When's The Right Time To Start Your Baby On Solids?

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baby eating food. Louis-Paul St-Onge/E+/Getty

Trying to figure out the right time to start your baby on solids can be confusing. I've had friends who started baby cereal (with the recommendation of a doctor) as early as three months and I've had other friends who delayed starting solid food at all. And then there's that whole Alicia Silverstone way of pre-chewing your baby's food, although I fully admit that that's not for me. 

So how do you know when it really is the right time to start your baby on solids?

It may be helpful to take a look at the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for infant feeding:

1. Exclusive breastfeeding for at least one year

The APP recommends that all babies be exclusively breastfed (meaning no formula) for at least one year of life. This means that even after solid food is introduced, it's recommended that breastfeeding still continue. The APP also doesn't give a "cut off" point for breastfeeding to stop and in fact, the World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for "up to two years and beyond," so if you're interested in extended breastfeeding beyond your baby's first year of life, by all means, do it! 

2. Solid food can begin around six months

Whether your baby is breast or bottle fed, the AAP gives a loose recommendation for parents and care providers to introduce solid food around six months. So what exactly does that mean?

Well, for starters, it means that there is no hard and fast rule about when you "have" to start giving your baby solid foods. Some babies are ready for solid foods earlier than others, and some babies will continue to be content with breast milk or formula for longer periods of time -- and that's ok.

You shouldn't force solid food on your baby. He or she will probably let you know when it's time to break out the blender.

In our family, I looked for cues from my baby to tell me that he or she was interested in trying food, such as:

  • Following a family member eating
  • Reaching for food
  • Showing interest in food

Once a baby showed interest in eating solid food, I would try a small amount of real pureed baby food--there's simply no reason to stick with baby cereal anymore--and take it from there. One of my children loved eating solids immediately at six months, while my daughter simply wasn't interested and we delayed solids until she was almost eight months old.

It's important to realize that starting your baby on solid food too early can be detrimental to his or her health. The APP states that babies who are started on solids too early actually are more likely to be obese and struggle with weight problems later in life.

When your baby is ready for solids, he or she may only eat one or two tablespoons of a new food at first, which is perfectly normal.

Try to introduce one or two foods at a time and of course, be watchful for any reactions. And messes, because those are bound to happen from here on out. Happy eating!

Sources

Infant Food and Feeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed online November 29. 2014: http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx#none.

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