I am amazed at the huge amount of – often conflicting – advice about starting food, as well as most other baby issues. Most advice (including from the Australian Breastfeeding Association and most paediatricians) is that babies don’t need anything other than breastmilk until about six months. The reason for this is that around this time, the baby’s iron stores are becoming depleted and they need the extra nutrients that food can give them.
There is also a lot of talk about the early introduction of solids being associated with food allergies and atopic conditions (asthma, hayfever, eczema). I had a look on the net for the evidence of this (being a good evidence based practitioner!) and struggled to find much. There was, however, an article published in Pediatrics in 2008 (PEDIATRICS Vol. 121 No. 1 January 2008, pp. e44-e52) which looked at over 2000 kids from a birth cohort study, and found that there was no evidence that introduction of solids before 4-6 months was associated with food allergies, asthma or allergic rhinitis. They found that food allergies were actually more common in children who had been started on solids after six months. The results for eczema were conflicting and the authors say that there is a possibilty that eczema is more common in those given foods under 4 months.
I think that parents are often tempted to start solids due to excitement and impatience. Of course, this is completely the wrong reason to start them and we need to follow our baby’s cues as to when she is ready.