We know how wholesome breastfeeding feels. However, your breastmilk cannot continue to fuel your baby’s growth for the rest of their lives. To provide additional nutrients, you need to wean your little one and introduce solids into their diet. However, what is the right time of transitioning to solid foods?
The Right Age to Start Solids
According to the American Pediatric Association, exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months is recommended. After that, your baby requires other nutrients like zinc, and iron among others to support the rapid phase of growth that follows. Furthermore, we need to expose those little tummies to different varieties of foods.
Solid foods can be started around 4-6 months of age (ideally 6 months). Before this mark, it can be considered too early. Usually, by the time your baby touches the 6-month mark, they will show signs that they are ready to start eating other foods. We’ll be getting into the signs to look for.
Why Not Start Solids Before 4-6 Months?
We know it is exciting to see your baby achieve new milestones. However, running ahead of time can sometimes misfire. The digestive system of infants is still developing. It lacks several vital enzymes essential for the digestion of solid foods. Therefore, adding solids to their diet before their bodies are ready to hold them down can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and other digestive issues.
Besides, infants present a behavioral phenomenon called the tongue-thrust reflex. Due to that, their tongue pushes out the solid foods you put in their mouths. However, if you force food against the thrust too early, when they get a little older and gain more control over their actions, they can be too stubborn and reject the food when fed.
Moreover, force-feeding babies not ready for solid foods, especially formula-fed ones, might make them overweight and obese, later in life. Starting solids for babies who are not 6-months old yet and are still breastfeeding, can affect your breastmilk supply as they will nurse less often. This will prevent the powerful nourishment of your breastmilk from reaching their bodies in sufficient quantities.
Starting Solids Too Late
While we just saw how starting solids too early can be problematic, being later than usual in introducing your little one to the world of flavors doesn’t help either. Starting solids too late often causes children to become picky eaters and develop poor eating habits. It’s because by then they are so comfortable with the convenience of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding that they find it too hard to chew and slow food of different textures.
Signs To Start Solids
As per our promise earlier, here are the signs that you need to look out for in your baby to identify if they are ready for solids:
- They can hold their head upright without support
- When you put solids (soft and mashed) in their mouth, they don’t push it out, i.e, the tongue-thrust reflex is gone
- They show interest in what you are eating
- They show progress in motor skills development. This means that they have developed proper hand-eye coordination, hold objects on their own, and can voluntarily take their hands into their mouths
What to Introduce First?
When you start solids, it is very important to ensure that the texture of the food remains extremely soft and watery to prevent choking hazards. You can start off mixing cereals with cereals in breast milk or formula for a thicker consistency, mashed fruits, and vegetables (boiled). Expose them to one food at a time so that they learn to distinguish between tastes. You’ll also start to notice what flavors they are gravitating toward. This approach of introducing solids will also help you easily identify foods that they are allergic to. Take your time and graduate to tough textures slowly.
Transitioning to solid foods can be more challenging than it appears. It is a big change for your little one. So, take it easy. It might take several days to weeks before your baby readily accepts solid foods. Therefore, do not be in a hurry to hop on the bandwagon of weaning. Team up with your munchkin and help them come to terms with the new world of flavors at their pace.
For additional reading, check out these resources:
CDC – When, What and How to Introduce Solid Foods
Kids Health – When Can My Baby Start Eating Solid Foods?
What to Expect – Introducing Solid Food to Your Baby
Happiest Baby - The Best First Foods to Introduce to Your New Baby