When it comes to feeding baby solids, one of the most common questions parents ask is, “How do I know my baby’s ready to start solid foods?” He might seem hungrier than usual, but does that mean he’s ready? She may have good head and neck control, but is that a sign that she can start eating solids?
We tackle the question of when to start in our How To Know When to Start Your Baby on Solids post, but we thought it might be helpful to review. Below are nine common signs that’ll help you know if your baby’s ready to begin her solid food journey.
Baby Has Doubled His Birthweight
Once your baby has doubled his birthweight, health experts generally agree that his digestive system is ready for an introduction to solids.
Baby Sits With Support
If your baby can sit up with support (being held on an adult’s lap, or with the aid of a highchair or infant seat), she may be ready to start solids.
Baby Has Good Head and Neck Control
This one is important. As a newborn, your baby wasn’t able to hold his head up; as he grows, however, he should gain more head and neck control, to the point where he can hold his head up on his own, without support. It’s essential that your baby has good head and neck control in order to swallow food properly.
Baby Seems Interested in Food
You might start to notice your baby watching you like a hawk while you eat, or even grabbing for the food on your plate, if she happens to be sitting in your lap during a meal. When your baby starts showing interest in food like this, it can be a sign that she’s ready to start eating solid foods herself.
Baby Chews or Mashes Things In His Mouth
If you notice that your baby puts something in his mouth and tries to chew or mash it with his gums, that may be a sign that he’s ready to start solids. That chewing and mashing motion is an important step for your baby in learning how to eat.
Baby Loses Her Tongue-Thrust Reflex
Your baby was born with a tongue-thrust reflex that helps protect against choking — when an object ends up in her mouth, her tongue automatically pushes it out of her mouth. Your baby will lose this reflex around 4 months of age. When she finally does, it can be a sign that she’s ready to start solids (since she’ll be able to swallow the food you put in her mouth, instead of automatically spitting it out).
Baby Lets You Know When He’s Full
You may have noticed that your baby sometimes turns away from the breast or bottle, letting you know that he’s full. That’s means that he’s learning to self-regulate his appetite, and that can be a sign that he’s ready to begin eating solid foods.
Baby Seems Hungrier Than Usual
This is usually the number one reason why parents start their babies on solids. Baby will be nursing normally, and then suddenly, BAM! She’s hungry all the time, and no amount of breastmilk or formula seems to satisfy her. This can be a sign that she’s ready to start solids, although it’s not always a great indicator.
Keep in mind that a growth spurt happens around 3-4 months of age. Some parents start solids around that time, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, that’s a bit too early. Instead, experts recommend nursing frequently and waiting it out; many parents find that within a week or so, their babies are back to nursing normally again.
Baby Start Waking At Night
This phenomenon often goes hand-in-glove with your baby seeming hungrier than usual. If your baby has been sleeping well and then suddenly begins waking during the night, you might feel that he’s hungry and not getting enough to eat. Again, this can be a sign that he’s ready to begin solid foods, but it’s not a very reliable sign.
Some babies wake at night only out of hunger; for those babies, extra nursing or bottle feeding sessions, or a bit of solid food before bed, will help. But most babies wake for other reasons (like sleep associations, or sleep regressions); for those babies, adding solid foods won’t help them sleep. In addition, your baby might suddenly start waking at night due to teething, or even illness. It’s important to rule out any other causes for the nighttime waking before you decide to start solids.
None of these signs by themselves indicates that your baby is ready to start solid foods. However, if you see many of these signs happening together, that very well may signal that your baby is ready to begin solids.
Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting solid foods around 6 months of age. You don’t have to follow that recommendation exactly, of course, but it is considered best to wait until closer to 6 months to begin solids (instead of beginning at 3 or 4 months, which used to be standard.)
Remember too that for the first year of your baby’s life, breastmilk and/or formula should be her primary source of nutrition (another AAP recommendation). So it’s essential that even after you start your baby on solid foods, you continue nursing or bottle feeding often. See our Amounts of Solid Foods by Age chart for recommended amounts of breastmilk and formula.
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