If you find yourself in this article, chances are, you were as anxious as we were when we were told to start solids with our baby. When to introduce solid food to babies is actually a hot topic and a debatable one. There are a lot of articles about it and it can be very confusing. So when do you know that your baby is ready for solid food?
You may have read or were told that at 4-6 months, you can introduce solid foods in puree to baby – so it can be confusing given the general recommendation. While it is highly recommended that baby should be introduced to solids at 6 months, it is at 4-6 months that a baby develops the readiness to feed hence why you will find that it is the acceptable age range to introduce solid food to baby.
So why do we introduce solid foods to baby at 6 months – not earlier or later?
Babies use iron stored in their bodies from when they were in the womb in the first 6 months of life. They also get some iron from breastmilk and/or infant formula. But babies’ iron stores go down as they grow. By around 6 months, babies need to start having solid food.https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/breastfeeding-bottle-feeding-solids/solids-drinks/introducing-solids
It is at 6 months when the baby needs more energy and nutrients than milk alone can provide. Babies need solid food to get enough nutrients for their growth and development including essential nutrients like iron, zinc, etc.
What are the cases you can introduce solid food to babies before 6 months?
There are some cases when parents were recommended by their baby’s pediatrician to introduce solids in form of puree before their baby turns 6 months old. This could be because of feeding or weight-gain problem, or food allergy testing to name a few. And some parents assess their baby if they are ready to take in solids (puree) early, so they introduce to it earlier on so baby will be ready to take soft solids at 6 months. While it is recommended to introduce solid food to baby at 6 months, there is no rule agains early introduction at 4-6month range. It is acceptable to introduce baby to solid food at 4-6 months since baby at this age may have develop readiness for it but it should never be earlier than 4 months.
Every child is different and their needs differ as well.
During the 3 month Pediatrician appointment, we were told to introduce solid foods to our baby, Koa, when he hits 4 months old. We had a lot of time to prepare but being the anxious mom that I was, I read about baby feeding online and followed the 6 month rule. The following month, when Koa was 4 months old and about to turn 5 months, his doctor was ver insistent we introduce solid foods early – before he turned 6 months. He sat me down and explained in detail why he recommends Koa to start solids early. Koa is a Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) baby and has a family history of severe allergic reactions to certain foods. This made him a high risk for food allergy and the main reason why his Pedia was adamant we start early in introducing allergenic foods before his allergy receptors are activated.
Introducing allergenic foods early can reduce the risk of your child developing food allergy. Allergenic foods are foods that might cause allergies.https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/breastfeeding-bottle-feeding-solids/solids-drinks/introducing-solids
Ofcourse, I battled with myself in my head if we take his lead. Since I wanted to get Koa to Baby Led Wean which recommends babies to start eating solids at 6 months. But with prayers, the logical side of me won. Our decision should not be based on what we wanted but what is medically best for our baby. Early introduction to solid food is not a new thing. And some pediatrician aggressively introduce solid food to 4-6 month old babies that are high-risk for food allergies. Our Pedia happened to have caught his CMPA early and had led us to good management with it. His recommendation, after all, is based on his years medical practice, experience and knowledge compared to “researches” online.
So we checked if Koa had solid food readiness signs to start solids, and true enough as his doctor had identified, he was already showing these signs.
So how do you know if your child is ready for food other than breast milk or infant formula? Here are the signs and feeding readiness cues that your child is developmentally ready for it.
- Sits up alone (6 months baby) or with support ( 4 or 5 months baby).
- Has good head or neck control
- Will open his mouth when offered food
- Swallows food rather than pushes it back out onto the chin
- Brings objects to the mouth.
- Grasp small objects, such as toys or food
- Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow
These are signs or cues to look out for that tells you that your baby is ready to take on solid food. Some babies develop an interest and readiness for solid food earlier than others while other babies, just take a while to. Some of these signs will most likely be found in 6 months old babies and can be too young to see all of these in a 4 month old baby. This is also the reason why, 4-6 month old babies who are introduced to food earlier on are first given purees.
Giving food other than breastmilk or formula to babies before 6 months old is not yet complimentary feeding. At this age, the baby can barely swallow enough food to gain nutrients from it. The baby is mainly just getting acquainted with solid food and also swallowing enough for his body to identify the food and respond to it if he is allergic. Before 6 months of age, the baby’s main source of nutrients will still be the breastmilk or formula.
It can be difficult or overwhelming if you read, hear or listen to how other moms navigated their solid food feeding journey. Just remember that not all babies are the same. Some have special needs that needs attending to and that babies do not develop at the same rate. It is best to have you baby assessed by his doctor before deciding on how and when to start your solid food feeding journey.
Whatever solid food journey road you decide on, cheers to you Mommy!