Knowing the right time to introduce solids is a helpful first step and may ease anxious parents into this phase. There is no precise time for when a baby is ready to feed on solids. Just like every milestone, it differs with each individual baby. A good way to know when your baby is ready is to watch out for several developmental signs.
On average these signs tend to show up around 6 months but it can take longer or may be sooner.
For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends starting solids around 6 months of age and until then stick to exclusive breast or bottle feeding. These signs should be looked at together and not individually. Also, always check with your paediatrician before beginning solids.
The developmental signs to look out for in your baby
1. Sitting without support and able to hold head stable on their own
Our digestive system is made up of muscles so when a baby can sit up that means their body’s muscles are ready to digest food. Additionally, when your baby can hold their head up themselves, this means they will be able to signal signs of fullness by turning their head.
2. Tongue thrust reflex has diminished
Tongue thrust is is when a baby sticks their tongue out and it is a defence they use to keep something out of their mouth. Once this subsides, your baby is ready to accept an intake of foods. You should not have to force a spoon inside the baby’s mouth.
3. Hand, eye, mouth coordination
Babies will start picking up objects with their thumb and forefinger instead of using the palms of the hand. This indicates they have the coordination to pick up foods and place it in their mouth. This may not be fully developed by 6 months but lookout for signs that they are working on this skill. This is important for finger foods.
4. Shows an interest in food
Babies will start showing an interest in your food. They may be eager to grab it, put it in their mouth and chew. They may also show an interest in sitting around during mealtimes.
There are other developmental signs parents encounter that they might feel showcase that their baby is ready for solids but in fact they are just signs their baby could be going through a growth spurt. These signs may not indicate solid food readiness
1. Waking at night – They are becoming more aware of the world and tend to wake up more stimulated and will end up calling out for you for comfort.
2. Requiring more frequent breastfeeding – Same reason as above- they are looking for comfort as they become more aware that there is so much out there in the world to explore and can be overwhelming for them.
3. Size of baby – This isn’t necessarily a direct indicator of their readiness.
4. Smacks lips – This may make you feel they are ready for solid foods but they are just practicing and getting ready for that action and also are mimicking your behaviour.
False signs can just be due to growth spurts, teething or just learning. Therefore, it’s important to note that starting solids should not be done to try and solve weight gain and sleep issues as there is no evidence that starting on solids will solve these problems and they are not direct indicators.
Sanchita Daswani is a Nutrition Consultant for Babies. She focuses on guiding and empowering parents to confidently introduce solids to their babies. She also guides parents on how to create balanced meals for toddlers.