When to feed baby food and questions regarding introducing solid foods are of the most common in my practice. There seems to be a lot of confusion around the timing and type of first baby food. Some parents are told to start foods as early as 4 months and that rice cereal is the best food to start with.
I disagree with this recommendation for several reasons.
For starters, your baby’s digestive enzymes are not fully developed until at least 6 months, and the pancreatic digestive enzymes for grains are the last to fully develop. A large percentage of our immune system (actually 70%) is in the GI tract. Therefore if the baby consumes a food which they cannot digest, this can ultimately lead to an imbalance in the GI tract. This imbalance can result in GI discomfort and problems which in the long run can increase the incidence of food allergies and sensitivities and other health related problems such as increase likelihood of autoimmune disorders. Until your baby is 6 months of age, their system is designed to digest breast milk only. Click here for more information on breastfeeding.
So now your baby is 6 months of age...
and they are showing all the signs of being developmentally ready for solid foods.
What is the first food to feed your baby?
As we discussed earlier the pancreatic digestive enzymes specific for grains are not fully developed until 9-10 months. For this reason I recommend not choosing rice as your baby’s first food. Rice is a grain, yes it is a hypoallergenic grain, but it is a grain nonetheless.
Better options for your baby’s first food are avocado, sweet potato or winter squash. These vegetables have the ability to be fully digested, are packed with nutrients and are a perfect first food option.
My other first baby food recommendation is to start with vegetables before fruits. It is only a theory, but is reasonable to say that once your baby has developed a taste for the sweetness of fruit then it becomes harder to feed them non-sweet vegetables.