By Doulas of Shanghai
“When should my baby start solids?”
This is one of the most common postpartum questions I hear as an infant feeding specialist.
Just like with any other baby-related question you type into a search engine, you’re going to get multiple contradictory answers. It can be stressful trying to wade through that information to find the choice that best suits your family and is safest for your baby.
Most recommendations out there indicate you can start feeding your baby solids between 4-6 months of age. But this is a big range, and not all (or even most!) are ready to start at 4 months of age. Before six months of age, babies will have their nutritional needs met by breastmilk, formula, or a mix of the two.
Getting your baby started on solids is NOT a race. The first baby to eat solids does not get an award, and there are virtually no benefits to trying to start your baby on solids at four months rather than six months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solids to your baby at about six months of age, and only if your baby has reached the following developmental landmarks.
- Your baby can sit up on their own. Babies should have the core strength to sit up on their own without support. This is one clue that your baby’s body is mature enough to swallow and digest more than just milk.
- Your baby has head and neck control.This is vital to your baby being able to swallow the solids you offer. Your baby should be able to lift and carry her head, as well at turn and look around easily.
- Your baby doesn’t push food out with her tongue. Before four months of age, your baby’s natural reflex is to push items out of the mouth with her tongue. Babies will lose this reflex when they’re starting to get ready for purees.
- Your baby is starting to grasp at and show interest in foods. Babies will naturally want to do the things you do, and that includes eating! Around six months of age, your baby may start grabbing for food or objects and bringing them to her mouth.
What kind of foods should my baby try first?
Your baby can try single-ingredient pureed food in the beginning. Some doctors recommend waiting 3-5 days between trying different foods to see if your baby has any allergies to each new food.
Pureed fruits or vegetables are a popular choice when starting to introduce foods, since they are high in nutritional value. If introducing infant cereals, check to see that they are fortified infant cereals made with oat, barley, or multigrain instead of only rice cereal.
Will my baby choke on new foods?
Choking happens when a piece of food is too big or a shape that your baby cannot swallow, blocking the airway. It’s important to feed your baby foods that are appropriate for her developmental stage to avoid choking. Choking happens silently, without loud coughing or gagging, so be sure to always watch your baby when they eat.
Introducing pureed foods is a great first step. Letting your baby explore the foods on her own rather than spoon feeding may help to limit gagging. In the beginning your baby may cough, gag, or spit up. When this happens, monitor your baby to make sure they effectively get the food out of their mouth. Avoid using your finger to scoop it out, as this can sometimes accidentally push food deeper into the throat.
Many parents feel more confident feeding their baby after taking an infant CPR and first aid class. You will then be better prepared to help your baby during an emergency.
There are also helpful apps such as Solid Starts and other online resources that will give you advice on foods you can introduce, how to prepare it for each stage of development, and more.
Want to talk with a professional about introducing solids to your baby? Doulas of Shanghai will help to schedule a consultation with one of our infant feeding specialists. She can help you decide when is right for you and your baby to start solids. If you have concerns about your baby reaching developmental milestones, consult with your pediatrician.
Have questions? We’re here to help! Contact Doulas of Shanghai today.