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4 Critical Things You Should Know About Weaning Babies onto Solids

4 Critical Things You Should Know about Weaning Babies onto Solids

When it’s time for weaning babies onto solids, everyone has an opinion.

“Did you see that?! Look, he did it again—he’s watching me eat. I’ll bet he’s getting ready for real food.”

“Aren’t you going to feed him something from the table? A little bit won’t hurt him.”

“If she’s not sleeping well you should feed her rice cereal. That will make her tummy full.”

Have you ever heard comments like this? I know I did. Weaning babies onto solids is the decision of the parents, not well-intentioned friends and family. But at the same time, it’s hard to know when to do it. I speak from experience.

I started giving my first son rice cereal and jarred baby food between 4-5 months old and he was weaned by nine months. Four more children and twelve years later I was exclusively breastfeeding, and my daughter didn’t eat any solids until she was just shy of 12 months.

Why the age difference? Was my son a huge eater? Was he fussy at night? Did he seem dissatisfied with breastfeeding alone? Nope. Was my daughter sickly? Did she have an allergy to rice cereal? Was she premature? Nope. They were both full-term, healthy, and good breastfeeders.

It was my perspective and a little bit of research on weaning babies onto solids that changed.

Is Exclusive Breastfeeding Recommended?

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that a healthy, full-term breastfed baby needs nothing other than mother’s milk (meaning no supplemental formula, water, juice, cereal, whether spooned or in a bottle, or other solid food), until he or she is at least six months old. The following organizations all agree:

Many physicians suggest that it is perfectly all right to delay solids for 12 months.

weaning onto solid foods

Weaning Babies onto Solids: Why Delay?

For some babies, even formula fed babies, delaying solids is very beneficial both short-term and long-term.

1. A baby’s digestive system isn’t fully mature until they reach about 6-9 months. Their stomach acids, enzymes, and secretions have not reached the needed levels to digest solids properly. Feeding them solid foods too soon can result in gassiness, upset stomachs, and constipation, or diarrhea.

2. Breast milk contains more than 50 immune factors, giving baby greater protection from illness. But the more solids they eat, the less breast milk they consume, decreasing the concentration of immunities and often slowly weaning them unintentionally.

3. A baby’s gut is “open” until around 6 months. That means there are spaces between the cells in their small intestine. This poses no problem for a breastfeeding baby as breast milk easily passes through and directly into the blood stream. But for a baby eating solids it means large proteins from foods and disease-causing pathogens can also pass. This can predisposes them to food allergies.

4. A study of over 2000 babies from birth to age two was conducted to study the correlation between breastfeeding and weight gain. The infants who were exclusively breastfed 1 month at the most had twice as often elevated weight gain compared to infants breastfed at least 6 months. The study’s conclusion was that exclusive breastfeeding protects against elevated weight gain during infancy which “may be the first step on the pathway of obesity development” (Kalies 2005).

So while weaning babies onto solids can be a tough decision, there’s a lot to consider before you do. It affects their digestive systems, their immunity, and the potential for food allergies and obesity.

Paula Miller is a homeschooling mom of five. Several family health issues involving Lyme Disease, food allergies, and candida has created a passion to write about whole food, whole living, and whole faith over at, what else but, Whole Intentions. You can touch base with her on Goggle+Facebook, and Twitter.


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