Jump on google and look up “when do I start my baby on solids” and you’re going to come up with all sorts of answers and reasons that contradict the last. Start at 4 months, wait until over 6 months… “food before one is just for fun”.. stories of aunts putting cereal in bottles at 3 months and a friend’s child who didn’t really eat anything until 10 months!
Readiness for solid foods is very much a developmental milestone, like taking, crawling and walking. Each baby will be ready at slightly different times, based more on their ability to eat food and to tolerate it. One thing we can rely on, is that your baby knows when she is ready! One of my little ones was grabbing for forks and swiping our broccoli off plates a few weeks before 6 months… waiting seemed impossible! He didn’t give us a choice, he just ate. Another one of my babes sat on my lap in a favorite breakfast spot, and at 9 months old ate a piece of bacon and buttered toast. My husband and I laughed – we had completely forgotten to start solids with this third child and she simply helped herself when she was ready too (read: don’t follow this example!).
Babies are brilliant.. they really do know when and how much they need to eat.
When their body can tolerate new foods, they begin to eat it! They show us signs that they are ready, all of which are skills conveniently required to eat. She should be able to sit up unassisted, and reach and grab the piece of food. Then, she should be able to bring that food to her mouth, open and chew. If she tries to push the food out with her tongue, almost as though she is trying to drink it, she isn’t quite ready for solids. When you observe most of these, it’s time to start!
Waiting until true readiness has many benefits:
1. Protecting your babies gut health and preventing picky eaters:
Start solids when your baby is actually ready, and skip the cereals and purées!! It’s ok to provide only a milk diet, until foods are truly needed. When starting, remember that chewing is important. It’s the first stage of digestion and helps your baby learn how to process new foods.
2. Teaching the baby to listen to and respond to their hunger cues:
Older babies can feed themselves and regulate their intake of food. When we feed them spooned pureed, they aren’t in control of what and how much they eat. A compliant baby could easily overeat! Let them feed themselves and they will develop the right feeding habits.
3. Creates less work for you!!
Skipping the purees and cereals altogether means that you don’t have to spend time steaming, processing and freezing all sorts of foods. Your baby can simply start with your normal family foods (prepared appropriately). I’m a huge fan of making life easier for parents! This is the way. Introducing solid foods in a baby-led way, is the way to go. Research and babies alike just love this “new” (very old) idea. Have fun, make mealtimes social, and trust that your babies know what they need, when offered a variety of healthy foods!
Ashley Pickett is an IBCLC Lactation Consultant, Babywearing Educator, Infant Sleep Educator, AATH Parenting Coach, and Birth Doula in Oakville, Ontario. When she isn’t in her private clinic (www.abatonim.com) or working at The International Breastfeeding Center (www.ibconline.ca – “The Newman Clinic”) she is teaching classes, running Babywearing, Breastfeeding and Parenting drop ins, playing with her Boston Terrier ‘Rocky’, or cheering on her children’s hockey and rugby games