Introduction of Solids and Speech Development
My friend has a 5 month old, exclusively breastfed baby. Her health professionals insist she must begin to introduce solids or his speech will be delayed. Is there any evidence for this? Her older child is slow to speak but had problems with glue ear. She is happy to continue feeding him and he is gaining weight. Is there a need for solids yet?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that solid foods not be introduced until the 4th to 6th month of life. Many babies, even when given the chance to eat solids, are not interested in them until several months later. Breastmilk remains the most important component of a healthy diet during a baby's first year of life.
Breastfeeding is very important in enhancing proper facial development in infants. Since nursing takes 60 times more (positive) effort than drinking from a bottle, this encourages proper facial formation and muscle strength. This helps with later speech development. (Broad, 1971, 1973) Babies begin preparing for good speech development at their mother's breast.
Another very positive aspect of continuing the nursing relationship is the protection against infection that is conveyed by breastfeeding. Repeated ear infections can impact on a baby's hearing and consequently his speech development. Breastfeeding has been found to be protective against ear infections.
The only reason I could think of that an older child might be speech delayed by not eating solids, is if solids were deliberately withheld when a baby was showing great interest. I'm sure this is not the case with a baby 5 months of age. Follow the AAP recommendations for starting solids, but also take into account the baby's development and interests. It does not benefit anyone to push solid foods. Offer solid foods and allow the baby to control his feeds. Wishing you and your friend the best!