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What do the experts say?
Health experts and breastfeeding experts agree that it’s best to wait until your baby is around six months old before offering solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and many other health organizations recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed (no cereal, juice or other foods) for the first 6 months of life. I’m not going into the many health benefits of delaying solids here; see When Should Baby Start Solids? for more information.
Developmental signs that baby is ready for solids
Solids readiness depends on both the maturity of baby’s digestive tract and baby’s developmental readiness for solids. Although the maturity of baby’s digestive system is not something that we can readily observe, research indicates that 6 months appears to be ideal for avoiding increased illness and other health risks of too-early solids. After this point, different babies are ready for solids at different times — developmental readiness for solids cannot be determined using a calendar. Most babies are developmentally ready for solids somewhere between 6 and 8 months.
Signs that indicate baby is developmentally ready for solids include:
- Baby can sit up well without support.
- Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.
- Baby is ready and willing to chew.
- Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.
- Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.
We often state that a sign of solids readiness is when baby exhibits a long-term increased demand to breastfeed (sometime around 6 months or later) that is unrelated to illness, teething pain, a change in routine or a growth spurt. However, it can be hard to judge whether baby’s increased breastfeeding is related to readiness for solids. Many 6-month-old babies are teething, growth spurting, beginning to experience separation anxiety, and experiencing many other developmental changes that can lead to increased breastfeeding – sometimes all at once! Make sure you look at all the signs of solids readiness as a whole, because increased breastfeeding alone is not likely to be an accurate guide to baby’s readiness.
More on developmental readiness…
In April 2001, a literature review “of the developmental readiness of normal full term infants to progress from exclusive breastfeeding to the introduction of complementary foods” was jointly published by Wellstart International and the LINKAGES Project. Per the authors, “The review does not focus on health outcomes associated with discontinuing exclusive breastfeeding at a particular age but rather on the biologic/developmental readiness for this complex experience. Four processes or functions were selected for inclusion: gastrointestinal, immunologic, oral motor and the maternal reproductive processes that relate to the continuation of lactation and the provision of breastmilk.”
Following are some of the conclusions of this review:
- “Thus, exclusive breastfeeding to about six months allows the infant to have greater immunologic protection and limit the exposure to pathogens at a vulnerable age. This in turn permits the energy and nutrients that might otherwise be diverted to provide for immunologic responses to be available and utilized for other growth and developmental processes.”
- “These clinical reports indicate that the majority of normal full term infants are not developmentally ready for the transition from suckling to sucking or for managing semi-solids and solid foods in addition to liquids until between 6 and 8 months of age.”
- “Using this available information on the development of oral motor function, maternal reproductive physiology and development of the infant’s immunologic and gastrointestinal function, the expert review team concluded that the probable age of readiness for most full term infants to discontinue exclusive breastfeeding and begin complementary foods appears to be near six months or perhaps a little beyond. The also felt that there is probable convergence of such readiness across the several relevant processes.”
- “The consensus opinion of the expert review group was that given the available information and the lack of evidence of significant harm to either normal mothers or normal infants, there is no reason to conclude that exclusive breastfeeding should not continue to six months.”
What about starting solids AFTER 6 months? At what point does baby need nutrition from solids that cannot be provided by breastmilk alone?
Medical research tells us that exclusive breastfeeding allows babies to thrive for the first 6 months. In the words of the World Health Organization,
“Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants… A recent review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants.”
But what if baby is not very interested in solids at six months? Babies who are not yet interested in solid foods can and do thrive on breastmilk alone until 9-12 months or later. You might hear people say, “Food before one is just for fun,” but perhaps this should be changed to “Food before one is mainly for fun.” As long as your baby is continuing to grow and develop as he should, your milk is meeting his needs well. Sometime after six months, however, babies will gradually begin to need more iron and zinc than that provided by breastmilk alone – at that point, additional nutrients can be obtained from small amounts of solids. If your baby chooses to continue exclusive breastfeeding, simply keep an eye on growth and iron status, continue to watch your baby for signs that he is ready for solids, and offer appropriate solids for him to try – baby can decide whether or not to eat them. No matter when baby begins solid foods, breastmilk should make up the majority of baby’s nutrition through the end of the first year.
