always supersedes the eagerness and willingness of the baby.
You have a better judgment on whether to start it now or wait for a couple more months.
But do not wait too long to give solid foods. Otherwise, your baby will become a reluctant eater and picky with new food.
How to start solids at 4 months?
Yes, your baby is ready; now what? As much as you want to give your little one all he needs, you can’t do it all at once.
The amount of food is not of importance since the goal is to expose him to flavors first. It can be challenging initially, but here are a few tips for a good start.
- Introduce a single ingredient one at a time.
- Give him plenty of time and let him eat at his own pace.
- Gradually increase the variety and texture of food and keep offering even the ones he dislikes.
- Let him hold and touch the food with his hands.
- Do not distract him with gadgets or television while eating.
- Show him how you eat and set an example.
Gradually, your baby can move from pureed food into lumpy textures to finger foods. Don’t worry if your baby sometimes eats a particular food and other times rejects it.
He only needs a little more time to get used to the texture, so keep offering food in a variety.
There is no order of foods to give your baby, only progression into the texture.
So, whether you give cereals, veggies, or meat in order is not necessarily crucial. Even after starting solid foods, his primary source of nutrition still comes from breast milk or formula.
When he has established an eating habit, offer him a balanced diet to cope with his nutritional requirements.
He needs to have enough nutrients to support proper growth and development. Offer more iron-rich foods since the iron supply in babies depletes after birth.
Milk is not enough to supplement iron; he can get enough from green leafy vegetables, red meat, lentils, and cereals.
When do I give milk to my baby, before or after eating?
Babies may not become interested in eating when full, and offer solid foods before their usual milk feeding time to earn their attention.
But do not wait until he is too hungry; he may also become disinterested and wants to nurse instead.
Do I need to season baby food?
Bland foods are best for the first few weeks since you feed to introduce texture.
Babies do not need salt and sugar in their first foods. But gradually, you can add herbs and spices to help develop their taste buds.
My baby keeps on pushing out the food. What should I do?
Be patient and keep offering it (but never force it inside the mouth.) It may take a few more tries before your baby learn to like his new food, but eventually, he will.
Early introduction to solid foods has its own benefits and disadvantages. You have your say when it comes to your baby.
But a pediatrician’s advice is the best thing to follow. Always consult your doctor for personalized guidelines in feeding your baby.
He will provide insightful information on the right food and serving portions your baby needs.
For more related reads, check out the following:
- How To Plan A Vegan Baby Meal Plan? (Vegan Food Items For Babies & Providing Complete Nutrition)
- When Should My Baby Eat Finger Foods? – Baby Cues & Timing
- Is My Baby Hungry Or Just Gassy? (Signs To Look Out For & Soothing Techniques