It’s a question so frequently asked on the mommy boards that everyone is sick of reading it, but, every day, it’s posted: “When is it okay to start my baby on solid food?” While a lot of users grow frustrated with the question, the guidelines for infants and solids have changed so many times that if we’re being honest, it’s understandable that some moms would be confused. The age at which an infant begins trying solid food, and the first food an infant is given, largely depends on culture, tradition, and the latest medical evidence. But did you know that baby boomers were given solids as early as six weeks of age? Furthermore, the AAP only changed its recommendation from four months to six months last year. If you didn’t, you’re probably thinking the question of solids at three months old is not such a crazy notion after all.
Early in the 20th century, the average infant did not begin solids until approximately seven months of age. So how did we get from an average of seven months to a mere three months? Amy Bentley published an article in the Michigan Historical Review titled “Booming Baby Food: Infant Food and Feeding in Post-WWII America”. While her study largely examined the baby boomers habits, it also included information on the history of solids (like the data on infants in the beginning of the 20th century). It seems that after WWII, a lot of things changed, including the age at which babies started solid foods. For some baby boomers, “experts were recommending that babies start solid foods by 4 to 6 weeks old,” Dr. Bentley said.
Current research by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that six months is the prime age for starting solids. But the AAP’s guidelines seem to conflict with what parents are actually doing at home. The question of when to start solids is not new; The New York Times published an article addressing the concerns which notes “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that many parents aren’t even waiting until the 4-month marker“.
It may disturb the high-and-mighty mother superiors to know that when it comes to expert advice on when to start solids, the experts themselves will tell you: they don’t know.
“When we searched the literature very carefully, it was very difficult to find evidence for one thing or the other,” said Dr. Assa’ad. “We’re doing the best we can with the evidence that’s there.” (qtd in The New York Times, “Advice Shifts on Feeding Baby“)