What if my 4-5 month old seems developmentally ready for solids?
Four- to five-month-old babies are sometimes very eager to participate at mealtime, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ready to eat solids – more often it’s just the normal developmental urge to do what everyone else is doing. Research studies tell us that there are many health advantages to delaying solids for about 6 months for all babies, not just the babies who are not yet interested in mealtime.
There are a number of things you can do to let baby participate in mealtimes without starting solids:
- Let baby sit with the family at mealtime – in a lap, booster seat or high chair.
- Give baby a cup of water or expressed milk. Your baby can entertain himself at mealtime while learning to use a cup. 1-3 ounces of water in the cup should be plenty (often for the entire day). Many moms choose to use only water or a small amount of breastmilk to avoid wasting the “liquid gold” while baby learns to use the cup.
- Offer baby sips of water from your cup or straw. Even if baby hasn’t figured out how to use a straw yet, you can put your straw in water, block the top end of the straw with your finger to trap a little water in the straw, then let baby drink the water from the lower end of the straw (unblock the top end once it’s in baby’s mouth).
- Offer baby spoons, cups, bowls and other baby-safe eating utensils to play with during mealtime.
- Give baby an ice cube (if it’s a baby-safe size & shape) or ice chips to play with.
- Offer baby a momsicle (popsicle made from breastmilk) or slushy frozen breastmilk to eat with a spoon.
Myths about solids readiness
There are many myths and outdated information regarding how to tell if baby is ready for solids.
MYTH: Baby’s weight has reached a “magic” number
Just because your baby achieves “x” number of pounds, or has doubled birth weight, (or however much your baby weighs) does not mean that she is automatically ready for solids – particularly if she is under 6 months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics/World Health Organization recommendations for starting solids at 6 months or later has no exceptions for babies who weigh more. The research that I’ve seen on the health benefits of starting solids at 6 months and later holds for all babies, no matter what their weight.
It’s the maturity of the digestive tract and baby’s developmental readiness that makes the difference, not baby’s weight.
It’s rather interesting to note that moms are told to start solids for both big and small babies. It’s not even uncommon to hear opposite arguments for both sides from the same person!
MYTH: “Your baby is big so you need to start solids.”
Moms might be told to start solids for differing reasons when they have a large baby.
Some are told that since baby is big, they won’t be able to produce enough milk to satisfy baby. This is quite untrue – almost all mothers have the ability to produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed twins and even triplets. If you allow your baby to nurse on cue, your body will make enough milk for your baby. In addition, research tells us that exclusively breastfed babies do not increase the amount of milk they drink after the first 4 weeks or so – after the first month, milk intake stays constant (except for temporary appetite spurts) until sometime after six months when baby begins to eat more solid foods and decrease milk intake.
Other moms are told that baby is eating too much, so mom should reduce baby’s intake by limiting nursing and/or starting solids. There is absolutely NO evidence that a large breastfed baby will become a large child or adult, and limiting nursing can be quite dangerous for a baby. Read more here: Is my exclusively breastfed baby gaining too much weight?
MYTH: “Your baby is small so you need to start solids.”
Another reason often given for starting solids is because baby is small (see Normal Growth of Breastfed Babies). I really don’t see the sense in this. Ounce for ounce, breastmilk has more calories than most baby-safe solid foods and significantly more nutrients than any type of solid food that you can feed your baby. Studies have shown that for babies under six months, solids tend toreplacebreastmilk in a baby’s diet – they do not add to baby’s total intake (WHO 2003,Cohen 1994,Dewey 1999). Sostarting solids will probably reduce (instead of increase) the amount of milk and calories that your baby is getting overall. One of the first recommendations for a baby who genuinely has slow weight gain is to decrease or eliminate solid foods and breastfeed more often.
