At What Age Can a Baby Usually Start to Eat Food?

Last month, reported that grandparents had recently taken a safety quiz about babies and flunked.

Baby eating baby food (blended green beans)

Baby eating baby food (blended green beans) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What they were referring to was based on findings presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In her paper, Dr. Amanda Soong, a pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and mother of two, described asking 49 grandparents in three grandparenting support groups 15 questions about practices that have changed since we Boomers raised our children.

The answers Dr. Soong counted as correct were based on AAP’s current recommendations.

Fewer than half of the grandparents knew that babies are supposed to be put down on their backs, not their stomachs, because of the AAP’s findings that SIDS is more common among babies who sleep on their stomachs.

Since AAP’s 1992 recommendation to change a baby’s sleeping position to the back, the number of babies sleeping on their backs has risen to near 75% and SIDS deaths have been cut in half.

All of the grandparents knew that babies are supposed to sleep in cribs, not in their parent’s bed.

Not on a sofa with the parent. Not in an armchair with the parent. Not in bed with a parent.

The safest place for a baby to sleep, at least until four months, to avoid suffocation and reduce the risk of SIDS, is alone in a crib in the parents’ bedroom.

So, what was the third question in the questionnaire?

At What Age Can a Baby Usually Start to Eat Food?

Almost 74% of grandparents got this one right, but I’m not sure if they knew why.

The answer is two-fold.

If the baby is formula-fed, the answer is 4 months. 20.4% of the grandparents picked this answer.

If the baby is breast-fed, the answer is 5 months. 53.1% of the grandparents got this one right.

The reason is because AAP recommends that babies be nursed exclusively for six months.

Parents can start introducing foods to breast-fed babies at the five-month mark.

I introduced solid foods to my breast-fed son at six months. By seven months, he decided my milk wasn’t coming fast enough anymore.

The second time he bit me, I quit nursing.

What Did Doctors Used to Recommend?

I would have gotten this question on the survey wrong.

When my children were young, pediatricians recommended that you start introducing baby cereal at six weeks, which is what I did for my first-born, formula-fed son.

The thinking was that babies would bulk up and be able to sleep through the night.

In discussions with Dr. Soong, I learned that babies naturally are going to start sleeping through the night at six to twelve weeks.

They do not need to eat solid food for this to happen.

In fact, both formula and breast-milk include iron that should not be diluted with solid food like cereal at such an early age.

Dr. Soong also said it matters little what order food is introduced, cereal, fruit or vegetables, but meat should be last.

The more important strategy is to introduce only one food at a time, stick with that food for two or three days and then introduce one more new food.

If the baby resists that food, drop it for a few weeks and reintroduce it later.

So, What Were the Wrong Answers?

Two months (8.2% of grandparents picked this answer) and 3 months (18.4%) were options on the survey that AAP considers too early to introduce food, to supplement formula or breast milk.

So, grandparents did pretty well on this question.

Whether they understood the difference between formula-fed and breast-fed babies, they did know that later is better, unlike what we were taught.

Yeah, grandparents!

Click here to hear an Interview with Dr. Soong Q3, on what age can a baby start to eat food, what she learned from grandparents and AAP recommendations.


What would your answer have been?

When was food introduced to your grandchildren?

Did you know there’s a difference between formula-fed and breast-fed babies and food?

Get our free report on how things have changed since Boomers raised our children, How to Leap the Generation Gap: 58 Reasons Child-Rearing Is Different Today, below and get more posts like this one on Child Safety and current recommendations:

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To you and watching your grandbabies grow up healthy.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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