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How to Know When to Start Your Baby On Solids

When Start Baby on Solids

When your baby was a newborn, your feeding options were pretty straightforward (though maybe not simple):  breast or bottle?  And for awhile, breastmilk and/or formula is all your little one needs to be well-nourished.  But there comes a time when your baby will be ready for a little more, and at that point, you’ll need to introduce solid foods into your baby’s diet.

Introducing solids is a big step (especially for you first-time parents!)  And one of the first questions parents have about solid foods is, “When should I start baby on solid foods?”

When to Start Solids:  Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solids

These physical signs indicate that your baby may be ready to start solids:

  • Your baby has good head control and is able to sit up with support:  This is a big one.  Before starting solids, your baby needs to be able to hold her head up on her own (so that she’s able to swallow), and she needs to be able to sit up straight.
  • Your baby shows an interest in food:  Maybe you’ve noticed your little guy staring at you while you eat dinner, or maybe you’ve caught him reaching out and trying to grab that food right off your fork!  When babies begin showing an interest in food, it may be a sign that they’re ready to start solids.  (Keep in mind, though, that this sign alone doesn’t indicate readiness.  It should appear along with some of the other signs listed here.)
  • Your baby has lost the “tongue-thrust” reflex:  For the first 4 months of your baby’s life, she has a tongue-thrust reflex to protect against choking — when an object ends up on her tongue, she automatically pushes it out of her mouth.  After 4 months, your baby gradually loses this reflex, so that when you put a spoonful of food in her mouth, she’s able to swallow it.
  • Your baby attempts to mash or chew food:  When you put food in his mouth, your baby should automatically mash it with his gums.  If he does, it’s a sign that he’s ready for solids.
  • Your baby lets you know when she’s full:  You may notice that your baby begins to turn away from the bottle or breast when she’s had enough.  This is a sign that she’s able to self-regulate her appetite, which is an important step in being ready to start solids.

When to Start Solids:  What age?

Of course, the calendar can be (and traditionally has been) an indicator of when it’s time to start solids.  Parents (as well as healthcare providers) consider a baby’s age when deciding if it’s best to start solids.  This can be misleading, however, since age recommendations for starting solids have changed over the years.

Decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for moms to start their babies on solids at a very young age — 1 or 2 months old!  Over the years, however, as medical and nutritional sciences have evolved, moms have been encouraged to wait a little longer before starting solids.  Over time, 4-6 months of age has become the recommended starting place.

Recently, however, the window for starting solids has been pushed back even further; now, experts recommend starting solids closer to 6 months, if possible (some even recommend waiting to start until after 6 months).  There are a number of reasons for this recommendation to delay solids, including:

  • Decreasing the risk of food allergies.
  • Decreasing the risk of future obesity.
  • Decreasing the risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Allowing the baby’s immune and digestive systems more time to mature.

When to Start Solids:  Is “My Baby Seems Hungry” A Good Reason to Start Solids?

So we know some of the signs a baby may show indicating she’s ready to start solids.  And we’ve established the age when it’s best to start (around 6 months).  But often, the number one reason a parent considers starting solids is simply because baby seems hungry.  The baby may begin waking more often at night, or demanding to be nursed/bottle fed more frequently than usual.  This often starts to happen around 4 months of age, and it may seem like a sign that the baby isn’t getting enough to eat and needs something more.

Be cautious about using this as a reason to start solids, however.  Keep in mind that many babies experience a growth spurt around 4 months of age, so that could be the reason your baby is suddenly waking up hungry at night, or needing to nurse more frequently during the day.  Growth spurts don’t last long (around a week or so), so it’s best just to wait these out, before starting your baby on solids.

We need to remember, too, that the famous 4 month sleep regression occurs at this time, too.  So it’s possible that the sudden night waking has nothing to do with hunger and instead has to do with the fact that your baby’s sleep patterns are becoming more like an adult’s.  In this case, starting solids early wouldn’t help your baby sleep, simply because it’s not hunger that’s causing her to wake in the first place.

Based on this, it’s best to avoid starting solids before 5 or 6 months of age, even if your baby seems hungrier than usual around 4 months.  Instead, we recommend that you increase your nursing, or offer more bottles during the day and continue to feed as necessary at night.

Everything You Need To Know About Starting Solids – All In One e-Book!

thumbnailWhat if you could find everything you needed to know about starting your baby on solid foods – when it’s best to start solids, how to introduce solids, complications, food allergies, etc. – in one easy-reference guide? Now you can! Your Baby’s Start To Solid Foods: A Comprehensive Guide will walk you through every step of starting solids. Plus, your e-Book package includes several bonus materials, designed to maximize your success in starting solids. You’ll get a thorough guide to treating constipation, a dietitian’s advice on how to avoid 5 common solid-foods mistakes, and a weekly mean plan for your baby’s first year. Grab your e-Book today, and ensure your baby has the healthiest possible start to solid foods!

When did you start your baby on solids?  How did you know your baby was ready?  Share your story!

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23 Responses to How to Know When to Start Your Baby On Solids

  1. Kelly says:

    Excellent article! I started my son on solids when he was 5 months and 3 weeks old. I knew he was ready because he was stalking my plate with his eyes for weeks and started reaching out for what I was having. He met all of the other signs of readiness and I knew it was time.

    • EmilyDeJeu says:

      @ Kelly — great timing! That’s pretty much when I started mine on solids, too. I could never make it exactly to the 6 month recommended window (they always seemed ready before then), but I figured 5.5 months was close enough 😉

  2. kalpana says:

    Its a great help to have a knowledge of small infant’s behaviour and needs through ur articles. I had been always wondering if my 5 month old had had enough sleep or not. Your articles have lighted my path.
    Thanks

  3. Luz says:

    This article is fantastic. My mom keeps pressuring me to feed the baby, he will be 4 months this week, but he is not showing any of these signs except wanting to nurse more often. Thank you!!

