In This Post:
About 1/3 (32%) of babies in the US are introduced to solid foods before they are 4 months of age (Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025).
I found this statistic mind-blowing…
But then I thought “what was the biggest question my clients have when I meet with them?”
Starting solid foods with your baby!
The first step to a better understanding of introducing solid foods to your baby is to understand when to start!
Let’s get started by answering “when do you start feeding your baby food?”
When Do You Start Feeding Baby Food? – The Short Answer
The current recommendation is to start your baby on solid foods between 4-6 months of age.
Who’s recommending this? (Not just me!)
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 6 months of age.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025) state introducing complementary foods at 4-6 months of age.
So how do you determine when your baby is ready when they give us an age range?
We look at your baby’s development of gross motor, oral, and fine motor skills needed to begin solid foods to show us that they are ready.
So let’s talk about the signs you can look for to tell when your baby is ready because every baby is different.
The Developmental Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solid Foods
If you find your baby is/has completed all of the developmental milestones in this list (and falls between the age of 4-6 months) they are ready for solid foods:
- Sits up by themselves or with little support
- Holds their head up well and has good neck control
- Brings objects to their mouth
- Tries to grab small objects – food or toys
- Shows interest in the food you are eating
- Opens mouth to a spoon
Signs That Don’t Mean Your Baby is Ready for Solid Foods
Wives’ tales…your aunt Karen’s advice…the stranger in the grocery store’s unsolicited comments – every nutritionist’s worst nightmare (and maybe yours too).
Here are some reasons I have heard people suggest are reasons to start solids…but are NOT!
- Increased night waking. Introducing solids too early actually often interrupts sleep due to indigestion.
- Increased appetite. If your baby is not meeting the developmental signs listed above their increase in appetite is likely due to a growth spurt. Increase formula or breastfeeds.
- Nursing or drinking from the bottle quicker than normal. As your baby gets older, they get more efficient.
Your baby is distracted while nursing or bottle-feeding. Around 4 to 5 months your baby is becoming more aware and curious of the world around him or her. This is not a sign that your baby is not interested or satisfied with nursing or bottle feeding.
Until your baby is meeting the developmental signs listed in the previous section continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding only!
What If I Am Planning on Baby-Led Weaning? When Can I Start?
I suggest to my clients who are using the baby-led weaning method of introducing solids to aim closer to 6 months of age.
I’ll tell you why – baby-led weaning requires your baby to be fully capable of self-feeding. I often don’t see babies are developmentally there until they are closer to 6 months of age.
Make sure your baby can:
- Reach out and grab things
- Take the objects they pick up and bring them to their mouth
- Make gnawing or chewing movement
- Hold their head and neck steady
- Sit up on their own with no support
What Happens When You Introduce Solids Too Early?
There are nutritional concerns when parents introduce their baby to solid foods too early. They are:
- Digestive problems. Your baby will not have the digestive enzymes to be able to breakdown the solid foods you are feeding them. This causes gas, discomfort, constipation, and/or diarrhea.
- Reduce your baby’s iron stores.
- Increases your baby’s risk for obesity later in childhood.
My Baby Shows Signs He is Ready for Solid Foods But Refuses to Eat the Food I Offer
Be patient! Don’t pressure or force your baby if they are not eating.
No one knows your baby better than your baby. This may be their way of communicating they’re not ready for solid foods.
Pressuring or forcing your baby to eat may lead to refusal later on (when they are ready) because of prior parental pushing.
There is no nutritional need for complementary foods in your baby’s diet until 6 months of age.
Continue offering breastmilk or formula as usual + offer rice cereal once a week until your baby is ready.
What if your baby is 6 months or older? Or maybe nearing that age? Reach out to a nutritionist, like me, or to your pediatrician for advice.
Let’s Wrap It Up
The key takeaways…when do you start feeding baby food?
- If your baby is between 4-6 months of age and is meeting all the developmental skills needed to start solids, then check out my blog post on how to get started
- If your baby is not meeting all the developmental skills needed to start solids, continue with breastmik and/or formula until they are showing all the signs they are ready