Babies and solid food

I worked the night shift when my girls were babies. I remember dreading the sound of a tiny wail when the “new baby” would wake up in the middle of the night. That interruption wasn’t easy — and just try looking your best on the 11 o’clock news with only a few hours of sleep! I know that’s why I cheated a little by giving my girls a bit of oatmeal in their evening bottle. But that is a no-no.

Pediatricians will tell you that a baby’s digestive system isn’t ready to deal with solid food until at least 4 months. Feeding solid food to babies too soon can lead to childhood obesity, celiac disease, diabetes and eczema.

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40 percent of the 1300 new moms it surveyed gave their babies solid food too soon. Mothers who bottle-fed their babies were more likely to introduce solid food than mothers who breast-fed their babies. The reasons they gave included, “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”

But none of these reasons is good enough. According to a pediatrician at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Ill., babies aren’t ready for solid food until they can sit up by themselves when they are well-supported. The other sign of readiness is when the baby has lost the “tongue thrust” reflex. If you try to put food in the baby’s mouth and the baby uses the tongue to push it out, the baby isn’t ready for solid food.

If you have a new baby or grandchild, this is important information to pass along. If I had heard this when my children were infants, maybe I would have been more tolerant of those sleepless nights.

For more on this study, go to

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