One of the things I was most nervous about during my early months as a parent was how to go about moving Jackson on to “real food.” I knew I wanted to carry on breastfeeding until at least 6 months (as is generally recommended) but by around 4 months, some well-meaning but increasingly irritating people around me started chattering about getting Jackson onto solids. I’m sure many new moms can relate to the confusion I experienced with so much conflicting advice surrounding me.
So I did my research. As it turns out, I was right to be wary of those pushing me to speed up the weaning process. Although the pressure can be overwhelming, the official World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance spells out clearly just how silly weaning before 6 months really is.
Before 6 months old, babies have digestive systems that are still not properly developed. Their kidneys can’t really manage solid food yet.
If you’re still breastfeeding, weaning too soon can lead to your baby not absorbing as many nutrients from your milk as they were before. Why create limitations on the nutrition your baby receives?
The protection that your breastmilk provides against bacteria and infection can be reduced by introducing solids, meaning your little one could face health problems later in life that might have been avoided with a little patience.
Some people might believe that the research on this issue applies only to babies in the developing world, where there are lower standards of food hygiene, but the recommendations do apply to babies anywhere in the world. Their bodies simply aren’t ready for food when they’re still tiny.
The main thing to be taken away from the WHO guidance on weaning is that there are no health benefits whatsoever in introducing your baby to solid foods before the age of 6 months. Although your mother in law may argue that she started feeding your husband 3 course meals at 3 months old and it never did him any harm, it’s worth remembering that it probably won’t have done him much good either.