At about 4 to 5 months of age, the “swallowing reflex” in babies has usually developed to the stage where they become able to transfer food from the front of the tongue to the back of the tongue, to swallow. This heralds the time when semi-solid foods can be introduced with careful feeding from the lip of a spoon.
Should we start feeding then? The WHO has advocated exclusive breastfeeding — that is, no semi-solid food items, nor even water — until 6 months of age. However, this was intended essentially for those developing countries in which potable water is unavailable, or hygiene standards are low.
Research currently being undertaken within Australia is already suggesting that when new food items are introduced at 4 to 6 months of age, the likelihood of subsequent food allergies is reduced compared to those infants who were not introduced to new foods until after 6 months of age.
The reticence to introduce new foods before 6 to 8 months of age, may be one of several factors that is contributing to the unexplained massive increase in food allergies in children that we are now experiencing.