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Lately I've been hearing a lot of people saying that the advice to start solids between 4-6 months is out of date. For example, KellyMom, a usually fairly respected parenting resource says:

Health experts and breastfeeding experts agree that it’s best to wait until your baby is around six months old before offering solid foods. There has been a large amount of research on this in the recent past, and most health organizations have updated their recommendations to agree with current research.

The following organizations recommend that all babies be exclusively breastfed (no cereal, juice or any other foods) for the first 6 months of life (not the first 4-6 months)

from http://kellymom.com/nutrition/starting-solids/delay-solids/

But when a friend of mine started digging into this supposed "current research" that supports this position, she couldn't find it. So we are on the quest to find out whether there's actual research that supports this notable claim.

Even in that article, some of the sources cited do not appear to actually support the claim. For example, the article summarizes one study:

One study has shown that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 4+ months had 40% fewer ear infections than breastfed babies whose diets were supplemented with other foods.

But since that study found 4+ months was better, it doesn't support the claim that it's better to wait until 6 months.

  • My wife is a labor and delivery nurse and deals with hundreds of different "superstitions" about babies all of the time. Everyone thinks their own situation is "fact" and tries to convince everyone else they are right. I will see if she knows of any credible sources on the matter for an appropriate answer. – Kurt E. Clothier Apr 5 '14 at 18:27
  • Does this belong on parenting.stackexchange.com? – MrFox Apr 7 '14 at 16:51
  • I think this question would be appropriate on both sites, but in this particular case, I was more interested in an answer from the science-based, support your answer with evidence (that's not anecdotal) approach on this site. – Jessica Brown Apr 9 '14 at 23:30
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There is a comprehensive review of the literature regarding the best time to introduce solids to infants.

Using the available information on the development of infant’s immunologic, gastrointestinal and oral motor function, as well as maternal reproductive physiology, the expert review team concluded that the probable age of readiness for most full term infants to discontinue exclusive breastfeeding and begin complementary foods appears to be near six months or perhaps a little beyond. They also felt that there is probable convergence of such readiness across the several relevant developmental processes.

And probably most relevant of the 36 pages of this review is the following: [1]

These reports combined with extensively reported clinical experience from specialists in infant oral motor development and therapy provide strong indication that under normal circumstances, oral motor function is developmentally ready for the introduction of semisolid and solid foods and thereby the discontinuation of exclusive breastfeeding between six and nine months of age. While infants can be offered such foods at an earlier age, their oral anatomy, reflexive responses and resulting oral motor function indicate that this is developmentally premature and may increase the risk of aspiration.

[1] Naylor AJ, Morrow AL (editors). Developmental Readiness of Normal Full Term Infants to Progress from Exclusive Breastfeeding to the Introduction of Complementary Foods. Reviews of the Relevant Literature Concerning Infant Immunologic, Gastrointestinal, Oral Motor and Maternal Reproductive and Lactational Development April 2001

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