That is the question that a study published last Monday in the journal Pediatrics tried to answer.
A national survey of 1,334 mothers showed that 40 percent gave their babies solid food before the age of 4 months. Up until last year the advice by doctors had been to wait until your child is 4 months before introducing solids. Doctors have now revised that advice to be 6 months. The reason: breast milk and or formula are best for a baby.
According to Dr. T J Gold a pediatrician with Tribeca Pediatrics in Brooklyn, NY, one of the signals that a baby is ready for solids is when he is putting his hands in his mouth and making chewing motions. She goes on to point out that it is actually dangerous for a 2 or 3 month old to be given solids. At this age they can barely sit or hold up their heads, making it difficult to even put solids in their mouths.
Added to this, a young baby has yet to develop the proper gut bacteria that allows them to process solid foods safely. Some of the problems that are seen are gastroenteritis as well as diarrhea. Also, a link has been found between early solid foods and an increase in celiac disease, obesity, eczema and diabetes.
One of the reasons that moms might choose to feed their baby solid foods, is economics. Formula can be expensive. The other is to do with a a common misbelief that the sooner a baby has solid food, the sooner he will sleep through the night. According to Dr. Gold, ” that big fat bottle at the end of the night isn’t why your baby is sleeping – it’s a skill you acquire.” Another falsehood is that a baby will start to put on weight with solid food, but the opposite can be true if he’s experiencing diarrhea.
Lastly, Dr Gold points out that babies don’t just get fussy because they are hungry. From my experience as a sleep consultant, I will concur with this. Many fussy babies I work with get enough to eat, they just don’t get the proper amount of sleep.