When to Start Solids

I cannot believe this, but my baby Theodore is 4 months old! It feels like yesterday that I was writing about the benefits of breastfeeding before he was born. Now here I am, over 4 months later, thinking about introducing solids to Theodore. Time really does fly when you’re having fun!

Ever since I found out Theodore was on his way, I have been bombarded with “Mommy” groups, “Breast Feeding” groups and “Sleep Training” groups (among others!). I have posts, articles, blogs, and pictures thrown at me every minute of the day. With a plethora of information available at our fingertips, it is more important than ever to obtain information and recommendations from credible sources. Currently there is much discussion surrounding when and how to introduce solid foods to infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long recommended to introduce foods between 4-6 months of age. Recently that recommendation was modified, stating “The AAP recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. When you add solid foods to your baby’s diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that infants are being fed solid foods too early on- before 4 months. They found 40 percent of mothers “gave their baby solid foods before they were 4 months with 9 percent starting as early as 4 weeks.” Infant guts are still maturing and have not fully developed yet at this age. This is incredibly dangerous as infants cannot hold their heads up or sit, which makes solid food a choking hazard.

With conflicting advice–not to mention all the unsolicited advice from friends, family and even strangers–what’s a parent of an infant to do? Well, it depends. Generally, our advice at F2S is to start solids according to each baby’s developmental readiness, sometime between 4-8 months. Because readiness varies with each child, the perfect launch date for starting solids will be different with each baby. Look for signs like:

1. Your baby has core strength and can hold their own body up.

2. When you offer a spoon with food, your baby doesn’t push it away with their tongue or gag on it. This may take a few tries, but you’ll get a sense of if your baby is interested or not.

There are some good reasons to offer solids earlier (closer to 4 months) than later, assuming your baby shows signs of developmental readiness. A child with a family history of autoimmune disease or food allergies will benefit from eating solids earlier.

It’s also important not to offer solid foods too late, after 8 months. Chewing and swallowing is a natural instinct, but there is a window for mastering these skills. Waiting too long to try food can mean that a child is forced to learn skills at a time when their body is no longer primed for that.

Once your baby is ready for solids, start with fruits, vegetables or even meat–which has the zinc and iron that breastfeeding babies can sometimes lack. Anything that’s mild and interests your baby is fine. Happy eating!