Introducing Solids: Why You Should Wait Until 6 Months

Recommendations for introducing solids have changed a lot, but there are so many benefits of waiting until 6 months. Read on to find out why.

Introducing solids can be a confusing topic—recommendations for introducing solids have changed a lot in the last couple of decades. But we have the definitive answer, plus all the supporting evidence you need to make the best decision for your baby. See all the benefits of waiting until 6 months here.

Recommendations for introducing solids have changed a lot in the last couple of decades. Women used to be pressured to feed rice cereal to their babies as early as a few weeks old for a better night’s sleep.

When I was a baby, moms were told to start solids between 6 weeks and 4 months old, depending on baby’s sleep pattern and if the baby was struggling with reflux or excessive spit up.

When I became a mom, I started introducing solids at 4 months, based on different recommendations. Recent research and the reactions of my kids makes me wish I had waited to introduce solids. 

What Are the Current Recommendations for Introducing Solids?

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend exclusive breastfeeding until baby is 6 months old. 

“Introducing babies to complementary foods too early can cause them to miss out on important nutrients that come from breast milk and infant formula.” explains Chloe M. Barrera, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Today, despite these recommendations and studies that advise otherwise, over 54% of women surveyed introduce solids to their infants before 6 months. The survey showed that 16.3% of babies are given solids before 4 months and 38.3% between 4-5 months.

In another survey, parents cited these reasons for introducing solids before 6 months:

  • 90% said they thought their baby was old enough to start eating solids
  • 71% said their baby seemed hungry a lot of the time
  • 55% said their doctor or health care professional recommended this

Why Wait Until 6 Months to Introduce Solids?

Babies are born with very immature digestive systems. While the GI tract is still maturing, infant’s systems are not equipped to digest anything but breast milk. If anything but breastmilk is introduced, even formula, it can permanently alter baby’s gut microbiotacausing problems like necrotizing enterocolitis, diarrheal disease, and allergies.

“In infants, the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach—the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)—is not fully mature, allowing stomach contents to flow backward,” says Andrew E. Mulberg, M.D., a pediatrician and pediatric gastroenterologist. “In time, the LES will mature and open only when the baby swallows and will remain tightly closed the rest of the time, keeping stomach contents where they belong”

That said, some mamas simply don’t produce enough breast milk (and other moms may not want to breastfeed for various reasons). If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. There are plenty of healthy formulas, and many babies thrive on formula. Consider adding probiotics to baby’s formula to help with immune and gut function.

But that’s just the beginning. Here, a host of other reasons to hold off on introducing solids until 6 months:

1. Long-term health

Holding off on all solids until 6 months of age can boost your child’s long-term health. Because infants who start eating food need less calories from breastmilk, they may lose out on some of the most important benefits of breastfeeding. These include lower risk of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, as well as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding also reduces the frequency of doctor visits, hospitalizations, and prescriptions, according to the CDC.

2. Improved immune system

“One of the benefits of breastmilk is that each mother provides custom-designed milk to protect her infant,” according to Dr. Sears. “When a baby is exposed to a new germ, mother’s body manufactures antibodies to that germ.” One study suggests that these maternal antibodies in breast milk improve an infant’s intestinal immune system—an effect that continues to benefit baby well into adulthood.

3. Allergy Prevention

Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months has been shown to significantly lessen the risk and severity of food allergies in families with a strong history of them. It also reduces the risk of skin sensitivities, like eczema.

To further prevent allergies, studies suggest introducing allergenic foods as soon as baby is ready to try solids can reduce your child’s risk of developing food allergies by up to 80 percent. But since babies can’t exactly eat nuts or even peanut butter, I recommend trying a product called Ready, Set, Food!, which gives parents the option to add the most common allergenic foods (eggs, nuts, and milk) to breastmilk, formula, or puree in a safe and effective way.

4. Higher IQ

One study found that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months or longer was associated with a higher IQ. At seven-year followups, the IQ of exclusively breastfed babies was an average of 3.8 points higher gain than those who were not exclusively breastfeed during this time period. Researchers think this is because maternal milk is rich in fatty acids and other bioactive components essential for brain development.

5. Mama’s Milk Supply

The best way to maintain your milk supply is to keep nursing—nursing is all about supply and demand. When you start introducing solids, baby needs less breast milk since he/she is getting calories elsewhere. But babies under 6 months of age get all of the calories and nutrients they need from breast milk, so there is no need to put your supply at risk by introducing solids.  

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There Are Always Exceptions

Like just about anything with babies, there is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to introducing solids. At the end of the day, every baby is different, and every baby develops at different speeds. Some babies are more advanced and may be ready for solid foods around 5-5.5 months; other babies may not be ready for solid foods until 7-8 months. And for other babies, your pediatrician may recommend starting solids if baby needs extra calories or nutrition. Don’t focus too much on the number if it seems like your baby is showing signs that he/she is ready a littler earlier or a little later. Always work with your doctor to best determine the right time to introduce solids to your baby. 

