The dietary guidelines for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend children to be introduced to solid foods starting around 6 months of age. Why there is only an estimated timing? The answer is simple… every baby is different!
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WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW
There are 2 main important aspects to starting solid foods:
- Iron intake needs for infants.
- Developmental readiness to be able to safely swallow food.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants who are born at term usually have sufficient iron reserves until 4 to 6 months of age. Breastmilk has very little iron, therefore, exclusive breastfeeding for more than 6 months has been associated with increased risk of iron-deficiency anemia (IDA) at 9 months of age.
Moreover, about eighty percent of the iron present in a newborn term infant is accreted during the third trimester of pregnancy. Infants born prematurely miss the rapid accretion and supplementation is likely; this can be provided as medicinal iron or in iron-fortified complementary foods.
What does this mean after all? I strongly recommend that you check with your baby’s pediatrician about the needs to supplement iron at around 4 months of age. There is a study shared on volume 125, issue 5 of an AAP publication that recommends that term infants receive an iron supplementation of 1mg/kg per day starting at 4 months of age and continued until appropriate iron-containing complementary foods have been introduced.
This study demonstrated that supplementation resulted in better visual acuity and higher Bayley Psychomotor Developmental Indices at 13 months.
If your infant gets iron-fortified formula, a supplement may not be necessary. Always consult with a doctor to evaluate your case individually.
Fortunately, at about 6 months of age, an infant’s iron needs can be net through the introduction of iron-rich foods. There are some milestones called readiness signs that indicate if your child is developmentally ready to start solids.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF READINESS?
Here is a list from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with some signs to look for before introducing solid foods to your baby:
- Sits up alone or with minimal assistance.
- Can control head and neck.
- Opens the mouth when food is offered and shows interest in food (trying to grab)
- Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow (losing tong thrust reflex).
- Brings objects to the mouth.
- Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
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