Starting Solid Food In Infants at 4 Months

There are a couple great reasons to start solid foods in infants around 4 months:

1.  Less iron deficiency hence less anemia

2.  Fewer allergies

My parents parents –  (early 1900’s) –   used to start solid foods at 6 weeks of age.  For the past two decades, the pediatric community was advising breast feed only until 6 months. It was thought this would reduce food allergies.  It turns out the opposite is true with regards to allergies.  Earlier introduction seems to allow the immune system to see these foods that are introduced early as part of the infants environment and hence fewer allergies. This fits with our understanding of the hygiene hypothesis where children who lived around animals and barns would have fewer allergies to animals, dust and hay etc.

This study (link below) demonstrates the benefit to iron stores of earlier introduction of solid foods.  In my career as a pediatrician the past two decades, it seems that low iron stores (as evidenced by low ferritin levels) are almost universal.  I completely agree with the new recommendations to start solids at 4 months age.

Timing of the Introduction of Complementary Foods in Infancy:
A Random Controlled Trial

Pediatrics published 12 November 2012, 10.1542/peds.2011-3838d
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2011-3838dv1?papetoc

Dr. Paul

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