A Note About Introducing Solids

Waiting until after 6 months of age to introduce solids and water is important for optimal long-term health. After 6 months, watch your baby for signs of readinessBaby should be able to support his/her head very well and sit up on his/her own. Baby may even start to show interest, by reaching for your food.

If baby reaches 6 months and doesn’t seem ready for solids, talk to your pediatrician about how to proceed. For most babies, iron stores begin to drop around this time—many babies will begin to need more nutrition than mom’s milk alone can provide. Waiting too long to introduce solids can also lead to delayed developmental skills, food texture sensitivities, and allergies.

Once baby is ready to start solids, go slowly. Just because you’re ready to start introducing solids doesn’t mean you can feed baby whatever you’re eating. Start with complementary foods and continue breastfeeding. Check out this article to explore the best iron-rich foods for baby.

The WHO recommends that, in addition to breast milk, baby eats

  • solids 2-3 times a day between 6-8 months,
  • 3-4 times a day between 9-11 months,
  • 3-4 times a day with an additional snack 1-2 times a day between 12-24 months.

Ready to start introducing solids? I recommend trying baby led weaningOnce you start, watch for signs of discomfort, like indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, and increased spitting up. If baby shows signs of discomfort, he/she may not be ready just yet. Reduce the amount of food you’re introducing and consider adding probiotics to help with digestion. If that doesn’t work, take a little break and try again in a few days.

How About You?

When did you start feeding baby solids? How did you know your baby was ready?

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a doula and childbirth educator. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 135,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

24 Comments

  1. In past years, there has been a substantial shift in guidelines for introducing solids to babies. Instead, parents prioritize nutritional food, recently i found this RBC Heritage Scottie Scheffler Hoodie, this hoodie have good quality of fabrics

  2. Are there any risks associated with continuing to exclusively breast feed vs introduce solids around this timeframe despite readiness? When is it necessary to introduce solids vs stick to EBF? Are there any resources you’d recommend looking into related to this topic? Thanks!!

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      Food before one is just for fun! It is recommended to introduce solids when baby shows readiness–sitting up on their own, the ability to eat finger foods on their own, plus being six months of age. Once these milestones are reached, the next milestone for making sure baby is getting nutrition from other sources is one year of age.
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      Food before one is just for fun! It is recommended to introduce solids when baby shows readiness–sitting up on their own, the ability to eat finger foods on their own, plus being six months of age. Once these milestones are reached, the next milestone for making sure baby is getting nutrition from other sources is one year of age.
      Turn on screen reader support

  3. While I appreciate the factoids in this article I find it really triggering for mamas like myself who simply couldn’t produce milk to make it to the 6 months and I am confused about how the European brands are healthy alternatives if only breastmilk is attributed to the points mentioned. So even if I have committed to European formula, my baby is still at higher risk of allergens and a lower IQ?

    • First, please know that you are not alone in your concerns! There are many mamas who choose to use or must use, formula for one reason or another. Just like with anything in life, there are risks and benefits to formula use, BUT, it is always possible that a baby could have risks for allergen sensitivities and not quite as high of an IQ even with breastfeeding. We believe all mamas are doing their best with the tools they have–and sometimes this means the risk of something is raised while another is lowered. Fed is best ultimately–much love, Mama!

  4. This is not an article about delaying introducing solids – it’s an article about exclusive breastfeeding. It presupposes that solids will replace breastfeeding, not formula, and realistically not expressed breast milk either, since it would be easy enough for an exclusively expressing mother to keep track of how much milk the child is getting. You mention formula but your only counterarguments to introducing solids between 4 and 6 months, which has been suggested is a key time to introduce those common allergens, are based on the assumption that breastfeeding will not continue. It seems there is no downside as long as milk intake continues, and instead this is just beating the same ‘breast is best’ drum.

    • I 100% agree with you. Saying that babies who try food before 6 months have a lower IQ then babies who exclusively breast feed is absolutely wild to me

    • I agree with you. This article seems to be here to scare people. I have 4 daughters, all bottle fed with formula as I had inverted nipples and they couldn’t latch. Pumping worked for a week or two but then I stopped producing enough to feed them.
      And all of them are adults and healthy. Did any have an ear infection? Yes. But pretty sure breast fed babies get ear infections. None of them have diabetes. None are obese.
      And I was made to feel guilty about each time. I am tired of seeing these types of articles. I agree that if you can breast feed it is probably the best way to go. But don’t shame me.
      My daughter is currently on an extremely restrictive diet because her son can’t tolerate anything. She is 15 pounds lighter than her pre-pregnancy weight (now 90 pounds). But because it says don’t start solids until 6 months because so many horrible things can happen, she won’t try it. He is now 5 months old. So another month of weight loss for her while she tries to feed her baby.
      I wish these articles included information for mother’s who are not able to breast feed. Stop making a woman feel bad about her choices whether necessary or because it’s her preference. We love our babies too.

