Have you heard “Food before one is just for fun”? I have seen our community members post it in our support group, asserting that all babies need for their first year of life is breastmilk. I feel compelled to clarify that we don’t believe this to be true. Food before one is definitely much more than just for fun, as Jo McKinstry, Accredited Dietician, asserts in her article ‘Food Before One Is Just For Fun’ – Fact or Fiction?

Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Thomas Cowan, MD, write in their book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care: “Somewhere between the fourth and sixth month, baby should be started on solid food. The exact moment depends on the size and maturity of your infant. Babies who have reached twelve pounds and who are achieving their milestones (see pages 174-79) are probably ready for solid food at age four months. Infants ready for solid food will stop pushing their tongue out when a spoon or bit of food is placed in their mouth–a reflex common in infants that disappears at around four months of age. For less mature babies, wait until five or six months. But by the halfway mark to baby’s first year, he will need solid food in addition to breast milk or [homemade] formula.

The reason is that it is at this time of life when baby runs out of iron, and neither breast milk nor raw milk from another species is likely to provide adequate iron for baby’s needs. One study found that babies exclusively breastfed even for six months were more likely to develop anemia than those introduced to solid foods at four to six months. Exclusive breastfeeding, that is, breastfeeding without any other food for up to a year, is a recent fad. The result is pale, anemic babies who tend to be timid and clingy. In virtually all traditional cultures, baby gets his first solid food by six months, usually liver or other organ meat which the mother has pre-chewed. Liver is the best source of useable iron for baby, along with vitamin B12, and a host of other nutrients, all of which will put color in baby’s cheeks and liveliness in her behavior. The other recommended weaning food is grass-fed egg yolk, loaded with choline, vitamin D and cholesterol, as well as iron, all necessary for baby’s developing brain. The consequences of iron deficiency in children are serious. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, “Infants with chronic, severe iron deficiency have been observed to display increased fearfulness, unhappiness, fatigue, low activity, wariness, solemnity and proximity to the mother during free play, development testing and at home.” Anemic infants who did not receive iron supplementation, “never smiled, never interacted socially, and never showed social referencing.”

When I shared with Sally Fallon Morell that “Food before one is just for fun” was appearing in our community, her response was “Wait until age 1 before solid food?? You have to be kidding!! Babies really need that iron by age 6 months, and I am sorry, letting the baby eat dirt is not the way to do this.  Primitive moms chewed liver and gave it to their babies.”

My own recommendations have been based on what parents in our community, mainly mothers, have reported. I summarize in an article titled What I learned from mothers about baby’s first foods., part of which is copied below:

One mother commented, “I would really like to stress that one should watch the baby, not the calendar.” From the feedback I read on Facebook and in the comments on the two posts, it is clear to me that some babies are ready for solids as early as 4 months and some are not really in earnest until one year.  They simply aren’t interested or physically prepared.  Some vomited the recommend pastured egg yolks they were given time and again, and only in their own time were ready to receive them … and even ask for them as they grew!  So perhaps it would behove us to recommend that parents be aware that babies may be ready as early as 4 months, but that for some the recommendation to introduce solids at 6 months is simply not appropriate because baby isn’t ready or willing.  I like the notion of recommending that babies be introduced to solids such as egg yolk, liver and cod liver oil by 6 months, but if they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready.  Just honor that and try again in a week or two …  or more, for some it was months.  All along, mothers are encouraged to follow this Recommended Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers.

See our Resources for Baby’s First Solid Foods, and my recent review of Nourished Beginnings.

What has your experience been of introducing solid foods?