Feeding your baby: introducing solid food

There comes a time in every baby's life when they have to transition from breast milk to solid foods. Here's what you need to know to take that step.

Feeding your baby: introducing solid food

Baby solid foods

Breast-feeding your baby up until the age of about six months is generally a good idea. But eventually, they'll need to transition over to solid foods. While there's no set age that works for all babies, starting to introduce solid foods at about four to six months can probably work for most.

How to know when you should start

The reason why physicians and researchers recommend starting at about the four-to-six-month age mark is because that's when babies' digestive and muscular systems start to become advanced enough to handle solid foods. They need the dexterity to be able to pick up food on their own (which really starts to develop at the seven- to eight-month mark), as well as the digestive ability to process what they eat.

Starting before this mark can potentially spell out trouble for babies. Not only will their digestive systems not be able to handle what they're eating (and you'll definitely be able to tell!), but introducing solid foods too early can increase the risk of developing food allergies. Babies are pretty flexible creatures and can usually survive on just breast milk alone up until the age of five or six months, so there should be no rush to introduce solid foods.

There are also several signs you can watch out for that your baby will be telling you it's time to start on solids. Some of these include:

  • Head and muscle control: your baby should be able to hold up his or head head consistently and regularly in an upright position without lolling around.
  • Unassisted sitting: even in a high chair or something with more support, your baby should be able to keep themselves upright. This is so they can keep an open pathway for swallowing.
  • Weight gain and size: there's no perfect formula for using your baby's size and weight in determining when they should start on solids, but most babies are usually ready for the next step once they've doubled their birth weight AND are at least four months old. If they're also starting to eat more than usual during the day, it can be a sign they need the added nutrients that come along with solid foods.
  • No extrusion reflex: the extrusion reflex is when your baby uses his or her tongue to push food out of their mouths. This reflex needs to be gone so they can keep solid food in their mouths, break it down in size and then swallow it.
  • Showing the ability to chew: it's one thing for your baby to put food in his or her mouth, and quite another to actually chew it so it can be swallowed in small enough sized pieces. The amount of drool can be one indication of how well your baby is learning to chew (except during teething), as less drool usually means being able to swallow more efficiently.
  • Food curiosity: sometimes, your baby will use visual or physical cues, such as looking at your food or reaching for it, as a way of indicating they're ready for solids.
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