  5. Your articles are very helpful but also discouraging being that you only address breastfeeding mothers. There are a lot of us that could not breastfeed due to a variety of issues, and we have to formula feed are babies. So do your articles and advice apply to both breastfed and formula fed babies? If so, it would be nice if you were more specific and addressed both types of feeding.

  6. My baby girl will be 6 months in 10 days. She has been thriving being exclusively breastfed. She had her 6 month check up two days ago with her pediatrician who said she can start solids. We gave her cooked carrot, some banana and some broccoli at separate times. Since doing this she has had very uncomfortable tummy troubles, crying before she does a poo and has done 9 poos over the last 24 hours ( when normally she goes once or twice a day or two. I’m going to wait until she’s a bit older to try introducing solids again as I don’t think it should upset her so much!

  7. My wife is giving our daughter breast milk and also formula, not mixed together but at diffferent times. You don’t mention anything about breast milk only talk about breast feeding. She uses a pump because the baby cannot latch. So how does a breast feeding mother produce antibodies to a new germ the baby may have ? Unless when suckling, the mother gets some of the germs from the baby. If this is the case then breast milk alone is not as good as breast feeding. Could you edit your article above to address the distinction between breast feeding and breast milk feeding?

  8. Our baby is 4.5 months. He is super interested in us eating, reaches for our food, has great head control and sits well in his high chair. We weren’t planning to give solids/ cereal yet but the doc recommended if he’s not sleeping well maybe he’s still hungry. I went back to work I am a nurse and work 12+ hours shifts and waking up three times a night is just keeping me absolutely exhausted. I am so tempted to try and see if it will help him (mostly me) sleep longer but I’m still unsure if it’s the right thing to do.

    • Reaching out to a pediatric nutritionist is your best bet. Typically children under one year get their nutrition via breastmilk and/or artificial milk and solids are considered “just for fun.” It’s also a biological norm for babies to wake up several times per night to breastfeed.

    • Try this book by Suzy Giordano.
      Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success.
      It has been great for us. Our daughter has been sleeping through out the night. She just turned four months

  9. Thank you for your article. I came here because my pediatrician said I could begin giving my 4 month old solids. He is exclusively breastfed. She said he “looked like he was holding up his head very well and developing”, so therefore would be ready to begin rice cereal. I wasn’t looking to start early and mentioned how he sleeps very well. He is gaining weight steadily. I asked her about the AAP and their 6 month recommendation . She kind of shrugged it off and mentioned another national board that said it depends more on the child’s readiness. I can’t remember the other organization she said. I’m good. We will wait til he’s 6 months. Breast milk is the best.

    • Please don’t give your baby rice cereal as your doctor says. It has no nutritional value for you baby. It’s only a filler. Look at some of the baby led weaning articles and opt for things like avocado, sweet potato, banana, etc…

      • I started giving my baby banana and apple cereal at 4 months

  10. Hi, my son is currently 4 months old and he has been formula fed since birth. Today the doctor told us we can start solids if we want to. I have read many times online that it’s better to wait until 6 months, but I hadn’t researched the reasoning behind that advice. I came to this article expecting answers, but the reasons for not starting solids are focused on the advantages of breast milk. Well, my son obviously does not have those advantages anyway. This article does not make an argument for keeping my son exclusively on formula for 6 months before introducing solids, leaving me still uncertain. I wish this article had been more inclusive. Thank you.

    • I’m in the exact same boat! I have a formula-fed 4-month old whose pediatrician recommended we go ahead and start on solid foods. Obviously if the only pro to waiting for the 6 month mark is the nutrition received from breastmilk, our situation (which is incredibly common) isn’t addressed here. That being said, I think we’re going to move ahead with sweet potato puree (avoiding rice cereal) and see where that takes us.

      • It’s NOT just because of breast milk. It’s because of the immature GI tract. Please don’t give food at 4 months regardless of your baby being formula fed.

      • Directly from the article, it’s definitely bad to introduce solids too early, even to formula-fed babies: “Introducing babies to complementary foods too early can cause them to miss out on important nutrients that come from breast milk and infant formula.”

  11. Can I make these in bulk and freeze to take to daycare? How do I do that? I don’t want to do the cereal, but the food in this article, but I’m most positive the daycare will think I’m crazy. Any advice is appreciated!

  12. My baby will be 6 months in 10 days. Should I wait the 10 days until introducing solids or is it fine to do now? He definitely seems like he’s ready for food but he’s been exclusively breastfed from birth so for some reason I feel hesitant! First time mom here, obviously 🙂

    • My daughter is 6months in 12 days, we’ve been waiting SO LONG to introduce her to solids. She’s hungry and super jealous of the food we eat. She’s 24 weeks, sits up really well and tries to eat all of our food… so we’re introducing cereal (loaded spoons) and avocado tonight. If she does well, we’ll prob give her some of our spaghetti too.

      Good luck mama! (mama of 4)


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