MYTH: Baby needs to start solids because there is not enough iron in breastmilk.
An additional reason given for starting solids is the “lack of iron in breastmilk.” Breastmilk does have lower iron levels than formula, but the iron in breastmilk is more readily absorbed by the baby’s gut than the iron in formula. Also, formula-fed babies tend to lose iron through fissures that develop in their intestines as a result of damage from cow’s milk. Breastfed babies do not lose this iron. At some point after the first 6 months (later in the first year for a lot of babies), babies will require an additional source of iron other than mother’s milk. This can most often be obtained through small amounts of solid food. Read more on iron and the breastfed baby here: Is Iron Supplementation Necessary?.
MYTH: Baby needs solids so he will sleep longer at night.
The popular belief that feeding solids at night will help baby sleep through the night has no basis in fact. See Will giving formula or solids at night help baby to sleep better?
Return to Solid Foods and the Breastfed Baby
How you should know that the baby is developmentally ready for solid food? ›
Signs that it's time to introduce solids
has good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported. shows an interest in food – for example, they look at what's on your plate. reaches out for your food. opens their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon.
Your child can begin eating solid foods at about 6 months old. By the time he or she is 7 or 8 months old, your child can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. These foods include infant cereals, meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts and cheeses, and more.Why is it important to wait until baby is ready before starting solid food? ›
Introducing foods or fluids other than breastmilk to your baby before she is 6 months old can increase her risk of illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which can make her thin and weak, and even be life-threatening. Your baby may also breastfeed less often, so your supply of milk, her most vital food, may decrease.What are some signs that indicate the infant's readiness to consume solid foods? ›
- 9/2021. USDA CHILD AND ADULT CARE FOOD PROGRAM.
- Developmental Readiness. ...
- Infant Readiness Guidelines for Solid. ...
- • The infant is able to sit in a high chair, feeding seat, or. ...
- • The infant opens his mouth when food. ...
- • The infant can move food from a spoon. ...
- • ...
- It is important to maintain constant.
In developed countries it is safe to introduce complementary foods by the age of six months but not before four months. The European guidelines for the introduction of solid/complementary foods is between four and six months28.What are 4 developmental signs an infant is ready to be introduced to age appropriate solid foods? ›
- 4 Signs Your Baby Is Ready for Solid Foods. ...
- Your baby is at least 4 months of age. ...
- Your baby can sit upright and hold his head up straight. ...
- Your baby has the oral motor skills to handle solid foods. ...
- Your baby is interested in beginning and continuing to eat solids.
If your baby makes no effort to pick up foods and feed herself or reacts negatively to a spoon touching her lips, she's likely telling you she's not yet ready for solid foods. Consider trying a different food. If she still refuses, wait a few days and try again.What happens if I feed my baby solids too early? ›
Some studies suggest that introducing solid foods too early may lead to increased risk of chronic disease such as islet autoimmunity (the pre-clinical condition leading to type 1 diabetes), obesity, adult-onset celiac disease, and eczema; and introduction too late may increase feeding difficulties [5–8].Is it better to start solids at 4 months or 6 months? ›
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) encourage parents to wait until six months of age before starting baby on solids. These relatively new guidelines are in place to keep babies safe from choking, having digestive issues or respiratory infections.
Delaying solids helps to protect babies from future obesity and diabetes. Introducing solids early appears to increase body fat and weight in childhood. 1,5,6 Increased weight can lead to diabetes. Delaying solids makes eating easier for your baby.
What happens if you don't introduce solids to baby? ›
Also, delaying your child's introduction to solid foods (after 8 months of age) can have a profound effect on their oral motor-sensory skills, according to the Mayo Clinic.Should you introduce solids slowly? ›
Introduce your baby gradually to solid foods. Once she accepts them (it might take some time), continue breastfeeding as often as before and add solids as your baby's appetite increases. A few bites once a day is enough in the beginning, but gradually increase.How do you know if an infant is developmentally ready for solid foods in the cacfp? ›
Developmental Readiness Signs
Below are signs that an infant may be ready to accept solid foods: The infant sits in a high chair, feeding seat, or infant seat with good head control. The infant opens their mouth when food comes their way. The infant may watch others eat, reach for food, and seem eager to be fed.
