How will you know when your baby is ready to eat solid foods?
The question of when you’ll know if your baby is ready to eat solid foods is a tough one to answer. There are many variables and as we know, all babies are different. It’s usually when babies are around 3 or 4 months old that many parents start to feel that baby may need “something more” than formula or breast milk.
You may find your baby may suddenly waking up more often at night or eating more often than has been typical. While waking at night for a feeding could be an indicator that your baby is ready for solid food, there might be another reason: a growth spurt ypically occurs between 3 and 4 months of age. This growth spurt often accounts for your baby’s increased appetite, but is not necessarily a sign that your baby needs solid foods. These demands for increased feedings are your baby’s way of obtaining the crucial nutrition her body needs during this time of rapid growth. Babies have a tremendous ability to know just what they need and when they need it. Remember, during these early months formula and/or breast milk are your baby’s most important source of nutrition.
Studies show that babies are highly individual in developing a readiness for solid foods. One baby might seem to be ready for solids at 4 months, while another shows no signs of readiness until around 6 or 7 months.
Since appetite alone is not a reliable indication, here are a few key signs to look for when trying to determine if your baby is ready to begin the journey into solid foods:
Has baby lost the tongue-thrust reflex?
In the first four months the tongue thrust reflex prevents a baby from choking on foreign objects. When any unusual substance is placed on the tongue, it automatically protrudes outward rather than back. Between four and six months this reflex gradually diminishes. Until this reflex is gone, solid foods won’t have a chance of making it into baby’s belly.
Has baby developed the ability to signal that she is full?
Your baby will develop the ability to let you know that she is full from a “meal” with signs such as turning away from the bottle or breast and/or clamping her mouth shut. This signaling ability is critical for allowing him to regulate the amount of food he is eating and helps him avoid overeating.
Is baby able to sit up and hold his head up unassisted?
This milestone is important because babies who must be reclined to be fed are at greater risk of choking. Also, the ability to sit and have head control has long been associated with the physical maturity that might indicate baby is ready to eat solids. Most pediatricians are in agreement that this milestone as a clear indicator that a baby is ready to begin solid foods.
Has baby’s birth weight doubled?
The doubling of birth weight is a rough rule of thumb that baby is ready for solid food. It’s far from an exact rule, though, so you should consider the other signs as well.
Some other (but less reliable) baby developments that may be viewed as signs of being ready to eat solid foods
These signs may include the following:
Is Baby interested in your food
This could signal a readiness for food but may not be the best sign as when a baby reaches 4-6 months, he is interested in putting everything in his mouth!
Is baby frequently waking in the middle of the night when a consistent sleeping pattern had been established.
As noted earlier, although frequent waking could be a sign of readiness for solids, it’s not a reliable sign. Baby may be waking (and nursing/feeding) for any number of reasons: illness, teething or even a growth spurt. Unfortunately, as you will learn over the coming months and years, sleeping patterns are often disrupted for all sorts of reasons even long after your child is on a solid food diet.