Starting Solids, When and Why: Feeding Babies Frugally, Part II

This is the second in a four-part series on Eating Frugally.

Part I: The Early Months appeared last week.

Part III: Starting Solids the Easy Way

Part IV: Making Your Own “Convenience Foods” for Babies

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You can save money on your baby’s food by waiting until he or she can eat regular food. Breastfeeding is free, and baby cereals and jars are a bad bargain. The ones that are the most natural are often the most expensive.

All babies need to transition from liquid to solid foods, but there confusion about the timetable. Companies marketing baby foods have their own agenda, and not all doctors give accurate information. Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatricians advise waiting until age six months of age to begin solids.

Most six-month-old babies are able to sit up and swallow well. They enjoy putting things in their mouths and can begin to feed themselves. They won’t need the fine textures of prepared, processed foods. They don’t even enjoy them that much. Starting solids too early can expose a baby to allergies and fill up his tiny stomach quickly, leaving less room for high-calorie breast milk. Early solids can also reduce milk supply and lead to low weight gain.

Continuing to breastfeed exclusively for much longer than six months also has risks. Babies older than nine months may not grow and develop properly on breastmilk alone. Some breastfed babies refuse solids until age one year or longer, which can be fine for healthy babies who are growing well. My friend’s daughter chewed on her food and spit it out an hour later, until she was about 15 months old. One rule isn’t right for every baby.

Is My Baby Ready?

A breastfed baby is ready for solids when breastfeeding alone doesn’t seem to satisfy, even after more frequent nursing for a few days to increase supply. Other signs that apply to all babies are the ability to sit up, interest in table food, and a decrease in the tongue-thrusting reflex.

Some mothers are careful to avoid all solids before six months, while others offer tastes a little earlier to babies who start grabbing food from the table.  Whether or not you are strict about waiting until six months, the first few months of solid foods are meant to expose the babies to different tastes and textures. Breastfeeding provides the majority of calories during baby’s first year.

Early solids were essential when bottle-feeding became popular and the milk or formula in bottles lacked even basic vitamins and minerals. The food had to be ground into mush to accommodate babies only a few weeks or months old.

If part of your baby’s diet comes from baby formula, or you need to supplement breastfeeding with formula, you might consider replacing some of the formula with solids even earlier than six months. Most formula is made from cow’s milk, a common allergen. If the baby has not reacted to formula, waiting longer won’t give further protection. Also, any necessary ingredient in formula can also be found in solid foods. The AAP recommends formula over cow’s milk for the first twelve months, but with the cost of formula, especially for an active toddler, I suggest doing your own research.

Waiting until baby is six months means that you can move fairly quickly to table foods. In the next two parts of the series I’ll explain how to do this quickly and cheaply.

Feeding Babies Frugally Series:

Part I, The Early Months.

Part III: Starting Solids the Easy Way

Part IV: Making Your Own “Convenience Foods” for Babies

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  1. I’m sending this post to my son and daughter-in-law, who are expecting their 2nd (b’sha’ah tovah) this month!

  2. Leah Peretz says

    Hi Hannah,
    Something new from the Tipat Chalav is to start giving the 4-months-old babies spoons with tastings. No need to give them a whole meal, just one spoon of all kinds of different food so they’ll learn what the spoon is for, how it feels in the mouth, the different tastes of the kinds of food.

  3. Hi Leah,
    I have inside info that this foolish rule is about to be overturned, with the guidelines reverting to six months before solids.