Signs of an infant's readiness for solid food include the abilities to sit with support, control the head and neck, and move foods from the front to the back of the mouth.What are some of the signs that an infant is ready for solid foods quizlet? ›
to look for cues or signs that tells them that their baby is ready to start solid foods and is usually within 4 to 6 months. Also the infant must be able to sit up without support, move their jaw, lips and tongue independently, roll their tongue back in the mouth AND have interest in the family's eating.Is eating solids a developmental milestone? ›
Solid food feeding is important for infant growth and development; they help the infant to learn about tastes and textures during the first year of life but initially should be used in small amounts like a dessert. There are development differences when infants are ready to take solid foods.What development milestone must infants reach to be able to start solids? ›
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months after birth. But by ages 4 months to 6 months, most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding.What solid foods to introduce first? ›
Solid foods may be introduced in any order. However, puréed meats, poultry, beans and iron-fortified cereals are recommended as first foods, especially if your baby has been primarily breastfed, since they provide key nutrients.What are two indicators that an infant is developmentally ready for introducing solid foods? ›
Signs that indicate baby is developmentally ready for solids include: Baby can sit up well without support. Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue. Baby is ready and willing to chew.What would be warning signs that an infant is not able to meet the developmental tasks of infancy? ›
- Doesn't seem to respond to loud noises.
- Doesn't follow moving objects with eyes by 2 to 3 months.
- Doesn't smile at the sound of your voice by 2 months.
- Doesn't grasp and hold objects by 3 months.
- Doesn't smile at people by 3 months.
- Cannot support head well at 3 months.
What are three key factors that help determine when to introduce solid foods into an infant's diet explain the importance relevance of each factor? ›
The child's age, appetite, and growth rate are all factors that help determine when to feed solid foods. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), semi-solid foods are a significant change and should not be introduced until 6 months of age.What are the 3 clear signs a baby is ready for their first solid foods? ›
Signs your baby is ready for solid foods
They'll be able to: stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady. co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves. swallow food (rather than spit it back out)
The most common reasons for a healthy thriving child to refuse solid foods is because she fills up on milk (breast, formula or other) and is not hungry for other food, or because she prefers to drink milk rather than eat solids.What are the benefits of starting solids early? ›
There is emerging evidence that introduction of solid foods into an infant's diet by 4 months may increase their willingness to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables later in life, decrease their risk of having feeding problems later in life, and decrease their risk of developing food allergies, and the early ...What are the disadvantages of starting solids at 5 months? ›
Feeding your baby solids before six months of age also increases the likelihood that they will develop problems with overeating, including nutritional disorders like obesity.
Introducing complementary solids from 4 months of age may decrease the risk of food allergy and coeliac disease – immunological illnesses that have become a public health priority. The new draft National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend introducing solids at around 6 months (22–26 weeks).How many times a day should I feed my baby solids at 6 months? ›
From 6–8 months old, feed your baby half a cup of soft food two to three times a day. Your baby can eat anything except honey, which she shouldn't eat until she is a year old. You can start to add a healthy snack, like mashed fruit, between meals.Is 4 months too early for purees? ›
Doctors recommend waiting until a baby is about 6 months old to start solid foods. Starting before 4 months is not recommended. At about 6 months, babies need the added nutrition — such as iron and zinc — that solid foods provide. It's also the right time to introduce your infant to new tastes and textures.How long can you delay solids? ›
Most babies will become developmentally and physiologically ready to eat solids by 6-9 months of age. For some babies, delaying solids longer than six months can be a good thing; for example, some doctors may recommend delaying solids for 12 months if there is a family history of allergies.What is the 3 day rule for introducing solids? ›
Waiting 3-5 days between new foods is still advised by organizations like the American Academy of Allergies, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI). "This slow process gives parents or caregivers a chance to identify and eliminate any food that causes an allergic reaction," according to the AAAI's website.
