Still on breastfeeding and infant nutrition…

Is it OK to start introducing complementary food if my baby is showing interest before 6 months of age?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. But we need to understand the wisdom behind the recommended 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. The more we understand this, the easier for us to stick with the recommendation.

1. Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months. The only nutrient you might want to give as a supplement is Vitamin D because most mothers are not getting enough of it themselves. Everything else is available in breast milk in perfect proportions.

2. Babies start growing at a faster pace from the sixth month and the nutrients in breast milk will no longer be enough for them. Hence, the need for complementary food.

3. Babies are able to swallow solid food properly by 6 months. Prior to this time, they are not yet able to coordinate swallowing effectively. They would rather push the food out or worse, choke on the food.

4. Most babies will have achieved full neck control and ability to sit upright without support by 6 months. This eliminates the risk of choking or aspiration into the lungs. Their hand-eye and hand-mouth coordination will also be more developed at this time so that they can hold big chunks of food and try to feed themselves.

5. Some babies will start showing interest in family food from 4 months. These are babies who probably have developed the above milestones earlier than others. In that case, you may start slowly by giving your baby a little bit of what you are eating. Once you’re sure that he is ready to eat, go ahead and give him his own plate!

6. Introducing solid foods earlier increases your baby’s risk of becoming obese. You’re simply giving him more calories than he actually needs.

7. If you introduce solids too early, your baby might become less interested in adequate breastfeeding and he will miss out on the benefits of breast milk. Plus, your milk supply will be diminished and you are more likely to wean your baby earlier than you wanted.

Bottomline… Please DO NOT give adult foods to babies less than 4 months!