By: Kristen Yarker
Many moms contact me wondering if their baby is ready for solid foods.
Usually this comes from two places:
- Worry that their baby isn’t getting the nutrition that they need from breast milk/ formula.
- Pressure from family or friends to introduce baby food.
Here’s the latest scientific-evidence based information on how to know when your baby is ready for solid foods. Use it as ammunition against your under-slept, worrying mind and any well-intentioned advice from others.
Is my baby ready for solids?
Babies are ready for solid foods at about 6 months of age. At this age, babies start running out of the iron that they stored in their bodies while they were in your womb. Breast milk is naturally low in iron so you need to provide your baby with iron from another source – solid foods. Iron is used in overall growth and development. It’s especially important for little one’s brain development – for babies to reach full their cognitive potential. While iron isn’t as much of a concern for babies fed formula, they’re still developmentally ready for you to start feeding them first foods.
Like any developmental stage, babies become ready for first foods at slightly different ages. You will see the following signs in your baby anywhere between 4 and 6 months of age. Your baby is ready for you to start feeding them solid foods when you see the following:
- Extrusion reflex disappears. The extrusion reflex is when anything put in your baby’s mouth automatically causes them to stick out their tongue, thus forcing it back out again.
- He can focus his eyes on food placed in front of him.
- She can sit upright with minimal support.
- He can hold his head up without support. This is important for safe swallowing.
- She is very interested in watching people eat and the food on your plate. She may even be grabbing for people’s food, plates, cups etc.
Notice that the presence of teeth isn’t on the list above. You don’t need to wait until little ones have teeth before feeding them baby food.
If your baby was born prematurely or has developmental or health concerns, speak with your health professional about when your baby will be ready to start solid foods.
There is no benefit to starting solids earlier than about 6 months. In fact, there is some emerging scientific evidence that introducing solid foods before babies are 4 months old may increase the risk for food allergies.
There are several persistent myths about when to start feeding your baby solid foods that I want to bust:
- Big babies don’t need solid foods earlier. At this age, babies are experts at breast and bottle feeding. And, breast milk and formula are rich sources of nutrients. Feeding your big baby solid foods earlier isn’t necessary or beneficial.
- Small babies don’t need solid foods earlier. As I described above, at this age, babies are experts at nursing nutrient-rich breastmilk and formula. Feeding your small baby solid foods earlier isn’t necessary or beneficial.
- Feeding babies solid foods doesn’t make babies sleep through the night. While I understand grasping at anything that may get your baby (and you) to sleep through the night, this is a myth. The age that some babies start sleeping through the night happens to be the same age that you start feeding your baby solid foods. While they happen at the same time, it’s not that the one causes the other. Sorry.
In summary, your baby will be ready for first foods at about 6 months of age. There aren’t any nutritional benefits to starting earlier. Nor, will it help you get a decent night’s sleep.
Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). A speaker, author, and dietitian, Kristen is a picky eater turned food-lover herself. Her passion: enjoy healthy eating (from the very first bite). Since 2008 she has been working with families to provide good nutrition for their kids today…and, instill a LOVE of food that lasts a lifetime. You can find Kristen on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.