I love breastfeeding my babies, and I love the goodness breastmilk supplies to their bodies, but I’ll be the first to admit, I also love transitioning them to eating solids. I joke often with my close friends that many times I feel like a hot-mess milk factory more than a hot young mama, and much of that is due to the demand on my body’s resources and energy for breastfeeding. While I do think it is great to extend breastfeeding as long as possible, adding in solids when baby is ready helps the demand on the body lessen and opens up a little more free time (and catch-up-on-sleep time) for mama. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until baby is 6 months of age before the introduction of solids.
What are the signs to look for to know baby is ready for solids?
It is very important to look for cues in your baby’s development to make sure they are ready to start eating foods other than breastmilk. All babies develop at different paces, so by watching for these cues, you can reduce risks of allergic reactions and allow for their gut health to not be compromised from exposure. (That is, IF they are being introduced to the right foods at the right times. More on that next week.) Giving your baby solids too early can greatly disrupt the development of “good guys” (in what we call our gut ecosystem and probiotics), which can lead to future digestive problems, allergies (food and others), and even malnourishment if solids replace breastmilk too quickly.
Look for these cues showing baby is ready to be introduced to solids:
- Head and body control – Baby is able to sit up without much assistance and control the movement and steadiness of his head. Neck strength is important for baby to be able to eat and swallow properly while sitting upright is important for digestion.
- Less slobber and drool – Baby has learned to swallow her saliva. This is an important sign showing that she knows how to swallow food as well.
- Tongue control – Baby’s tongue-thrust reflex, in which your baby sticks his tongue out when his lips are touched, has disappeared, and he shows control of his tongue by mimicking or imitating eating behaviors. This is very important because your baby will not be able to keep solids in his mouth with the tongue-thrust reflex still at large. The tongue is used to push foods through the mouth in order to swallow, and if baby is not showing that control, he may experience a choking sensation when eating. This can be very dangerous, so look for that tongue control!
- Appetite – Baby shows an increasing interest in food and has a growing appetite. With my boys, this was a major sign because they wanted to nurse constantly and would watch every bite of food I took with, what I call, “jealous” eyes. My youngest, especially, is a chunker, and at six months old, he will actively try to steal the plate of food you are holding or the straw you are drinking from. Every time we are eating, he smacks his lips and pretends to chew. If offered food, he will open his mouth as wide as possible to tell us he is ready!
While these outward signs are important cues to look for, it is important to remember that this does not always mean their digestive systems are mature enough for food. Remember to start slowly and simply with food introduction, and seek medical advice if your baby is not responding well.
What to I feed my baby?
As I am introducing solids to my youngest, I’ve had many moms ask me what I do in terms of those first foods. Join me next week as I walk through our first foods list based on real food (aka not rice cereal).
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