Starting solids is an exciting milestone to look forward to as a parent. There are few things cuter than a baby covered in food making all sorts of faces and exploring something new! But how do you know when it’s the right time to start solids? You may hear one recommendation from your child’s pediatrician and another from a friend or social media influencer. 

Timing

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding until starting solid foods at 6 months after birth. If your baby is receiving formula or a combination of formula and breast milk, the same recommendation of waiting to introduce solids until about 6 months applies. It’s important to note if your baby was born prematurely they should be 6 months old corrected at time of starting solids (Example: baby born at 35 weeks would be corrected to 6 months at ~7 months old).

In addition to the timing, there are a few other very important milestones that should be met before offering your baby their first bites of solid foods to ensure they are ready to safely eat.

Head and Neck Control

Baby should have good head and neck control when starting solids to ensure they are able to safely eat. As a general rule of thumb, baby should be able to sit upright in their high chair for 15-20 minutes (duration of a meal) and support their head.

Independent Sitting

Baby should be able to sit independently (or with minimal support). Ideally, baby should be seated upright in their high chair with no recline to reduce risk of choking.

Grasp and Brings Objects to Mouth

Baby should be able to grasp objects and bring them to their mouth. Are they able to pick up toys and bring them to their mouth to explore? If handed a piece of food baby should be able to pick up the food on their own using a palmar grasp for self feeding and bring it to their mouth.

Shows Interest in Food/Eating

Baby should have an interest in eating. The expectation is not for them to eat tons and tons of food from their first meal forward (and sometimes they may not eat much at all in the beginning- that’s ok!), but we do want to see baby having a general interest in eating/food. When you’re eating near baby are they watching and interested in what you’re doing? Do they try to grab what you’re eating if they’re being held while you’re eating?

Your baby is ready. What’s next?

If your baby has met all the criteria listed above and has the green light to start solids there is one very important (and potentially life saving!) step that should be taken before your baby is given their first bites: CPR/first aid training. You can find online and in-person training through the American Red Cross here. Even if you have been trained in the past, I highly recommend a refresher course. It’s something that I did before starting solids with my own baby and it truly can help to reduce the stress that can come along with starting solids.

Once you’re prepared on how to respond in the event of an emergency, you can start planning what your baby’s first food will be and how it will be served. Do you plan to follow a traditional spoon feeding or a baby led weaning (BLW) approach? BLW allows baby to self feed whole foods (modified to be safely eaten by baby) opposed to serving only purees. 

What are your biggest questions about starting solids and feeding your baby?