Many parents are confused about when to start feeding their babies solid foods. No wonder there is confusion- the recommendations moms and dads are given vary drastically. Some people may suggest starting to give baby rice cereal in a bottle at just a few months of age (without medical necessity), while other may say that delaying the introduction of solids until the first birthday is beneficial.
Unfortunately, there is no specific age at which a baby is ‘ready’. Each baby is different and their little bodies are geared up for solid food at different ages. Thankfully, there are physical signs that baby will display when she is ready for solids. Usually babies can start solids around the middle of the first year of life, i.e. around six months. Your baby will let you know when it’s time by reaching the following milestones (see also La Leche League International):
Baby can sit up without support. Nowadays we have so many ways to artificially sit a baby up, e.g. in a highchair or a Bumbo, etc. It is important that baby is able to sit up unsupported, i.e. by herself on the floor.
Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex. This is a great reflex babies are born with- objects are thrust back out of the baby’s mouth by her tongue to prevent her from chocking. As long as this reflex is still present, baby is not yet able to keep solid food in her mouth to chew or swallow. Food will be pushed back out of the baby’s mouth, which can be very frustrating for parents when they are trying to introduce solids.
Baby has developed the pincer grasp. Babies learn to pick items up between their thumb and forefinger, including food. You’ll quickly realize when this skill has been learned- baby will be sticking every little crumb she finds on the floor in her mouth.
Baby is constantly hungry, despite frequent nursing. At a certain point, some babies are no longer satisfied by the calories they receive from breast milk (or formula) and additional food may be necessary.
If your baby is showing these signs, you can start introducing some solids. Ideally, baby will be able to feed herself and you don’t have to bother with spoon feeding. Breast milk/ formula will remain the primary source for calories throughout the first year and in most cases, solid foods are not necessary, but most babies like to start experimenting with foods for the tastes and textures.
Some babies show signs of being interested in food, grabbing at the parent’s plate or making chewing motions, before they are physically ready. Just remember that there is no rush and breast milk (or formula) is the main source of nutrition during baby’s first year. Of course, if baby just grabs food off your plate, chews and swallows it, she might really be ready.
If you are interested in learning about the concept of baby led weaning, check out this website: http://www.babyledweaning.com/