- Delaying the introduction of solids can decrease the risk of food allergies. Gaps in the cells of your baby's gut lining don't tend to close until 6 months. This means that the spaces between the cells of the small intestines can allow intact macromolecules, including whole proteins and pathogens, to pass directly into the bloodstream. This means that large proteins from foods can pass into baby's bloodstream, potentially setting them up for future allergies.
- Baby's digestive systems may not be mature enough to handle solids before 6 months. Stomach acid and pepsin required to break down protein do not reach adult levels until 3/4 months. The digestive enzyme amylase which helps break down carbohydrates does not reach adult levels until 6 months and lipase and bile salts which are required to break down fat do not reach adult levels until 6-9 months.
- Early introduction of solids has been linked to obesity. Data from the Millennium Cohort Study, following 12,000 children born in 2000, shows that infants weaned early were heavier at 7 and 14 months, and gained more weight between 8 weeks and 14 months.
- If you are breastfeeding, feeding your baby exclusively breast milk up to around 6 months will give them extra protection against infection.
- Babies are less likely to choke if they can sit upright of their own accord, which does not normally happen until around 6 months.
- If babies are weaned early, they may consume less milk and hence take on fewer nutrients as it's doubtful their diet will be as nutritionally balanced as breast milk or formula in the early days.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recommends that solids should be introduced from around 6 months of age in addition to breast milk or formula. However, despite these recommendations many parents decide to wean their babies earlier than 6 months for a number of reasons. These may include; they feel their baby is is very hungry, they have a big baby whose needs they feel can't be met through milk alone, they feel their baby needs more energy if it's crawling / very active etc. It may though be worth considering a number of factors before weaning your child early: