Answer: In a word, “yes”. A five month old baby doesn’t need any food besides breast milk. Baby food is less nutritious than breast milk, so you are substituting an inferior food for a superior one. Even if your baby was six months or older, two jars of food with cereal is way too much. The baby food companies love to take your money for that Stage I and Stage II stuff, but your baby doesn’t need it, and feeding him so much baby food this early can contribute to allergies as well as obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) officially recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months in order to “to support optimal growth and development”.
“Optimal” means the very best, no matter how you look at it.
“Exclusively” means that you don’t need to give your baby anything besides breast milk for the first 6 months – no water, juice, formula, or cereal because he doesn’t need anything else.
If you read the labels on the box of cereal, you’ll notice that it says “iron fortified”. This is because formula fed babies need iron earlier than six months, because the iron in formula isn’t absorbed as well as that in breast milk.
If you wait til your baby shows signs of readiness for solids – like sitting up by himself, picking up small objects with thumb and finger (‘pincer grasp’), and grabbing food off your plate, you can start to introduce table foods like bananas, avocado, pasta, tofu, or shreds of chicken. Babies this age love to sit in a high chair and feed themselves, so you can skip the whole spoon feeding thing. Finger feeding is messy, but babies love it, and some of the food will actually get into their mouths!
When you’re breastfeeding, your baby’s nutritional bases are covered, because breast milk is such a complete food. Solids during the first year are more to get him used to different tastes and textures.
Buying commercial baby food is expensive. If you wait til he’s ready for table food, and look at solids as a way to complement his diet, you won’t have to worry about getting him to finish that expensive jar of strained peaches. You can save the store bought food for times when you really need it, like when you eat out and the food is too seasoned or spicy.
For more information about feeding your baby foods other than breast milk, see Starting Solids: When Waiting is Worth It.
Anne Smith, IBCLC