Most full-term, typically developing infants are ready to start solid foods around six months of age based on signs of readiness. It’s a myth that your child should be a certain age or a certain weight to start solid foods. What’s more important is for them to meet key developmental milestones. These will be important for your child’s safety and success when starting solids.
Here are a few signs that your baby may be ready to start solid food:
- Sitting: Your infant has sufficient trunk stability to allow them to sit with minimal support
- Showing Interest: Your infant shows interest in food by leaning forward when food is near, opening their mouth, and watching you eat
- Bringing objects to mouth: Your infant can reach for, pick up objects, and bring them to their mouth independently
- Head control: Your infant is able to hold their head upright and steady without support (we should avoid feeding infants in the recline position!)
- Tongue thrust reflex beginning to disappear: This reflex is when your child’s tongue or lips touch an object, their tongue automatically moves forward. This reflex gradually disappears beginning around six months. If it is still prominent, your child’s tongue will push offered food out of their mouth. This reflex does not have to be completely gone to start solids.
It is important to speak with your child’s healthcare provider prior to starting solids. They will help you assess your child’s development as well as identify any risk factors (i.e. allergies) to determine if there are any special recommendations you should be aware of.
Once your child is ready to begin eating solid foods, we want to take advantage of this window of opportunity! You may have heard the phrase, “Food before one is just for fun!” This is actually a myth.
For the first year, breastmilk or formula is still your infant’s primary source of nutrition, and solids are a complement. Don’t let this sway you into thinking that solids don’t matter before the age of 12 months. The initial six months of providing solid foods to your baby have key implications for their health and development:
- Around six months old a baby is typically very open to trying new flavors and textures. If you miss this window of opportunity to introduce solid foods, you may run into challenges once your infant enters the stage of being more hesitant to try new things.
- Newer research suggests that introducing highly allergenic foods around 6 months (like peanuts) and continuing to offer them frequently, may decrease an infant’s risk of developing an allergy
- Delaying solids can have a negative impact on your child’s oral and motor development. It’s important for babies to begin to learn to safely manage textures in their mouth during the optimal “motor” window, which based on research is between six and seven months old.
So, once you’ve gotten the okay from your healthcare provider, start providing your infant with age-appropriate opportunities to explore the tastes and textures of complementary foods. This is such a fun and exciting milestone – enjoy!
Learn more about my Starting Solids Safely online course here.