1. When should I start introducing solids to my baby?

When should I start introducing solids to my baby?

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.

Look out for the following sings of developmental readiness:

  1. Your baby can maintain a sitting position and can hold her head steady
  2. Your baby can pick up food and navigate it to her mouth
  3. Your baby can swallow food (look for loss of the tongue thrust reflex)

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.

Common signs mistaken for readiness

  • Starting to wake more frequently at night
  • Seems hungrier than usual
  • Starts to suck fists and chew things
  • Shows an interest in food when parents eating

These are normal behaviours but not necessarily signs of readiness for solids…

When is too early to start 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.

When is too late to start your baby on solids?

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:

  • Food allergies (too early OR too late)
  • Being fussy and not accepting lumps
  • Iron deficiency

Why do babies need solids?

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.

Nutritional reasons

  • Iron requirements increase from 7 months due to iron stores running out
  • ‘Critical nutrients’ – iron, energy, protein, zinc, omega 3 fats

Developmental reasons

  • Biting and chewing skills
  • To develop muscles around the mouth
  • Increase motor skills

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