Is my baby ready for solids?
Experts in infant feeding recommend waiting until at least 6 months of age to begin introducing solids to your baby. I like to use this analogy when I am doing breastfeeding education: there are some 12 year old kids that have good hand-eye coordination, are tall enough, and seem interested in learning how to drive a car. Does this mean that you throw them the keys and allow them to go out onto the road? Certainly not. It is the same with infants - just because they are interested in table foods, this does not mean we automatically begin to offer them.
So how do you know if your baby is ready for solids? You will want to make sure that your baby is at least 6 months old AND meets all of the following criteria.
1. When sitting up, the infant is able to hold their own head up.
Babies are born with very large heads in comparison to the size of their body. Until the baby has gained enough neck strength, they are unable to hold up their own head when they are sitting. In order to introduce solids safely, your baby should be able to hold up their own head when they are propped in a chair.
If you are using baby-led weaning, you want to make sure that the infant can sit up unassisted and has the ability to grab and hold onto foods prior to allowing them access to foods.
2. The infant no longer has a tongue thrust reflex
Many parents begin to introduce solids and when the baby uses their tongue to push the food back out of their mouth, they conclude the baby did not like that type of food. This is not 100% accurate, as infants are born with a tongue thrust reflex that helps them to breastfeed. The tongue thrust reflex causes the baby to push their tongue out of their mouth when there is something near their lips. If your baby still has a strong tongue thrust reflex, then they are not quite ready for solid foods yet.
3. The infant reaches for/shows interest in table foods
We always want feeding to be a positive experience, so that we encourage our children to have a healthy relationship with food as they grow up. If your baby is not showing interest in solid foods, don't force them to eat solid foods.
One dietitian who does a lot of work with child feeding is Ellyn Satter. Ellyn's website and books are very helpful for parents navigating the world of infant feeding after introducing complementary foods.