This is a common question I get asked in my weaning workshops and in my clinics….what is the ‘ideal’ time to start introducing solids to a baby? There is no short answer to this question, as each baby is unique, however there are some guidelines you can follow to help you decide.
The first thing to say is try not to “calendar watch” as each baby will reach developmental milestones at slightly different times. Instead, try to look for your individual baby’s signs of ‘developmental readiness’ to help you decide if your baby is ready for solids.
When your baby is showing ALL these signs, he/she is ready to start solids. This is usually ‘around 6 months of age’, but might be slightly before or slightly after (but do not delay weaning beyond 6 months or 26 weeks of age). The key is to look out for the 3 signs of developmental readiness mentioned above.
These are normal behaviours but not necessarily signs of readiness for solids…
It is widely agreed that starting solids BEFORE 4 months (17 weeks) is too early, as research has shown that there is an increased risk of infections, food allergies, obesity later in life and also the kidneys and gastrointestinal system are still too immature for solids at this time.
We also know that waiting too long (beyond 7 months of age) is too late to start introducing solids to your baby as they will run out of stores of critical nutrients such as iron by this age.
Research has shown that if weaning is delayed too long (beyond 7 months) then this increases the risk of:
Remember that there are BOTH nutritional and developmental reasons why babies need to be introduced to solids (see below). Breast milk or infant formula milk will continue to provide a significant source of nutrition to your baby throughout their first year of life and beyond, but foods are needed in addition to milk from six months of age to ‘complement’ their milk intake.