Starting solids is a huge milestone for you and your baby, albeit a messy one—so don’t say you haven’t been warned! For some, starting solids is an exciting new adventure to look forward to. For others, this milestone is nerve-racking, overwhelming and confusing. When do I start? How do I start? Is my baby ready? What foods do I start with?
Being a parent means you are faced with hundreds of thousands of decisions throughout your child’s lifetime. Just one of those is when to start your new little one on solid foods, which can be quite confusing.
Most information you see, hear or read will tell you solid foods can be started anywhere between 4 to 6 months. However, current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that breast milk or formula is a baby’s main source of nutrition until approximately 6 months of age. Dr. Janice Martin, pediatrician at Pediatric Care Specialists in Overland Park, goes even farther by saying, “Breast milk or formula provides a complete source of nutrition for an infant for the first year of life. Solid food introduction adds taste and texture variety to a baby’s diet but is not of significant nutritional value at first.”
Beginning solid foods too early also carries a certain amount of risk. “Early solid food introduction may be linked to an increased risk of food allergies, diabetes, celiac disease and childhood obesity,” Dr. Martin explains.
As a new parent (or even as a “seasoned” one!), you will be bombarded with loads of information, ideas and opinions. Listen and take it with a grain of salt but, ultimately, use your instinct and watch your child for cues. Oftentimes, a baby’s growth spurt, which typically occurs around 3-4 months, can be mistaken as a sign of readiness for beginning solids. Look for some of these other signs, as well, that your baby might be ready:
- Sitting up well and having good head control
- Watching and showing interest in you and others as you eat
- Having doubled birth weight
- Less tongue thrusting reflex
Starting solids is your baby’s first experience with “food,” so try to keep it positive and healthy. Ruth Yaron, author of Super Baby Food, suggests, “Take it slowly and never push your baby to eat. You want your baby to look forward to meals as relaxing and enjoyable times with you.” Overland Park first-time mom Tierney Thompson says, “We’re going to start giving banana or avocado when Ben is 5 months. He's interested in food now, so letting him try different fruits and veggies soon is our plan.”
Each child is different, so try to avoid the comparison game, which I feel is a trap to easily fall into as a parent. In our case, we tried our firstborn with solids at 4 months but found he wasn’t ready, so we waited another month. Beginning him at 5 months was a good fit for us. However, with our second, we didn’t start solids until 6 months. Maybe this was just my realizing how fast children grow up and seeing no reason to rush. With our third, we may never start solids!
As always, please consult your child’s pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about starting solid foods.
Julie Collett writes from her home in Overland Park where she found starting solids to be a fun and interesting experience and will soon relive it with a third addition expected in October!