How do you work out when your bub is ready for the wonderful world of food?
As a first-time parent, or even one who’s been there before, it’s easy to feel like your head is spinning with advice about what you should or shouldn’t do at more-or-less every turn. Depending on who you speak to – health professional, mother-in-law, other parents – or what you read, you can end up in varying states of confusion.
When to start your baby on solids is a classic example of this.
Is it four months, five months, six months, or simply when baby starts grabbing food off your dinner plate? Chances are you’ve been given one or all of the above and now have no idea what to believe.
The truth is, there is no ‘right’ time to introduce solid food – after all, babies develop at different rates. Sometime between four and six months is the recommended guide and during this period your baby will most likely show you when they’re ready.
Like most parenting conundrums (bar serious health concerns), you – not a book or expert – are in the best position to decide what’s right for your bub; just keep your eyes peeled for the following cues.
Good head and neck control
Just as we’d struggle to eat if our head was wobbling uncontrollably on our shoulders, your baby needs to be able to keep his head steady in order to swallow properly. He may not be quite ready for a highchair but he should be able to sit upright with support.
Interested in food
Perhaps you’ve noticed a pair of beady eyes intently following your fork as it travels to your mouth at mealtimes. Or maybe bub has made the first messy attempts to grab and gobble some of your food. Either way, both are clear signs that your baby is working up an appetite for solids.
Basic oral skills
Can bub keep solid food in her mouth and swallow it? If she keeps pushing it out with her tongue it’s not because she’s already decided to be a fussy eater – it’s just thanks to the ‘extrusion’ or ‘tongue-thrust’ reflex she was born with. You’ll need to wait for this to disappear before she’ll take solids with any success.
Some parents notice their bub waking more often in the night or showing signs of hunger in the day even with eight to ten breast or formula feeds. This could be a sign that his appetite is no longer satisfied with milk alone – in which case, it’s time to whip out the bowl and spoon.
Piling on the pounds
I remember my daughter had chubby ‘Michelin Man’ legs when I first started her on solids – food used to fall onto her lap and get stuck between the thigh creases. If your bub has doubled their weight since birth – or thereabouts – it’s another cue they’re ready for food.
Like many parenting decisions, there’s a certain amount of trial and error involved when bringing solids into the equation. If from the get go your bub bounces around like an excited puppy when she sees you preparing her food and eagerly opens her mouth whenever a spoon is in the vicinity, you can be confident you’ve made the right call. But if she repeatedly turns her nose up and clamps her lips shut, it’s ok to leave it for a couple of weeks and then have another go.
Trust your instincts – they, and your baby, will tell you what to do.
Note: When you do start your baby on solids they’ll also need breast milk and/or formula until they’re at least 12 months old to get the right level of nutrition.
About the author: Jo Sharp
Jo has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Based in Sydney, she covers both business and lifestyle topics and has written numerous articles about pregnancy and parenting. When she’s not glued to her laptop, she can be found out and about in Bondi with her two kids.
Great options for first timers:
Simply apple puree combined with ground brown rice cereal & a sprinkle of cinnamon. An ideal first puree on its own or squeeze onto bub’s porridge or yoghurt.
Rapsberry, Apple & Rosehip
A unique blend of four fruits to tickle little taste buds & provide a nutritional boost.