An Open Letter to the Inventor of the "Start Solids At 4 Months" Rule

(Picture from this blog)

Dear Sirs,

(Yes, I am addressing this to MEN.  Not just any men, but men, in particular, who have never changed diapers.  You will understand soon.)

You know boys, many people in the "crunchy" community (you know, baby wearing, home birthing, diva cup wearing, eating granola type gals) have this big issue with waiting to start solids until six months or until the baby seems interested in grown up food.  This is also known as "baby led weaning." 

Maybe you haven't heard of  this crazy "baby led weaning" stuff, but it is when the baby starts eating solids when the baby is ready to eat solids.  They start sitting up on their own, reaching for food, trying to put it in their mouths.  You know that baby might be ready for solids when they master the "pincher" grasp and can delicately pick up a morsel from their tray and place it in their mouth.  Basically they eat stuff besides milk when they can physically eat stuff besides milk. 

I know, it all DEFIES LOGIC!  (I am being sarcastic boys.  Keep reading.)

And yet.....

Still I hear women being told to start some "rice cereal" (I won't even get into that, it is a WHOLE other post) when the baby is four months old. 

I myself was told by my first child's pediatrician that I should be sure to start solids by four months or he may NEVER EAT SOLID FOOD. 

Dun dun DUN!

(As an aside, even when I only had one kid that sounded kind of whack.  I have yet to meet an adult who won't eat solid food.)

Who cares if the child can feed himself?  Who cares if they can even sit unassisted?  Nobody!  Just prop them and start shoving spoonfuls of mushy, pureed dinners into their mouth.  Most of it gets spit out because they are too young for food, but SOME will make it down their throat. 

Here is the thing fellas, there are lots of reasons feeding a child who can't even sit or bring their hand to their face is silly, but the reason I know you invented this rule BEFORE you had children is this...


Yes, when you start feeding a baby something besides breast milk, the poop changes FOREVER.  And not for the better.  Without getting into too many details, poop changes from yellowish breastmilk poop to "smells like a gas station bathroom but sticks like none else," poop.  If you are doing cloth diapers (which of course you are if you let your kid feed themselves at any which time) this is sticky, nasty, and very bad news. 

With a few kids under my belt and a few thousand cloth diapers changed, I have learned my lesson boys.  Sheesh, if I could hold off on solids indefinitely I would.  (JUST KIDDING.  I know they need food besides breast milk eventually.) 

No, I don't make them stay on milk forever, but I sure as heck don't rush the solids anymore or continuously feed a baby mush just so they can spit it out and drip it on the high chair. 

Now I wait until they are grabbing and sitting and being very obvious about how much they WANT big boy/girl food.  It isn't because I am so crunchy or because I don't want to pay for jarred baby food.  I wait to start solids now because I know about the solids poop. 

So boys, next time you want to make a recommendation about feeding babies solids, go change a few toddler diapers. 

I am pretty sure you will re-think your stance on things and encourage breast milk as long as possible, and solids when a baby WANTS them.  Not before. 

Yours truly,

Baby-led weaning mothers of the world

My last one started solids at about eight months and is as happy and healthy as a clam.  I am however, now changing big girl diapers.  Yuck.


Anonymous said…
Yes, so very true. This summer my then year and a half year old was sick and ONLY nursed all week. Her diapers went back to infant diapers. I didn't like that she was sick of course but happy she still got the good medicine milk and the simple diaper changes :)

