Whenever I babysat for my sisters when my nieces were still infants, I was always glad that the only feeding I had to do was through a bottle or with liquid food of some kind because I was terrified that they would choke and I wouldn’t know what to do. Sometimes they would make a grab for my sandwich, but they were just as happy to gum down creamed carrots or have a bottle.
Recently, however, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more than 40 percent of parents have started to introduce their children to solid foods before they are four months old. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, four months is the minimum age at which infants can begin to eat solid foods. Introducing solid foods before this time could be harmful or unhealthy for your child. The study conducted by the CDC examined some reasons why parents were giving their children solid food so early. The most prevalent answers were that the child seemed old enough, they seemed hungry, they wanted the food their mothers were eating, and a doctor or physician told them that their child was ready for solid food.
The truth is, infants under the age of four months just aren’t ready for solid foods. They may want it, look like they’re ready or even grab for your food, but they just don’t have the necessary muscles developed yet. They can’t physically chew or swallow the food as well as it needs to be. Remember, it’s not just the muscles that haven’t properly developed yet. Your child’s intestinal tract is still developing and solid food may be hard for them to digest.
At four months, your child should start showing signs that they are ready for solid food. Look to see if they can hold their head up by themselves in their high chair. Do they open their mouth when food comes their way? Can they move food in their mouth to their throat? This one is crucial because it will show you if your child can properly chew and swallow. If food dribbles down their chin regularly, it could be an indicator that they haven’t developed the right muscle control yet. Last of all, is your child at least double their birth weight? If they are and they can do all of these things, then your child is probably ready to start eating solid foods.