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Do Big Babies Need to Eat Solid Food Sooner?

by Beth Greenwood, studioD

Making the transition to solid foods is an important developmental milestone for a baby. Each infant is an individual and develops at her own rate, but there are some specific indicators that tell parents when their little one is ready for solid foods. These indicators are not related to size, but rather to your baby's stage of development. Starting solid foods too early can have adverse consequences, such as increasing your baby's risk for childhood obesity, celiac disease, diabetes and eczema, according to a study published in the April 2013 issue of "Pediatrics."

Starting Too Early

Many parents try to start babies on solid foods too early, according to a March 2013 article in “U.S. News & World Report,” which notes that 40 percent of parents try to start their babies on solid foods before the age of 4 months. Parents who are using formula are more likely to start solid foods early. Those interviewed felt their babies needed solid foods because they were hungry or to help them sleep through the night. Most babies have a growth spurt at about 3 months of age, so they do tend to be hungrier then, but increasing the amount of formula or frequency of breastfeeding is a better choice than starting solid food before the baby is ready.

Developmental Signs

To successfully eat solid foods, a baby must have adequate coordination, muscle control and balance. She must be able to sit up, support her head and be able to move food from the front of the mouth to the back. Babies nurse by thrusting the tongue forward. If you try to feed your baby before she is developmentally ready, she'll tend to thrust her tongue against the spoon in an attempt to nurse. A baby who reacts to solid foods with tongue thrusting isn’t ready.

Signs of Interest

Babies often become interested in what their parents or those around them are eating at about 4 to 6 months of age. They might reach for another person’s food or watch intently as the food is conveyed from plate to mouth. These are signals that your baby is getting ready for solid foods. Look for indications of interest in other people’s food to decide if your baby is ready. Determine if your baby can hold her head in an upright position and whether she can sit with support. Another sign that a baby is ready for solid food is if she opens her mouth when you offer food to her.

Weight and Solid Foods

A baby's birth weight is not a good indicator of when to start solid foods, although low birth weight can indicate prematurity, and prematurity can affect development. Birth weight can be an indicator of when to start solid foods, however, if the other developmental signs are present. Most infants double their birth weight at about 4 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that most children weigh about 13 pounds at 4 months, the age when the average baby has reached the developmental stage when she is ready to try solid foods.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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