Dangers of Feeding Your Baby Solids Too Soon

Feeding a baby for the first time with solid food
Karl Tapales / Getty Images

If you're a new parent, the question of when to start your baby on solid food can feel daunting. Well-meaning family members and friends have their own beliefs about introducing solids and may expect you to agree with their opinions. But starting solid foods too early can have health consequences.

If your baby seems to want solids, or you're hoping solid food will calm fussiness, you might be eager to get started. Before you do, take a look at what the research says about when to start your baby on solids, including baby food.

What Doctors Say

Introducing solid food before your baby reaches four months of age raises the risk of increased weight gain and obesity, both in infancy and later in early childhood. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates waiting until your baby is at least four months old to introduce solid food. Even better, says the organization, is to wait until your baby is six months old.

A study published in Pediatrics (the journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics) in 2011 specifically investigated the relationship between the timing of introducing solids and the subsequent risk of childhood obesity. The researchers looked at how the introduction of solids might affect the rate of obesity in preschool-aged children.

The study's findings indicated that among the infants who were never breastfed (or who stopped breastfeeding before four months old), introducing solids before the age of four months was associated with a six-fold increase in the odds of obesity at age three.

In the past, experts had argued that formula-fed infants experience "rapid early growth" (formula-fed infants tended to gain weight more quickly at the beginning than breastfed babies did). However, the 2011 study found that rapid early growth did not explain the increased risk of obesity in preschool-age children.

Starting Solids for Breastfed Babies 

Interestingly, the 2011 study also found that for babies who were breastfed, the timing of introducing solid foods was not associated with increased obesity risk.

There was little difference in the rates of obesity between breastfed infants who started solids before four months, those who started between four and five months, and those who started at or after six months.

It seems the rates of obesity in breastfed babies were quite similar, but does that mean that parents who breastfeed should feel confident that they can start solids as soon as they want? Not exactly.

Keep in mind that this study considered only one health risk: obesity. While there was no substantial connection between the timing of introducing solids to breastfed infants and their risk of preschool obesity, the study still urged parents to stick with the AAP's suggested timing for starting solids—about six months of age.

When to Start Solids

Ultimately, your baby's age and a conversation with your pediatrician should be what determines when you introduce solid foods into your little one's diet. You might notice signs that your baby is ready for solid foods, such as strong head and neck control and the ability to sit up independently. However, these indicators do not replace a discussion with your baby's doctor. 

Once you decide to start your baby on solids, it's common to have lots of questions, such as whether to start with baby cerealwhich foods to introduce (and when), and whether they should introduce juice too. Ask your pediatrician any questions you have about your baby's nutrition and diet.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Huh SY, Rifas-Shiman SL, Taveras EM, Oken E, Gillman MW. Timing of solid food introduction and risk of obesity in preschool-aged childrenPediatrics. 2011;127(3):e544-e551. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-0740

  2. Clayton HB, Li R, Perrine CG, Scanlon KS. Prevalence and Reasons for Introducing Infants Early to Solid Foods: Variations by Milk Feeding TypePediatrics. 2013;131(4):e1108-e1114. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2265

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Development of infant feeding skills.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.