Is Your Baby Ready for Solid Foods?
Introducing solid foods to your baby is a significant milestone. This milestone is a lot of fun and a lot of worries. However, one of the most important things to keep in mind; is that your baby has so many years of food experiences ahead that there is no need to rush things!
Remember, you are taking the first steps to help your little one develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Here you will find helpful information to review and understand what your baby may be eating at a certain age or stage. This information will; help ease your mind as you introduce solid foods. And will also ease the transition to solid foods for your baby.
Remember, always consult with your pediatrician regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.
Many signs might lead you to believe that your little one is ready to begin eating solid foods. But how exactly do you know if your baby is ready for solid foods?
Your baby may be around six months old when you start to feel she may need “something more” than formula or breast milk.
When considering starting solid foods for your baby, the best advice is to; “Watch the Baby – Not the Calendar” this is true for both breastfed and formula-fed infants. Follow your baby’s hunger cues, and you will never go wrong.
Here are a few “signs” that may indicate your baby is ready for Solid Foods:
- Ability to sit up and hold head up unassisted
- Doubling of birth weight
- Loss of tongue-thrust reflex allows the baby to drink and swallow liquids with ease; with the tongue-thrust reflex still present, the baby may drink in liquid purees or push the food back out. In the first four months, the tongue-thrust reflex protects the infant against choking. When any unusual substance is placed on the tongue, it automatically protrudes outward rather than back. Between four and six months, this reflex gradually diminishes, and that glob of cereal actually may have a chance of making it from the tongue to the tummy!
- Ability to let you know she is full from a “meal” with signs such as; turning away from the bottle or breast. This is important so that baby can self-regulate the amount of food being eaten. This helps stop the baby from accidentally overeating as parents may continue to feed the baby, thinking that she is still hungry.
- Frequently waking in the middle of the night when a solid sleeping pattern had been established. This may not be the best indicator that your baby is ready for solids. Please keep in mind; that a growth spurt will occur between 3-4 months of age, 6-7 months of age, and 9-10 months of age. Your baby may also be waking due to an illness or teething. You may try offering your baby more frequent nursing sessions and/or bottle feedings instead of solids. You will find that within a week or two, your baby is oftentimes over the growth spurt and back to feeding “as usual.”
- Please keep in mind; that “outward” signs of being ready for solids do not mean that your baby’s inner digestive system is mature and ready.
Many parents say that their pediatricians or their friends’ pediatricians have said that it is acceptable to start solids (typically cereal) at four months of age. However, it is still common for pediatricians to say, “start solid foods when your baby is four months old” because this has been the norm for many years.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) acknowledges no “strict” age guidelines on introducing solid foods to your baby. However, “The AAP Section on Breastfeeding, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, and many other health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as an infant’s consumption of human milk with no supplementation of any type (no water, no juice, no nonhuman milk, and no foods) except for vitamins, minerals, and medications. Exclusive breastfeeding has been shown to provide improved protection against many diseases and increase the likelihood of continued breastfeeding for at least the first year of life.
This ensures optimal nutritional exposure and may stave off food allergies, amongst other issues. Further studies have shown that an infant’s gastrointestinal tract has not or may not have matured enough to properly digest/utilize solid foods until around 6-8 months old. 2005
If your pediatrician insists that you start your 4-month-old infant on solids and you don’t feel the baby is ready, ask the pediatrician to explain the benefits of starting solids early.
And remember, you never HAVE to begin introducing complementary foods simply because your pediatrician has suggested that you do so unless there is some medical need. Only when you have thoroughly discussed the pros and cons of introducing solid foods with your pediatrician; will you be able to grasp better just when you should begin offering solid baby foods.
Some parents may be tempted to give in to relatives, grandmothers, and even their mothers. Who says, “Give that baby some real food; she’s starving” or “Nursing that baby isn’t enough; he needs some real food.”
Remember that “real food” is breast milk or formula, and these contain all the essential nutrients that an infant needs to develop correctly. Breast milk in particular or formula will be enough to sustain your baby’s nutritional needs for up to age one. Introducing solids too early may displace the critical nutrition your baby needs to receive from breast milk or formula.
Suggested Daily “Milk” Intakes for Babies age 0 to 12 months
- 0-3 Months of age:
Breastfeed every 1-3 hours or Formula 18-40 ounces
- 4-5 Months of age:
Breastfeed every 2-4 hours or Formula 24-45 ounces
- 6-8 Months of age:
Breastfeed every 3-4 hours or Formula 24-37 ounces
- 9-12 Months of age:
Breastfeed every 4-5 hours or Formula 24-31 ounces
Whole Cow Milk, as a drink, should not be introduced until 12 months of age.
Won’t My Baby Sleep Through the Night If We Start Solids?
Some parents believe that if they start solids “early,” their infants will sleep through the night sooner. However, as your baby grows, his sleeping patterns and eating habits change continually.