    • EmilyDeJeu says:

      @ Luz – glad you found it helpful! You’re right to resist outside pressure – when you start solids should be based on your healthcare provider’s advice, and your baby’s signs of readiness.

      Best of luck to you!

  4. Katie says:

    I started just recently she’s 4 months old now but she has for a few weeks mastering the if I scream while they eat so they have to pick me up and I can stick my hand in there food and try and eat it technique which also is kind of an issue because her pediatrician has us putting oats in her bottle due to a is reflux and her being allergic to the rice cereal, so we don’t really know where to start, so this has been a fun experience.

  5. Cassandra says:

    My little one is 5 months and 2 weeks. She was also 4 weeks premature but was a healthy weight (6lbs 6oz) and seems to be on the same development level as other full term 5 month olds. She become obsessed with watching me eat and loves. To smack her hands in my food. The other say, at a restaurant, she grabbed the spoon and gagged herself with it. First attempt, right in there. She has started sucking banana off my fingers and seems to enjoy it. I have got all my baby food stuff ready to go and I think well be starting it soon.

    • EmilyDeJeu says:

      @ Cassandra – sounds awesome! These are all fantastic signs and indicate that she is almost certainly ready to start solids 🙂 Best of luck to you!!

  6. Charlize van der Westhuien says:

    My son was born on 37 weeks, and is now 3 months old. He has full blown colic, and extreme reflux. About 2 weeks ago our doctor recommended adding a teaspoon of baby rice cereal in his bottle once a day to help with his reflux. And it has made a huge difference. Finally all of us can get some sleep, although he still wakes 1 – 2 times a night to feed, we don’t have 4 hour long screaming sessions any more. (this can be due to the cereal or his age though) Our doctor also said that this can be increased to one teaspoon cereal twice daily,but we should not introduce any other foods for at least 6 more weeks.

    • EmilyDeJeu says:

      @ Charlize van der Weisthuien – Sounds great! So glad your doctor suggested this and that it is working so well for you. Keep up the good work! And thanks for commenting. 🙂

  7. Liz Johnson says:

    My pediatrician says that we should start now and she is four months old. She has a very sensitive tummy and doesn’t handle formula very well. She is thinking it might help strengthen her gut. She has all the signs I’m just nervous it’s too early.

    • EmilyDeJeu says:

      @ Liz Johnson – if your ped. says it’s okay, then go for it! You ped. knows best; you should follow his/her advice over and above anything you read here. If you’re concerned, bring it up by all means w/ your doc, but ultimately, your peds. recommendations are best.

      Good luck to you!

  8. machurine says:

    my daughter is 6months and 10days old.should I start giving her solid food like??

    • Jen says:

      I started my daughter at 6 mos and 5 days with rice cereal mixed with milk. It really depends on your baby. If she is showing interest in food, trying to grab at your food if you hold her when eating, shows you when she is full then she is probably ready. Don’t be discouraged if she isn’t ready. My daughter showed all of these signs and when I tried cereal the first time she cried. We waited a few days and tried again at 6 mos and 8 days and now she can’t get enough. Hope this helps!

  9. Emma Holderness says:

    This now needs to be updated as recent findings have stated that starting allergenic food early actually decreases the chances of developing allergies.

    • Hello Emma, thank you for taking the time to comment. We are in the process of updating our information. There was a period of time when the evidence from the pediatric medical community and the pediatricians we specifically work with acknowledged that there was now proof of no harm in starting high allergen foods early. It took a while longer for additional well done, peer reviewed, evidence based studies concluding that not only is there no harm, there MAY be benefit to introducing certain infant populations with high allergen foods at an earlier age.
      We appreciate your feedback.

  10. Folusho says:

    Hi, my baby is 4 months old, she wakes up about three times for night feeds.Its disturbing for me has I feel the breastfeed is not sufficient for her again. Can I introduce solids please?

  11. Kelly Stellato says:

    Hello Folusho, thank you for writing in. Exclusively breastfeeding babies digest milk easily and do need to eat often. Feeding 3 times per night at this age is entirely normal. I know it is exhausting though. There is no evidence to suggest that adding foods early helps babies sleep through the night. In fact the opposite can often be true. When to introduce solids is a decision best made between you and your daughters medical provider. One thing you can try if not doing so currently is a fill up feed. After you feed your daughter as part of the bedtime time routine, feed her again at YOUR bedtime. Ideally this will sync both of the longest period of her sleep with yours. About 5 hours is expected. So if you dream feed at 9:30 p.m. you would feed again at 2:30 or so and about 5:30 and not again until the start of the day. If her growth has been going well, this can assure you, your milk is sufficient! Good luck.

  12. FranVRE says:

    Thank you so much for the great article! My twins are turning 7 months tomorrow and one still has the tongue thrust reflex. She pushes everything out and will actually not even open her mouth. I’ve tried many different kinds of foods, but she is just not interested. Could it be that she’s just not ready at 7 months? Her sister is doing a little better and occasionally will have a few spoons of cereal.

  13. Judy Baker says:

    My son was born at term and weighed a healthy 10.5#! Everyone assumes since he is big he is hungry. He is 7 months and a week and we just started solids as he appeared ready. Hoping he can go longer at night now maybe.

  14. Barney says:

    It will be very runny at first, but as your baby starts to eat more solid foods, you can gradually thicken the consistency by using less liquid.

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