Signs your baby may be ready for solid food

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Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control recommend waiting until your child is at least six months old before introducing solid foods?  Research shows that many parents are introducing solids at too early of an age, and that can lead to anumber of problems for the child including childhood obesity, diabetes, eczema, and celiac disease.  The New York Times recently published an article  that reported on the C.D.C.’s findings that the introduction of solids before six months can negatively impact a child’s health.

As stated on kellymom.com:

“Solids readiness depends on both the maturity of baby’s digestive tract and baby’s developmental readiness for solids. Although the maturity of baby’s digestive system is not something that we can readily observe, research indicates that 6 months appears to be ideal for avoiding the allergies and other health risks of too-early solids. After this point, different babies are ready for solids at different times — developmental readiness for solids cannot be determined using a calendar. Most babies are developmentally ready for solids somewhere between 6 and 8 months.”

So, how do you know when your child is ready to start solids?  Your child should be at least six months old and exhibit signs of readiness.  Here are some signs that your baby may be ready:

  •  Loss of tongue-thrust reflex  The tongue-thrust reflex allows your baby to easily drink and swallow liquids.  This is very important when your child is on an all-liquid diet (i.e. breastmilk or formula) but can make eating solids tricky.  If you attempt the feed your child solids before he/she has lost this reflex the food will be pushed back out.  Between four and six months the reflex gradually is diminished and your child is able to swallow his or her first foods.
  • Ability to sit up and hold up head without assistance  This is important!  If your child is not yet able to sit unassisted (and support his or her head) then it’s probably best to hold off on solids.
  • Interest in food  Have you noticed that lately your baby is very interested in watching you or your partner eat?  Around six months of age babies begin to take a serious interest in watching adults and older children consume food.  This may be a sign that baby is ready to begin simple solids.
  • Baby is developing a pincer grasp  Your little one will begin picking up small objects with his thumb and forefinger.

What if your baby is younger than six months but exhibits these signs?  Is it safe to begin your baby on solids if he or she seems ready developmentally but is not yet six months old?  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization all babies benefit from waiting until six months of age to introduce solids.  Here are some other ways your child can participate in meal time in the meantime.

  •  Allow your baby to sit in a high chair. a parent’s lap, or a booster seat during meal time.
  • Give baby spoons, cups, or baby-safe eating utensils to play with during meal time.
  • Offer baby expressed breast milk, formula, or water in an age-appropriate sippy cup during meal time.
  • Talk to your baby about what you’re eating during meal times.

The introduction of solid foods is a fun, silly, and rewarding time for baby and mom.  We hope this information will be helpful as your baby approaches this milestone. The above information is not intended to serve as medical advice. You should always check with your pediatrician before making changes to your child’s diet.