Different people will tell you different things about when babies start eating solid food.
But did you know that there are some concrete WAYS TO TELL that your baby is ready?
And the things that’ll show you that your baby is ready for solids are pretty easy to recognize!
What the experts say
Some people suggest starting solid foods around 4 months. It’s pretty much consensus that solids shouldn’t be started before 4 months, but current guidelines are to wait until 6 months. Breastfeeding advocates insist that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months.
But… each baby is different!
Here’s a Cochrane review that studies the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Their conclusion was:
“…the available evidence demonstrates no apparent risks in recommending, as a general policy, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life…”
So, if your baby wants breast milk for the first 6 months and nothing else, there’s no risk in waiting to start solids until 6 months.
That being said, you SHOULD start solids by 6 months because waiting longer can result in your baby’s iron stores becoming depleted. Many products first introduced to babies (think, rice cereal) contain fortified iron. Iron is necessary for red blood cell production and brain growth.Around 6 months, your baby should start to eat more per feeding and go longer between feedings.
Babies Start Eating Solid Food… When They’re Ready:
Because each baby is different, some may do better starting foods earlier than others. The BEST way to know when your baby is ready to start solid foods is to watch for these signs in your baby:
- Sitting up with support.
- Watching you eat your food.
- Mimicking you when you eat.
- Grabbing small pieces of food and bringing them to their mouth.
- Starting to act unsatisfied with only breast milk.
Your baby will let you know when they’re ready!
On a personal note, my daughter was 4 months old when she started really watching me eat my own food. As I brought my spoon to my mouth she would follow my hand and open her mouth at the same time I opened mine.
Additionally she started acting irritable throughout the day, like she wasn’t content. I bought some stage 1 baby food at the grocery store and fed it to her.
She was THRILLED and ate more than I expected. It was part of a fun food experience, and I loved giving her new foods to try.
Some tips when starting solids
1. Start with pureed vegetables before fruits.
Your baby’s first foods should be pureed foods because they are between a liquid and a solid, easing them into an adult diet. The baby foods at the store have stages and as your child gets older, it’s easy to see which foods they’re ready for.
Some people make their own pureed foods, it’s up to you what you want to do.
Vegetables should be started before fruits! Babies have sensitive little taste buds, and if you start with fruits first, they might reject vegetables because they aren’t as sweet.
2. Make sure your baby cereals are iron-fortified.
At 6 months of life, your baby starts to need more iron in their diet than breast milk provides.
Iron helps your baby’s brain grow and ensures they have production of red blood cells. You will need to take a look at the baby cereals you buy to make sure iron is added.
3. Your baby will probably make a mess.
They’ve never eaten solid food before, so when you give your baby the first spoonful they will gum it, move it with their tongue, and dribble it down their chin.
Not to worry, with time it will get better as your baby becomes more coordinated. In the meantime… it might be worth investing in a few bibs.
4. If your baby is constipated, try these pureed fruits: pears, plums, peaches, and prunes.
These fruits contain sugars that draw water into the gastrointestinal tract and help your baby make softer stools. The way you can tell if your baby is constipated is by the consistency of their poops. If they’re hard (like “rabbit pellets”), your baby is constipated.
If giving more of those fruits doesn’t seem to help, you can give your baby a few ounces of apple, prune or pear juice a day. Just make sure you don’t give too much because it doesn’t have the nutritional value that breast milk or formula has!
5. Keep giving them milk!
Breast milk is VERY important for your baby. If you’re giving your baby formula, the same thing holds true.
Your baby NEEDS breast milk or formula until they’re at least 1 year old.
Breast milk and formula are the only things that can give your baby all the nutrients they need for the first year of life. So, when you start giving them solids do it gradually and continue to give them breast milk.
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own breastfeeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their breastfeeding journey. She offers one-on-one lactation consultations, breastfeeding classes, and shares her knowledge to equip and empower moms. If you’re interested in talking with her or taking one of her breastfeeding classes, visit www.littlebearcare.com.