How Do I Know When My Baby is Ready for Solids?

 

There are two factors to consider when deciding the right time to introduce solids to your baby. 

These are;

  • Physical readiness, and 
  • Developmental readiness

Let’s start with their physical readiness and risks. 

In the first six months of life, your baby's digestive system will undergo enormous change as it develops the ability to digest solid foods. 

During this time, their immune system is also maturing, allowing them to better fight any illnesses and bacteria they may come across. 

Before 6 months of age,  babies have a much lower stomach acid secretion than adults. This means that babies under the age of 6 months have lower defenses against bad bacteria entering the body because they don’t have the stomach acid to kill them off. 

Introducing solids before 6 months can also increase the risk of;

  • Gastrointestinal infections (foodborne illness, diarrhoea), respiratory illness (colds, bronchitis), and ear infections. 
  • There is strong evidence between early introduction of solids and obesity in later childhood and adulthood

There is also research that shows introducing solids before the age of 4 months can increase the risk of food allergy, Type 1 diabetes & coeliac disease.

Now you would probably have seen the aisles in the supermarket packed with baby foods marketed as suitable from 4 months of age.  

This is because of old and outdated recommendations and these were criticised for not looking at all the evidence and also concerns about research being tied to the baby food industry. 

Peak health bodies, including the ABA, World Health Organisation (WHO), the National Health & Medical Research Council Australia and the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommend exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding for at least the first 6 months of life, followed by the introduction of solids foods. 

By around 6 months, your baby’s digestive and immune systems are ready to start solids foods, but remember, all babies develop at different rates, so it’s important to consider other factors of baby readiness - not just their age.

Developmental Cues

Before your baby is ready to eat solids, they need to be able to;  

  • Sit with support.
  • Have good head and neck control.
  • Push up with straight elbows from lying face down.
    • This is important for them to be able to keep their airway clear and spit or cough  out food. 

Also, before they are ready to eat solids, their tongue thrust reflex needs to start diminishing.

The extrusion or tongue-thrust reflex helps protect babies from choking or aspirating food (breathing it into their lungs) and helps them to latch onto a nipple. 

You can see this reflex in action when their tongue is touched or depressed in any way by a solid and semisolid object, like a spoon. 

In response, a baby’s tongue will thrust out of their mouth to prevent anything but a nipple from a breast or bottle from coming in.

By around 6 months, their tongue thrust reflex has usually diminished which means they are less likely to push food out of their mouth. 

Around this time, their feeding behaviour may also change and they may start to progress from sucking to biting. 

You may start to notice that your baby is watching you eat. They might even mimic chewing or start to reach for your food. Babies will often do this earlier than 6 months which leads many parents to think that they are ready to start solid foods. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to actually start eating food - but that they are simply exploring their environment. 

So to wrap up, there are two key  factors to consider when working out of your baby is ready to start solids.

  • Their physical readiness  - this is around 6 months and  not before 4 months 
  • Their developmental cues - can they safely eat solids

And remember - watch your baby, not the calendar - all babies develop at different times so it’s important to tune into your baby’s needs and cues. 

If you want to learn more about this, then I go into more detail on this topic and much more in my “Get it Right From Their First Bite” Program for introducing solids… so scroll down below this video and click on the link to find out more about the program. 

Click on the button below to learn more about the "Get it Right From Their First Bite" Program.        

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