When to introduce solids to your baby

Many mothers are always eager to start feeding their child when the right time comes so that they can at least stop eating much due to breast feeding. But one thing most of them don’t seem to know is that it’s not as easy as it seems to feed a child solid food. Health and breastfeeding experts agree that it’s best to wait until the baby is six months old before offering solid foods and some mothers do abide by this rule especially when they see that the child is constantly sucking on their bosoms. According to research, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and many other health organizations recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed (no cereal, juice or other foods) for the first 6 months of
life.

Solids readiness depends on both the maturity of baby’s digestive tract and baby’s developmental readiness for solids. Although the maturity of baby’s digestive system is not something that we can readily observe, research indicates that 6 months appears to be ideal for avoiding increased illness and other health risks of too-early solids. A mother’s breast milk is very important to the child’s growth and mental development. Most babies are developmentally ready for solids somewhere between 6 and 8 months. It is recommended that solids are introduced anytime between 4 and 6 months – but it is important you focus on the signs of readiness (see below) for solids rather than the age of your baby.

Below are signs which show that your baby is ready for solids.

Waiting until your baby is ready is very important as it respects your baby’s development, greatly reduces the risk of an allergic reaction and shortens the transition time between spoon- and self-feeding. Eating will be a much more ‘fun’ experience if you wait and watch for when your baby is genuinely interested and ready for solids. Your baby will give you clear signs. If you give your baby solids too early, you increase the risk of digestive problems or food allergies.   If solid food completely replaces breast milk or formula too quickly, your baby is also at risk of becoming malnourished.

Head control. Babies need to be able to sit and hold their head steady by themselves before they can begin to eat. When your baby’s head is not steady, then he or she still needs exclusive
breastfeeding.

Sitting well when supported: Even if baby is not quite ready for a chair, they do need to be able to sit upright to swallow well.

Significant weight gain: A very general guide that baby is ready is when birth weight has doubled. (This is not an indication alone)

Interest in food and watching others eating: Babies have the ability to let you know when they are full and cannot take anymore food. Look for signs such as turning away from the bottle or breast. This is important so that baby is able to have some say in the process and can communicate if and when they have had enough. Babies have build a built in natural appetite and therefore it is important they can self-regulate the amount of food they eat.

Growing appetite. Baby is hungry; even with six to eight feedings of breast milk or formula a day.

Understand the dynamics of their mouth, lips and tongue. Your baby’s mouth and tongue develop in sync with the digestive system. To start solids, babies open their mouth when food is offered and should be able to move food to the back of the mouth and swallow.

Loss of the tongue-thrust reflex. To keep solid food in his mouth and then swallow it, your baby needs to stop using his tongue to push food out of his mouth. Also a baby needs to know how to use their tongue to keep themselves from choking. If you start solids too early, your baby may experience a choking sensation by having food in their mouth that they can’t control. This is dangerous and will make meal times stressful for all involved!

Remember – “outward” signs of being ready for solids do not mean that your baby’s inner digestive system is mature and ready. Always seek professional opinion if your baby does not respond well when you try to introduce solids.

 

By Pupwaya Timothy Dibal

Related Articles

About the author

Related

JOIN THE DISCUSSION