Around the time a few parents begin to offer solids early is just about the time that an infant may be sleeping for more extended periods at a time. This is a natural progression as an infant ages, and it often coincides with the addition of early solids. Unfortunately, this coincidence perpetuates the dangerous myth that early offerings of solid foods will help an infant sleep “through the night.”
To further this explanation, let us recall that between 6-8 months old, the baby is often back to waking at night for a feeding. By this time baby should be eating solids, and it appears that those solids are no longer helping the baby sleep through the night. In reality, the baby is hitting another growth spurt and may wake again during the night for more feedings regardless of eating solids. This is “normal,” and your baby may wake again during the night for more feedings regardless of eating solids.
Beginning Solid Foods
If the baby can sit up on its own; and still seems hungry after breastfeeding, the baby may be ready to start eating solids! Baby should be able to hold their head up, close their mouth around a spoon, and “move” the food to the back of their mouth.
You should give your baby one new food at a time and; wait a minimum of 5 days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. If any of these occur, stop using the new food and consult your child’s doctor. Solids are not meant to provide for a baby’s nutrition as breast milk or formula are. Solid foods in the early stage are meant for practice.
Example feeding “schedule” of solid foods
A baby’s tummy is the size of his fist – remember this as you are feeding him; it doesn’t take much food to make a “meal”! Babies will probably only eat 1/2 of a tablespoon portion of food the very first time you begin solids. Don’t expect your baby to “finish” a meal; remember, this is a new experience for your baby.
As your baby gets older and eats more solids, you will gradually increase the portion sizes. Also, keep in mind that breast milk or infant formula provides for the total nutrition of your baby at this stage. Many parents find their babies will push the food out of their mouths on the first few tries. This is normal; however, it may also indicate that your baby is not ready for solid foods. Only you know your baby and will decide if the baby is truly ready for solids.
What to Feed Baby: 6-Months
- Breast milk or formula first then
- 1-3 tablespoons of food at 1 or 2 “meals”
CEREAL & GRAINS: Rice, Barley, Oat
FRUITS: Avocado, Apples, Bananas, Pears
VEGETABLES: Acorn/Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans
What to Feed Baby: 8-Months
- Breast milk or formula first then
CEREAL & GRAINS: Rice, Barley, Oat
FRUITS: Avocado, Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Mangos, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Pumpkin
VEGETABLES: Acorn/Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Carrots, Peas, Yellow Squash/Zucchini, Parsnips
PROTEINS: Chicken, Turkey, Tofu
DAIRY: Plain Whole Milk Yogurt
What to Feed Baby: 8-12 Months
- Breast milk or formula first then
CEREAL & GRAINS: Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Flax, Kamut, Millet, Oats, Pasta, Quinoa, Rice, Wheat, Wheat Germ, Sesame, Spelt
FRUITS: Avocado, Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blueberries, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Cranberries, Dates, Figs, Grapes, Kiwi, Mangos, Nectarines, Papaya, Peaches, Persimmons, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Pumpkin
VEGETABLES: Acorn/Butternut Squash, Artichokes, Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Fennel, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions, Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Carrots, Peas, Yellow Squash/Zucchini, Parsnips
PROTEINS: Chicken, Turkey, Tofu, Beans/Legumes, Beef, Egg Yolks, Fish, Ham, Pork
DAIRY: Plain Whole Milk Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Colby, Jack, Cheddar. NEVER replace breast milk or formula until after 12 months of age – serious health risks are possible. Also, never give a child under the age of 2yrs old low fat or skim milk products; whole milk is necessary.
Signs that baby may want to continue to eat
- Leaning in for the spoon
- Opening the mouth
- Grabbing for food and trying to put it in the mouth
Signs that your baby may be full
- Closing of the mouth as the spoon comes close
- Spitting out the food that is being fed
- Turning the head away as the spoon comes closer
How do I know if my baby is eating enough solid food?
As all pediatricians will tell you, “Your baby will never starve himself or herself!” The majority of healthy babies will eat just the right amount of foods they need. Resist the urge to offer “just one more bite” when the baby indicates she is finished. You do not want to accidentally override your baby’s developing ability to self-regulate his feeding; by continuing to try and feed your baby. It is essential to pay close attention to your baby’s cues, as your baby’s feeding patterns will change daily and may be affected by the goings-on around him.
Offering a well-balanced diet of solid foods will help ensure; that your baby is eating the right nutritious foods.
A healthy, well-fed baby should be producing wet diapers regularly, as well as having a bowel movement or two during the day.
Ensure that you take your baby to the well-child visits as scheduled; so that your pediatrician may weigh and measure the baby. This is to ensure that your baby has good, sustained growth.
Always consult your baby’s pediatrician if you are ever uncertain about the foods and the number of solid foods you feed your baby. Your pediatrician should assist you in validating your feeding routines and help relieve your fears.