In light of the nationwide baby formula shortage, many parents are left with limited options for feeding their infant children.
This has left many parents wondering if their child is ready to be introduced to purées and solid food to reduce their formula intake.
According to Dr. Mona Amin, a pediatrician with Pediatric Associates, there are several factors a parent should consider before introducing a baby to purées and solid food.
How early can I introduce purées and solid food to my baby?
"The minimum age is 4 months," says Dr. Amin.
Regardless if your baby starts to show any signs of readiness or interest in solid food before 4 months old, Dr. Amin recommends parents wait for the developmental maturity of their child's stomach — which typically occurs at 4 months old.
According to Dr. Amin, a child's digestive system may not be able to handle infections or the proteins found in most of the food we consume due to the lack of developmental maturity of their stomach.
BABY FORMULA SHORTAGE
What do I do if the shortage remains and my baby shows signs of readiness before 4 months?
There's age and developmental readiness," says Dr. Amin. "And developmental readiness is actually much more important to me than age for introduction of purées."
Dr. Amin says that a child who is nearing 4-month mark, may be able to tolerate the introduction of purées if they are displaying signs of readiness.
These signs of readiness include good control over the child's own head and showing interest in eating purées and solid food before trying to introduce it.
Dr. Amin says a good sign of interest is — when you put a spoon with purée close to the child's mouth — they will try to take a bite. However, if the child turns their head, avoids the food, or just blankly stares at you, they are not interested.
Children should also be able to take the food from the front to the back of their mouth without spitting it back out, according to Dr. Amin.
This information can be helpful for parents of 3-and-a-half-month-old children that are rapidly running out of formula and are desperate for alternatives.
If I begin to introduce my baby to purées, can I feed less formula?
"Even if you do introduce the food as early as four months, I don't expect a significant reduction in the formula intake," says Dr. Amin.
Dr. Amin warns that a misconception about introduction to purées is that a child will suddenly need significantly less formula.
Instead, Dr. Amin says a regular reduction of formula intake should start around 7 or 8 months old.
However, she says that amid the baby formula shortage, the benefit of purées is that they can help "stretch, just ever so slightly, the amount of formula."
"Maybe instead of taking a 4-ounce bottle, he'll take a 3-ounce bottle because he had some puréed peas," says Dr. Amin.