One of the hilarious reasons people have complained about 'baby led weaning' where you let the kid put their food in their mouth is...and PEOPLE actually wrote this on a thread..... "How will they learn how to use a spoon?" Um, by picking it up and spooning food and putting it into their mouth. Babies are not idiots...if they see the rest of the family using the spoon to put soup in their mouths the babe will catch on....*roll eyes.
Sara said…
Totally and absolutely agree! We did EC, though, and that helped a lot. She also didn't start eating solids until 8 months, and by then was almost always pooping in the potty, yay! I'm hoping this boy will be as cooperative with the EC, but I'm not counting on it!
Ally Grace said…
Oh my goodness, I love this!
Tracy said…
Yep, I hesitated the second time around b/c of the poop! lol We did BLW and loved it. I have a section for it on my blog to help spread the word. ;)
The Quinns said…
Ok I have some questions-anyone feel free to chime in bc I'm feeling clueless! I followed this rule blindly with my first. Started rice cereal at 4 mos with little success. My doc said of she's not ready and not taking it wait a couple weeks try again. I did this and @ 5 mos added fruit and she liked it and we were off. I introduced finger food at 8 mos and it was a novelty she liked but didn't add any nutrition yet-the avocado chunks were fun but not adding to her diet until closer to 10 mos. I introduced more and more for the fun aspect and the letting her learn to feed with her hands thing and by 12 mos she was feeding herself her own solid meals and completely off of puréed food, still fed her yogurt sometimes for breakfast. She's 3 and a great eater of all 'adult foods' and cottage cheese spinach shrimp and raw red bell peppers are her favs! Thought I did pretty good. Baby #2 comes and I've learned rice cereal isn't necessary to keep her alive at 4 mos so my approach was a little different. I made my own baby food and heard whole grain organic brown rice cereal was beneficial as opposed to the white paste crap so I start her on fruit purées with the dry cereal mixed in for the help of consistency. I introduced for the first time at 5 mos when she could sit unassisted for very brief periods of time but was by no means a sitter. She mastered it by 6 mos. Never gave her just the brown rice and bm mix-just straight into fruit with the dry rice mixed in sometimes depending on how runny the purée was. Started giving her finger food at 7 mos again just for the fun of it and to start the learning process. She will be 8 mos on the 19th and eats homemade baby food 3x a day to her fullness level. Have to give it a hour before or after milk or else she won't take one or the other. By doing this she hasn't dropped any feelings or lowered her milk intake. So here's my question after this oh so long lead up- what's the deal with don't start solids at 4 mos? I personally didn't have any success until 5 mos with both of mine do I can see that but by 7/8 mos it's a combo of mama with a spoon baby with her hands. So that she's learning to feed herself but I'm also able to make sure she's being exposed to lots of different favors and textures I can't get in her via finger food yet and the vitamins and nutrients of all that organic homemade baby food. I guess I'm just wondering what the downside of my approach is (other than the diapers bc I'm sooo with ya on that one mama birth!) Does introducing it this early lead to problems I've just been lucky to avoid or is there more to this that I'm missing? I am totally just in the dark on this so I am honestly asking for info not in any way saying the way I've done it works for me so it just must be right! I'm looking for info and yall's opinions on this so I know for future kiddos and can be more informed if there is a better way!! Help! Thanks!

Cluelessly armed with a rubber tipped spoon
Mama Birth said…
Quinn- I had one kid who BEGGED for food at four months, so I did give her some. She did feed herself at that point so since she was showing all the signs I considered necessary (grabbing, sitting, screaming if I didn't give her something, putting food from her tray to her mouth) I went ahead and fed her. I am not up on all the research on waiting to start solids until 6 months- I believe the rice cereal early can be linked to type 2 diabetes? And I have heard that their gut isn't developed enough to handle food before that point? But this is not something I have studied.
My personal experience is that when they are ready they will want it and when they aren't it will just be a struggle.
I did rice at 4 months with my first too! So don't feel bad- I don't!
Mary Siever said…
It's not a good idea to start solids at 4 months because your baby's gut is still not fully developed and digestive problems or allergy problems can arise. It's better to wait. And of course, babies LOVE fruit, because it is sweet and they crave that sugar (heck, I do too). When you do start solids (please, no earlier than 4 months), avocado is the best first food. It is better to make your own baby food, but don't worry about starting grains until much later. I have 4 children who I have completely delayed solids with (until they were a year old, except my second was 10 months) and it has been the best thing. Even then I didn't start with fruits and certainly not rice cereal, ever. They quickly ate and enjoyed food and all have good, healthy appetites.
Mary Siever said…
But yes, I agree, don't beat yourself up, there is no need. You do the best you can! Just know, for the future.
GondolaQueen said…
Here in Wpg, the 'guidelines' coming from the WRHA, and the Dr's offices have been, "Wait until your child can sit up unassisted, and makes the 'um-um' mouth intentionally... Which comes between 5-6 months usually... Until this time, the digestive tract is still very immature... Solids should not be introduced before this point for a variety of reasons"

I wonder if the health community where I live is ahead of the times so far, or if the community you live in is still behind. Makes me laugh though, all the 'recommendations' and advice given is just that. Guidelines. My oldest was ready for food at 4 months, my youngest not until 7 months. I just find it hilarious when people from my mother (or gramma's) generation feel qualified to give 'medical' advice. Child rearing advice, I'll take it, but medical advice not so much. :D
GondolaQueen said…
Also, the advice from the dr's/ nurses in my area has centered on giving MEAT as a first food (I'd never heard of avacado first- but since they are great for iron, fatty acids and calories it makes good sense).

At 6 months, the natural iron stores that babies have accumulated have since depleted, and babies REQUIRE iron levels that are 3x the daily level of an adult male.

So the first foods introduced (fortified cereals and meats) should always include iron. Low iron can lead to a life long anemia problem, low blood cell count etc.

Side note: Waiting to 1 year before giving any food can be dangerous if you are breastfeeding exclusively. Breast milk does NOT contain iron. If you aren't feeding any solids a t all, an iron supplement of some kind is necessary. Or give the kid a couple tablespoons of baby cereal once a day if only for the iron.

Also, babies teeth faster and easier when they are allowed to eat solids (not strictly purees).

So, take all of the information you find with a grain of salt, because five years from now, there will be new info saying, "Never, ever feed a baby before 3 years" or "Start feeding solids at 1 month or your baby will be stupid" it's all changing constantly, and you need to do what's right for you and your family.

Someone is always going to disagree, or be snide about your choices. I have no trouble telling my overly bossy family to F off.