I get a ton of questions from parents in my community and online about when to start solids with baby. Starting Solids can be a very daunting task for parents and can be accompanied by a lot of self doubt and worry. Parents often fear they might not be doing what is nutritionally best, or safest, for their baby. In my Starting Solids Workshops I always like to remind parents that babies around the world start complimentary foods in many different ways, and that there is no one perfect way. In my classes I focus on encouraging parents to start solids when their baby is developmentally ready, to choose safe healthy foods, and to provide opportunities for their baby to feed themselves (aka baby led feeding/weaning).
In recent years Health Canada and The Canadian Pediatric Society have changed their position on when it's best to start solids. The recommendation currently focusses on breastmilk or formula as the best food for baby for the first 6 months, and to start solids for healthy low risk babies around 6 months old. Of course there is no exact perfect time for every baby, so some babies will be a little before and some a little after 6 months, depending on their development. In babies who are at high risk of allergies (those with a diagnosed egg allergy or severe eczema) research is indicating it might be beneficial to start high allergen foods (eggs, nut butters, soy etc) sometime between 4-6 months (Learn More about the Newest Allergy Guidelines). The research is always changing, so don't feel guilty if you did it differently with your baby.
I always remind parents that rather than focusing on your baby's exact age, it's essential to ensure that they are developmentally ready for solids, so we don't increase their risk of choking. Here are some of the things that we always look for when considering if a baby is ready for solids.
Has baby lost their tongue thrust?
Does baby have strong head and neck control?
Can baby turn their head to the side to decline unwanted food?
Can baby sit upright in a high chair or booster keeping their airway and food passage open, without slumping?
Can baby bring objects to their mouth? e.g. toys
Does Baby show an interest in your food and eating?
If the answer is yes to all of these, and your baby is approximately 6 months old, than it's probably time to start thinking about starting solids.
A common question I get asked is "Should we start solids early to help baby sleep longer stretches at night?" Although this sounds like a good idea as it would keep baby fuller longer, it can actually backfire and cause more night time wakings if baby's digestive system isn't ready. It's also important to remember that night time wakings in infants are normal, and are tied to their rapidly developing brain. Parents are always free to make a decision to start solids earlier or later if that is what works for their baby and their family, but being informed is essential. Remember, you know your baby best.
Now that you know what signs to look for you can keep an eye on your babe and start solids when they're good and ready. Stay tuned for my next post in this series focusing on How to Safely Start Solids with Your Baby. I'll discuss both Baby Led Feeding (Baby Led Weaning) & Spoon Feeding, so you can do what works best for you and your baby.
Please feel free to send along any questions or comments you have, and don't hesitate to ask for topics you would like me to cover in the future.
*Please speak to your physician if your baby was preterm or has special health concerns. This post is not intended to override any advice or recommendations provided by your health care team.