One of the most exciting milestones a baby can reach in their first year is starting solids, progressing from exclusive breast or bottle feeding. When your baby is ready, he will start showing signs indicating that you may want to start mixing different foods into his meal-time routine.
While you might be wondering when to start solids, make no mistake: Just like the eye-rubbing a baby does when sleepy, your little one will be showing you signs that they are ready to explore food.
Most recommendations state that solids can be introduced between 4 and 6 months old (in conjunction with continued breast or formula feeding), as by around half a year, the iron stores a baby is born with will start to decline. However, world-renowned child feeding expert, Annabel Karmel, says “There is no ‘right’ age at which to introduce solids… as every baby is different.”
Keeping some of these signs in mind might help you to recognise when the time has come for your little baby to start sampling solids.
When your baby was first born, it probably seemed like they were eating all the time (most likely every two to three hours) and there were even bouts of cluster feeding where they barely left your arms. However, as your baby approaches 6 months old, their feeding will have fallen into a steady routine.
Then, suddenly, they’re ravenous again — either still hungry after a feed or hungry more frequently. That right there is a pretty good sign that your baby is starting to need something more to fill their tummy.
Does it seem like your baby has reverted back to their newborn days? Hungry babies tend to wake more frequently at night or not settle as easily.
While it’s not recommended that you start a baby on solids with the intention of getting them to sleep through the night, you might find that a hungry baby slips back into their usual sleeping habits once they start solids. Sadly, if your baby wasn’t sleeping through the night before, there’s no guarantee food will make them change their night-time habits.
Know that feeling when you’re being watched? Well, when your baby is ready for solids, their little eagle eyes will be carefully watching what you are doing at meal times. Their eyes will track your hand as it moves from your plate to your mouth and then back again. You might start to feel guilty eating in front of them, so arm yourself with a little pouch of Heinz baby puree and offer them a spoonful while you eat your meal.
Speaking of spoons, one of the best ways to know if your baby is ready is to just try putting a spoon near their mouth. Babies who are ready usually open their mouth up to a spoonful of food and have lost their newborn tongue reflex that pushes food back out (a defence they are born with to avoid them choking on foreign objects).
Most babies like to reach for objects, but if your cherub is specifically reaching for food while you are eating, they obviously want to know what all the fuss is about. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready for finger foods (that’s usually from about 8 months old), but you should definitely give a nice smooth puree a go.
Lastly, but certainly important, is your baby’s ability to sit up. Australia’s Raising Children Network recommends that a baby “has good head and neck control and can sit up right when supported” when you are considering introducing solids.