How many times a day should I introduce solids? ›
Start feeding your baby solids once a day. Your baby will take only small amounts of solid foods at first. Try one teaspoon at first of pureed vegetable, fruit, or rice cereal in between milk feeds. From 6 to 9 months continue to give your baby breastmilk or formula first, then try solids after the milk.Do babies need water when they start solids? ›
If your baby is under 6 months old, they only need to drink breastmilk or infant formula. From 6 months of age, you can give your baby small amounts of water, if needed, in addition to their breastmilk or formula feeds.Can I give my baby solids with no teeth? ›
My baby doesn't have any teeth yet, but I'm trying to introduce solid foods (and not just purées). Is that safe? Absolutely. Solids can be given to babies once they are interested—usually around four to six months.Can starting solids make baby unsettled? ›
It's quite normal for babies to have tummy upsets when they start solid foods. Your baby's digestive system has to adapt to the change from an all-milk diet to one that includes solid foods. So, this may cause your 6 month old to be gassy after starting solids. Unfortunately, it may mean a few sleepless nights.What time of day is best for solids? ›
There's no "perfect" time of day to feed your baby — it's whenever works for you. If you're breastfeeding, you might offer solids when your milk supply is at its lowest (probably late afternoon or early evening). On the other hand, babies who wake up bright-eyed and eager might be happy to sample solids for breakfast.When can I let my baby lick food? ›
Or you could just let baby have a taste of everything you're eating at the table after 5 months. Do the “lick the spoon” thing and think of it all as truly an introduction, not actual feeding. It only takes one taste. It's not time to start baby on 3 meals a day of rice cereal and snacks of puffs.When the baby is ready for solid foods New foods should be introduced at least four days apart Why? ›
29. When the baby is ready for solid foods, new foods should be introduced at least four days apart. Why? [A bad reaction to certain foods is not unusual. By introducing new foods at least four days apart, it is easier to figure out which food is causing the reaction.]How do I know if my baby is not ready for solids? ›
If your baby makes no effort to pick up foods and feed herself or reacts negatively to a spoon touching her lips, she's likely telling you she's not yet ready for solid foods. Consider trying a different food. If she still refuses, wait a few days and try again.How do you know baby is eating enough on solids? ›
Watch for signs your baby is full
Turning their head away. Refusing to open their mouth for another bite after they've swallowed (resist the urge to encourage your baby to have one last spoonful) Leaning back in their chair. Playing with the spoon or food rather than eating.
An infant can begin eating solid foods between 4 and 6 months.
Which of the following indicates an infant is ready to accept solid foods? ›
Developmental signs that your baby is ready for solids
Your baby can sit up well with little to no support. Your baby can sit in a high chair and has good head control. Your baby opens their mouth and leans forward when you offer food. Your baby can move their tongue to help swallow food.
What age can my baby start solid foods? Even when you see signs that your baby is ready to start solids, experts recommend waiting until they're around six months of age before starting weaning. Waiting until six months to give your baby their first foods means that they'll be better at chewing and swallowing.Can I start solids if baby not sitting? ›
When is a baby ready to start solid foods? Experts agree that you shouldn't start until your baby can hold his or her head steady, and can sit upright in a high chair or infant feeding seat. Babies need to stay vertical so they can swallow well and avoid choking.Is my 3 month old ready for solids? ›
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months after birth. But by ages 4 months to 6 months, most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding.What are beginning signs of solids? ›
- Your baby can hold her head up well when propped to sit. ...
- The tongue thrust reflex has disappeared. ...
- Your baby reaches for and otherwise shows an interest in table foods. ...
- Your baby is able to make back-and-forth and up-and-down movements with the tongue.