How to Know When to Start Your Baby On Solids

When Start Baby on Solids

When your baby was a newborn, your feeding options were pretty straightforward (though maybe not simple): breast or bottle? And for a while, breastmilk and/or formula is all your little one needs to be well-nourished. But, there comes a time when your baby will be ready for a little more, and at that point, you’ll need to introduce solid foods into your baby’s diet.

Introducing solids is a big step (especially for you first-time parents!)  And one of the first questions parents have about solid foods is, “When should I start baby on solid foods?”

When to Start Solids:  Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solids

These physical signs indicate that your baby may be ready to start solids:

  • Your baby has good head control and is able to sit up with support:  This is a big one. Before starting solids, your baby needs to be able to hold her head up, on her own (so that she’s able to swallow), and she needs to be able to sit up straight. For most babies, that’s usually no earlier than 4 months old.
  • Your baby shows an interest in food:  Maybe you’ve noticed your little guy staring at you while you eat dinner, or maybe you’ve caught him reaching out and trying to grab that food right off your fork! When babies begin showing an interest in food, it may be a sign that they’re ready to start solids.  (Keep in mind, though, that this sign alone doesn’t indicate readiness. It should appear along with some of the other signs listed here.)
  • Your baby has lost the “tongue-thrust” reflex:  For the first 4 months of your baby’s life, she has a tongue-thrust reflex to protect against choking — when an object ends up on her tongue, she automatically pushes it out of her mouth.  After 4 months, your baby gradually loses this reflex, so that when you put a spoonful of food in her mouth, she’s able to swallow it.
  • Your baby attempts to mash or chew food:  When you put food in his mouth, your baby should automatically mash it with his gums.  If he does, it’s a sign that he’s ready for solids.
  • Your baby lets you know when she’s full:  You may notice that your baby begins to turn away from the bottle or breast when she’s had enough.  This is a sign that she’s able to self-regulate her appetite, which is an important step in being ready to start solids.

When to Start Solids: What age?

Of course, the calendar can be (and traditionally has been) an indicator of when it’s time to start solids.  Parents (as well as healthcare providers) consider a baby’s age when deciding if it’s best to start solids. This can be misleading, however, since age recommendations for starting solids have changed over the years.

Decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for moms to start their babies on solids at a very young age — 1 or 2 months old!  Over the years, however, as medical and nutritional sciences have evolved, moms have been encouraged to wait a little longer before starting solids.  Over time, 4-6 months of age has become the recommended starting place.

Recently, however, the window for starting solids has been pushed back even further; now, experts recommend starting solids closer to 6 months, if possible (some even recommend waiting to start until after 6 months).  There are a number of reasons for this recommendation to delay solids, including:

  • Decreasing the risk of food allergies.
  • Decreasing the risk of future obesity.
  • Decreasing the risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Allowing the baby’s immune and digestive systems more time to mature.

When to Start Solids:  Is “My Baby Seems Hungry” A Good Reason to Start Solids?

So we know some of the signs a baby may show indicating she’s ready to start solids.  And we’ve established the age when it’s best to start (around 6 months).  But often, the number one reason a parent considers starting solids is simply that your baby seems hungry.  The baby may begin waking more often at night or demanding to be nursed/bottle fed more frequently than usual.  This often starts to happen around 4 months of age, and it may seem like a sign that the baby isn’t getting enough to eat and needs something more.

Be cautious about using this as a reason to start solids, however.  Keep in mind that many babies experience a growth spurt around 4 months of age, so that could be the reason your baby is suddenly waking up hungry at night, or needing to nurse more frequently during the day.  Growth spurts don’t last long (around a week or so), so it’s best just to wait these out, before starting your baby on solids.

We need to remember, too, that the famous 4 month sleep regression occurs at this time, too.  So it’s possible that the sudden night waking has nothing to do with hunger and instead has to do with the fact that your baby’s sleep patterns are becoming more like an adult’s.  In this case, starting solids early wouldn’t help your baby sleep, simply because it’s not hunger that’s causing her to wake in the first place.

Based on this, it’s best to avoid starting solids before 5 or 6 months of age, even if your baby seems hungrier than usual around 4 months.  Instead, we recommend that you increase your nursing, or offer more bottles during the day and continue to feed as necessary at night.

