by Pregnancy.org Staff
Your baby's eyes are following your fork from your plate to your mouth, back to the plate...he chews as you chew. He lunges for your spoon in an attempt to intercept food as it passes. Are you suspicious that he might be ready to being experimenting with solids?
Bring on the Food!
You will know that she is really ready to start solids when:
- She is interesting in food and eating
- She can sit up well without support
- She has good control of neck and head muscles in the sitting position and is able to turn her head away to signal she has had all she wants
- Her tongue moves well and has lost the tongue-thrusting reflex so she doesn't just shove solids out of her mouth
- She still seems to be hungry even though she is nursing frequently (she's not sick or teething)
- She is able to get fingers and toys into her mouth and will be able to pick up food with her finger and thumb
Most babies hit these developmental and physiological milestones by 6-9 months of age. While exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support growth and development for approximately the first 6 months after birth, most pediatric organizations suggest the gradual introduction of vegetables, fruits, meats or iron-enriched/iron-rich solid foods in the second half of the first year. [If your baby was born preterm, use her adjusted age and development to predict when she'll be ready to start solids.]
Breast milk or formula is still expected to be the main source of nutrients for your baby. These first weeks of eating solids are just another way to learn about the world around him...and hopefully get a few nutrients from bowl to tummy.
For some babies, delaying solids longer than six months can be a good thing; for example, some doctors may recommend delaying solids for 12 months if there is a family history of allergies. Listen to your baby! Babies with a tendency to allergies may refuse solids until later in their first year.
Starting solids too early is not recommended. Before four months of age, the newborn's system isn't mature enough to handle solids. His system lacks certain digestive enzymes, such as amylase, needed for digesting cereals. His body has trouble digesting some fats before he is 6 months old. The naturally occurring sodium in such foods as cereals, eggs and meat can place unnecessary stress on his undeveloped kidneys.
Introducing of solids to early increases the likelihood of developing allergies later on, particularly if there is a strong history of allergies in the family.
Starting solids early increases the risk of choking because the baby is developmentally unready to chew and swallow solids correctly before 4 to 6 months of age.
Another reason for not giving solid foods early is unintentional overfeeding, which increases the risk of lifetime problems with obesity. Younger babies can't signal when they are full by turning away.
Beginning solids too soon reduces the amount of breastmilk or formula your baby receives during a period when it is the preferred nutrient.
When Baby is Breastfed
- Delaying solids gives baby greater protection from illness
- Delaying solids decreases the risk of food allergies
- Delaying solids helps to protect baby from iron-deficiency anemia
Delaying solids until your baby is ready makes starting solids easier since your baby can feed himself!
Can Solids Be Started Too Late?
Can starting solids be delayed too long? It is recommended that babies be offered the opportunity to learn to chew and swallow before 9 months unless your pediatrician recommends waiting longer. Older babies may have difficulty or resist learning to eat solid foods. In addition, some babies may need iron from solids by this age.
Happy feeding! Discovering the amazing world of food will be an experience for you and your baby! You'll know it's going well if you both are having a good time.
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