I still get a lot of questions about starting solid foods in a baby. The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is somewhat confusing as the latest recommendation is that mother's should exclusively breast feed for the first 6 months of life...which means you do not start solid foods until 6 months. But, the recommendation for formula fed infants is to begin introduction of solid foods between 4-6 months of age.
I recommend that parents routinely wait until their baby (whether breast or bottle fed) is about 5 1/2 months old to begin solid foods.. For a first baby, parents are really anxious to start cereal as they think it will, "make them sleep all night", or want to try out all of those spoons people gave them as gifts. Those cute grand parents perpetuate the idea that cereal=sleep. Again, a myth, the majority of children are sleeping by 4 months of age whether breast or bottle fed, and no cereal. Cereal is less calorie dense than milk! If we all drank breast milk or formula all day long we would definitely have weight problems, but for the first 4-6 months of life milk is all the baby needs.
Whether you start your baby on solid foods at 4 or 6 months, it is important that you do give your child infant cereal. Whether you want to use rice cereal, oatmeal or mixed grains, baby cereal is iron and zinc fortified. The amount of iron and zinc in fruits, vegetables and even baby food meats is actually very low. Baby cereals also provide vitamin B and other vitamins that are important for a baby's nutrition.
So, for parents who want to make their own baby food fruits, vegies and meats I am all for that. Did you know that there is more iron in pureed cooked meats than in infant prepared jar meats? But not all parents cook and some are uncomfortable in pureeing food at home.
At the same time, I encourage families to continue baby cereals for as long as they can. For first children that may be until they are even 15-18 months of age. They don't "know" that there are other cereals out there. Mixing in some fruit will make that baby cereal just taste great as well as increase the absorption of iron. Those toddlers will learn that we have Cheerios and Corn Flakes, and if it is your 2nd, 3 rd or even 4th child, they know about Cocoa Puffs and Fruit Loops by the age of one and are reaching for their siblings Captain Crunch.
Birth order does play a role in foods introduction!