Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, or a combination of them both, eventually your baby will need to start eating solid foods. It’s an exciting transition. But can also be stressful and leave you feeling unsure of when and how to start. Recommendations seem to always change and old-school advice from well-meaning loved ones can add to the uncertainty. Here are some current guidelines as well as some practical tips to help with this new stage.
The World Health Organization, as well as the Canadia Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby’s life. Of course, that doesn’t always work out as planned and so a commercially prepared formula is a safe and sufficient alternative. The rationale behind the six-month recommendation has to do with the maturity of your baby’s digestive tract. If you start solid foods before your baby is ready it may lead to digestive tract upset (gas, constipation) and your baby may not be able to absorb the nutrients from the food well. Your baby may also be more susceptible to illnesses if solid food is started too soon.
There are also several developmental signs that your baby is ready to start solid foods. These include:
- Baby can sit up on their own or with minimal support, and has strong head control
- Baby’s tongue-thrust reflex has become less prominent and they will not automatically push food out of their mouth
- Baby can pick up items using their fist (palmar grasp)
- Baby is interested in mealtimes and may try to grab food off your plate or opens wide when food is near
Most babies reach this stage around six months old. If your baby is younger than six months and not showing all signs of being ready, you can still involve them in mealtimes. Sit them at the table with you, and give them baby spoons, forks, and plates to play with at the table.
No matter when you do start giving your baby solid foods, start small and work your way up. If you are starting with purees, begin with easy, bland food (bananas, avocado) and slowly increase the texture and variety of foods you offer. Alternatively, you can offer safely prepared table foods if you are practicing Baby-Led Weaning. Ideally, iron-rich and nutrient-dense foods will make up a large portion of the foods you offer. It takes some time and some trial and error but ultimately you want mealtimes to be an enjoyable time for everyone. Breast or bottle feeding should also continue to be a major source of nutrition for your baby until approximately 12 months old.
Want to learn more about starting solids? Connect with your closest Mama Coach to learn more about our educational feeding workshops and CPR classes.