The first few months after your baby’s birth can be a roller-coaster ride, with haphazard routines, feeding schedules, reinforcing sleep timings and so on. And once your baby turns six months old, it is time for another one of the first beginnings for you and your baby – starting with solid food.
There are so many theories, assumptions, and suggestions regarding the baby’s readiness for solids that they may end up confusing you, rather than helping. So how should you decide your baby’s readiness for solids?
Experts believe that besides the 6-month timeline generally used to introduce solids; certain developmental markers can help determine whether the baby is prepared for them (1).
A list of these markers is as follows:
- The baby can hold his/her head independently while changing positions.
- The baby can sit on a high chair or a baby seat without assistance.
- The baby demonstrates hand and mouth coordination and can successfully take the food and put it in the mouth.
- The baby responds by opening his/her mouth when food is offered.
- The baby can take the contents of the spoon into the mouth.
- He/she can swallow food properly.
However, there are some unreliable markers that are commonly believed to be true for starting solids for babies. Here we give you some of those indicators that you should avoid while deciding on starting solids.
1. Baby Starts Getting Teeth
There is no fixed time when your baby will get his/her first tooth. Some babies get it by the fourth month, and some may even get it as late as their first birthday. For this reason, it isn’t a reliable timeline for starting solids. If you follow this, you may make a mistake of starting too soon or delaying for too long.
2. Baby Starts To Grab Hold Of Your Food
When you see your baby reaching out for food on your plate, you may be tempted to believe that he/she is hungry and prepared for solids. However, that is far from the truth. Babies are curious and like to grab and experiment with different textures and colors, even tasting and licking them.
But that isn’t the indicator of their readiness for solid food. Look for the other markers like hand-mouth coordination, swallowing, chewing with gums, etc. to ascertain if it is the correct stage to introduce solids.
3. Your Baby Wakes Up In The Night
Your baby waking up in the night is not an indication of insufficient nutrition and readiness for solids, although some myths may lead you to believe the same.
The sleep-wake patterns in babies undergo a lot of changes in the first year as a result of physical and cognitive changes that take place in their body. These changes are natural and have very little to do with nutrition (2).
4. Your Baby Wants to Feed Frequently
There can be many reasons why your baby might want to have frequent feeds. Wonder-weeks, growth spurts, separation anxiety, failing to fall asleep, teething troubles and so on.
Therefore, do not rush to any conclusion or decide to start solids when you see this happening. Observe your child, and you will understand why he/she is being fussy.
5. Your Baby Requires Solid Food for Better Nutrition
In the first year, breast milk or formula milk for formula-fed babies is the primary source of nourishment. Other sources of solid foods are only complementary and have to be introduced at proper stages and phases (3).
Milk has all the required nutrients to meet the demands of the baby’s growing body. If they are weaned off this source too soon or if it is replaced by too much solid food, it can be detrimental to the baby’s health.
6. Your Baby’s Weight
Many believe that if the baby has doubled in birth weight, then he/she is ready for solids, but that is not the case. Just because a baby weighs heavier doesn’t mean that he/she has reached developmental milestones. Similarly, if the baby is smaller, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she is low on nutrition either.
Mother’s milk or formula milk has more calories and blend of essential nutrients compared to any other food, and therefore its importance should not be undermined when compared to solids.
It is indeed a moment of great excitement and anticipation for any parents to find out how their baby would react to his/her first taste of solids. However, when it comes to dietary changes for babies, timing is essential.
With some patience and care, seeing your baby transition to a diet with solid foods can be a very rewarding experience! So take our advice, disregard the myths and take things one-step at a time.