In today’s article, we’re covering helpful indicators that your baby is ready for solids. No doubt, this is an exciting (although overwhelming!) time. Whether you plan to offer purees, attempt baby-led weaning, or do a combination of both, this guide can help guide your decision. In terms of telltale signs your baby is ready for solids, you’ll want to take an observational approach. These observable milestones indicate your baby is ready—and mature enough—for solid foods.
what is the optimal age to introduce solids to babies?
Along with waiting until your baby reaches a certain age to introduce complementary foods, it’s also recommended to wait until they meet the developmental signs of readiness. More on that below. Babies usually begin meeting signs of readiness around six months, but it can definitely take longer for some. We introduced solids at five months, but this was too early! Our son wasn’t ready. He started gobbling up solids between 6-7 months.
Circa the 1990s, it was common for most babies to start solids around four months. In 2002, the World Health Organization recommended exclusive breastfeeding (formula/combo feeding) for the first six months. Then in 2012, several other health organizations released a joint statement: “Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months is important for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and toddlers” This sentiment is also promoted by UNICEF, American Academy of Pediatrics, and more.
5 Developmental signs of readiness
Good indicators that your baby is ready for solids—I.e. signs your baby is ready for solids—include the following:
- Can sit up well (with little or no support). Your baby may still topple over, but he or she should be able to support themselves in a seated position for a period of time.
- Are able to turn their head and indicate that they’ve had enough to eat. Can your baby properly express signs of fullness when nursing or bottle feeding? If so, he or she will be able to express when they’re full from solids.
- Have lost the tongue-thrust reflex. Meaning, your baby doesn’t automatically push solids out of their mouth with their tongue. Some babies have this reflex quite strongly and it may not be as obvious in others. This protects infants against choking, helping them to get things out of their mouths quickly and safely.
- Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp. This is when a baby begins picking things up between their thumb and forefinger instead of just using the palm of their hand or whole hand. They likely won’t master this until a few months after solids are introduced (roughly, nine months).
- Baby is ready and willing to chew and tries to grab your food to put it in their mouth. Keep in mind that this sign should only be considered after the others have been met. It could also be a false sign.
What if my baby isn’t ready for solids?
Don’t fret. While it’s recommended to wait until your baby has met all the developmental signs of readiness (for both nutritional and developmental reasons), solid foods shouldn’t be delayed for too long. If your baby hasn’t met all developmental signs of readiness as they approach seven months, I would recommend speaking with your pediatrician. While this can be considered normal—and there’s no need to be alarmed—your health care provider can rule out any potential developmental delays or undiagnosed disorders.
Is food before one just for fun?
No! Food can and should be fun, but babies have tiny tummies and growing bodies with high nutritional needs. Every bite counts, right from the start. Eating helps a child build a healthy relationship with food, but it also serves as so much more. It provides babies with the essential nutrients they need to develop and grow. Like, this baby-friendly banana chia seed pudding. Being mindful of the packaged food brands you buy for your baby is important too. At any rate, introducing flavorful foods (before one year) helps babies become more adventurous, less picky eaters. Finger foods, in particular, help babies improve their dexterity. They also teach babies how to chew and safely manage their food.