Everything You Need To Know About Starting Solids – All In One e-Book!

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When did you start your baby on solids?  How did you know your baby was ready?  Share your story!

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31 thoughts on “How to Know When to Start Your Baby On Solids”

  1. My son was at 36 oz of formula per day (5 bottles total, all during the day as he started sleeping 8+ hours at night at 7 weeks) and wanted more to eat at 3.5 months, so our pediatrician had us start oat cereal (spoon fed) at that age. He’s a big kid and is off the charts for BMI and weight at 6 months old (almost 25 lbs, slightly taller than normal but has a long torso and a very wide frame). He’s taking less formula now than he used to (4 8 oz bottles a day, and sometimes doesn’t finish the whole bottle) and the pediatrician said that in his case the solids were good because they have a lower calorie density than formula (he most certainly doesn’t need help packing on the pounds). I had planned to wait longer, but parenting has taught me that plan B or C is just fine and I should roll with it. He’s actually been pretty good about eating since the beginning and it took maybe 2 feedings at the most for him to figure out how to get food off of the spoon and swallow. We have run into the issue of “boredom” with cereals, though. He’s pretty great about eating any foods that aren’t apples. Green beans are great but apples are not well received. Keeping loving those veggies, kid, and you’ll do well. My “advice” here is to talk to your doctor, and work with them to do what’s right for your baby and for you. They’re all different and you have to make choices that you can live with.

    • @Angie – Thank you for sharing! What a remarkable little guy it sounds like you have. “Keep loving on those veggies” – love it! 🙂 Please keep reading and sharing!

  2. I started solids when my baby was almost 6 months old. She is now almost 7 months old and is still not taking to it. She has had many veggies and fruit and just doesn’t want them. Any suggestions?

  3. Please Help…

    My Baby drop the cow milk in the age of 6month , they have not eating much, we are much worry about his retinue… please help the my problem

    • Cow’s milk is not sufficient to meet a 6 month old baby’s nutritional needs. Your baby needs to be having breastmilk and/or infant formula. Please take your child to the doctor for a checkup if you’ve only been giving them cow’s milk.

  4. My daughter is 5 months she turned 5 months on the 19 of aug and she’s been eating babies food since 4 months her doctor did it was okay but now that she’s 5 months and she’s eating more my problem is bowel movements she hasn’t had one in three days and I’m getting worried I’m use to her going 5-6 times and she’s breast feed only no formula and a little bit of water

    • Hello TaZ. I know it can be troubling when poop frequency changes so much. I assure you though, this can be completely normal. Some babies only poop a few times per week. As long as there are no distressing or concerning symptoms and her behavior has not changed; waking a lot more, more fussy than normal, a lot more gas than normal, or other changes in behavior I would wait another day or two and if she still hasn’t gone you can call her doctor and see what their preferred method of moving this along are. My preferred method is prunes, peaches and apple juice. Good luck.

  5. It will be very runny at first, but as your baby starts to eat more solid foods, you can gradually thicken the consistency by using less liquid.

  6. My son was born at term and weighed a healthy 10.5#! Everyone assumes since he is big he is hungry. He is 7 months and a week and we just started solids as he appeared ready. Hoping he can go longer at night now maybe.

  7. Thank you so much for the great article! My twins are turning 7 months tomorrow and one still has the tongue thrust reflex. She pushes everything out and will actually not even open her mouth. I’ve tried many different kinds of foods, but she is just not interested. Could it be that she’s just not ready at 7 months? Her sister is doing a little better and occasionally will have a few spoons of cereal.

  8. Hello Folusho, thank you for writing in. Exclusively breastfeeding babies digest milk easily and do need to eat often. Feeding 3 times per night at this age is entirely normal. I know it is exhausting though. There is no evidence to suggest that adding foods early helps babies sleep through the night. In fact the opposite can often be true. When to introduce solids is a decision best made between you and your daughters medical provider. One thing you can try if not doing so currently is a fill up feed. After you feed your daughter as part of the bedtime time routine, feed her again at YOUR bedtime. Ideally this will sync both of the longest period of her sleep with yours. About 5 hours is expected. So if you dream feed at 9:30 p.m. you would feed again at 2:30 or so and about 5:30 and not again until the start of the day. If her growth has been going well, this can assure you, your milk is sufficient! Good luck.

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